Trump

Trump

The Trump Healthcare Interview: Part 2

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Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 9.55.09 AMDonald Trump is leading the Republican delegate count and has the best chance of becoming the Republican nominee and, just maybe, even President. In February, we at THCB asked Scottish-Canadian-Californian healthcare futurist Ian Morrison to conduct an interview with Trump, figuring that Morrison would have an in with Trump given Trump’s praise for Scottish and Canadian healthcare. Fittingly, that interview was published on THCB on President’s Day, February 16th. Since then Donald Trump has racked up impressive victories and more importantly has released some specifics of his healthcare proposal. THCB thought it was time for Morrison to reach out to Mr. Trump again–Matthew Holt

MORRISON: Thanks for making time Mr. Trump, it is a pleasure to have a chance to follow up with you.

TRUMP: You were a little rough on me last time, but I enjoyed it, I thought I did very well in the interview.

MORRISON: Indeed you did, it was incredible. Mr. Trump before we get to your healthcare plan, let’s just catch up on the race. Since we last talked you have had some impressive victories in a wide variety of states from Hawaii to Mississippi. Why do you think you have done so well?

TRUMP. I’m winning everywhere, everywhere, and with all the groups: vets, high income, low income (we love the low-income). I won Hispanics in Nevada? Hispanics, Trump? They like me because I am a winner, and I’m winning everywhere. I am winning by a lot.

MORRISON: You did particularly well in the South, the so called SEC primaries, where Ted Cruz was expected to do well, particularly with evangelicals. You won by more than 20 points in Alabama for example.

TRUMP: Well they loved me in South Carolina, I won big there and then I did the dog whistle to the Klan and that probably helped, in the South.

MORRISON: You mean being slow to disavow David Duke and the Klan before those southern primaries?

TRUMP: It worked well, we had hats ready: “Make America White Again” but Corey (Editor’s note–He’s referring to Corey Lewandowski Trump’s Campaign Manager who himself made news recently by manhandling a female reporter) told me it probably wouldn’t work in the General, but we trademarked them anyway, I couldn’t believe it was available, so we may use the “Make America White Again” hats later, we’ll see. But now I disavow, I disavow, how many times do I have to say it.

MORRISON: Mr. Trump are you a racist?

TRUMP: Look I told the New York Times Editorial Board the whole story on deep background. Republican primaries are about getting angry, white people to turn up. Those people are tired and angry at the Mexicans, the Muslims, and Obama (we still don’t know if he was born in Kenya). So when we win, we can be nicer in the general election, because I get along with everyone.

Democrats Paid a Steep Price For Ignoring the CBO. Republicans Will Too.

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Eight years ago it was Democrats who were criticizing the Congressional Budget Office. Now it’s Republicans who are bashing the CBO for estimating that 14 million Americans will lose their health insurance next year if the House Republicans’ “repeal and replace” bill becomes law.

The media and the blogosphere have done a reasonably good job of debunking the Republicans’ criticisms of the CBO. Any citizen paying attention can discover that although fewer people enrolled in the Obamacare exchanges in 2014 than the CBO predicted in 2010, the CBO correctly forecast that the uninsured rate would fall by about half and that employers would not stop offering health insurance. The attentive citizen can also discover that the CBO’s predictions were more accurate than those of many other experts.

The media has also reported that Democrats leveled their own unfair criticisms against the CBO back in 2009 and 2010. Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Max Baucus, to name just a few prominent Democrats, criticized the CBO for not giving the alleged cost-containment provisions in the Affordable Care Act more credit.

I want to make three points here that I have not seen made elsewhere:

(1) The criticism that both Democrats and Republicans make of the CBO consists almost exclusively of raw opinion, usually delivered in a huff, and almost never cites or discusses research;

(2) The CBO may have been off in predicting how many people would enroll in Obamacare and Medicaid, but it was accurate in predicting the failure of the managed care fads written into the ACA to cut costs; and

(3) Today, more than ever, America needs the CBO because the CBO adheres to the quaint principle that evidence should trump ideology.

Dear (Quite Possibly) President Trump

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Even the most ardent of Obamacare supporters are now forced to admit that the law has hit a rough patch this year. The opposition to Obamacare is positively gloating with self-congratulatory “I told you so” assessments of the supposedly dire situation. Defenders of the cause are counteracting with the customary deluge of charts and graphs to prove unequivocally that Obamacare is actually turning out better than they expected. Integrity and honesty being in short supply on both sides of this quandary, chances are excellent that no matter what happens next, the American people will lose big time, unless….

Beyond “Repeal and Replace”

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The toxic polarization of Washington politics might lead even the most stubborn optimist to abandon any hope for bipartisanship on healthcare. Despite endemic pessimism, the flagging efforts to forge a Republican consensus on “repeal and replace” might set the stage for overdue efforts at compromise. Congress will be tempted to move on to more promising areas such as tax reform and infrastructure funding. That temptation should be resisted. The threat to the nation posed by the current state of American healthcare calls for Congress to resurrect the long lost spirit of bold bipartisanship.

Before considering opportunities for compromise, the obstacles confronting the GOP reform efforts are worth considering.   Republicans face the same stubborn reality that confronted the framers of the Affordable Care Act (ACA): Expensive services cannot be covered by cheap insurance. The cost of U.S. healthcare has simply priced low income and even middle income individuals out of health insurance. Without subsides, they get left behind. The Congressional Budget Office’s estimated that the Ryan plan would result in 24 million losing coverage underscored the political divide: Confronted with unmanageable healthcare costs, most Republicans would opt to reduce public expense whereas Democrats plus a handful of Republican moderates prefer more extensive coverage. The effort of the GOP leadership to split the difference by preserving some residual subsidies and the structures supporting them—“Obamacare light”—remains unacceptable to many on the right. No clear middle ground has yet emerged.

Whether They Like It Or Not, The GOP Must Repair Obamacare

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It’s very possible that the pejorative “Obamacare” could become the even more pejorative “Trumpcare” in a very short period of time. That is because Trump’s and the GOP’s promise to repeal Obamacare — the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — has already hit a snag called reality.

Reports are now circulating that the much-promised repeal of the health care law (60 plus House and Senate votes since 2010) won’t take effect until at least 2019, after the mid-term elections. The excuse is that it’ll take that long to figure out an alternative and get it into place. But congressional calendars and political expedience have nothing to do with the health care market. And without action early in 2017, the health insurance exchanges could collapse in 2018 or sooner — leaving millions without insurance, millions more without protections from pre-existing conditions, and possibly millions more cursing Trumpcare. The only constructive solution is to repair the ACA before, ironically, repealing it and then replacing it with a brand new, untested experiment in 2019.

Feeling the Bern on Universal Single-Player Healthcare

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“Elephant in the living room” is an English metaphorical idiom for an obvious untruth going unaddressed. In most political platforms about healthcare and its coverage, there is a most resolutely immovable elephant in our living room. It is there with every single candidate.  But with Bernie….

You’ve just got to love Bernie Sanders.  It makes me feel like I’m 22 years old in the 1960’s and dumb as all get out about how you pay for things. But let us consider Mr. Sanders’ healthcare proposal. From his own website:

“Bernie’s plan would create a federally administered single-payer health care program.  Universal single-payer health care means comprehensive coverage for all Americans.  Bernie’s plan will cover the entire continuum of health care, from inpatient to outpatient care; preventive to emergency care; primary care to specialty care, including long-term and palliative care; vision, hearing and oral health care; mental health and substance abuse services; as well as prescription medications, medical equipment, supplies, diagnostics and treatments. Patients will be able to choose a health care provider without worrying about whether that provider is in-network and will be able to get the care they need without having to read any fine print or trying to figure out how they can afford the out-of-pocket costs…[etc.].”

Bernie sure didn’t go half way on this one. All care, whenever, wherever, however. A fundamental right with no filter. OK. So he jumped in with both feet. You’ve got to admire his elan.  But what might this mean and how can he ignore what happened in his own home state?

House v. Price and the CSR
Payments Paradox

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Many countries in the world have dysfunctional governments. Some have corrupt and devious ones, or even deadly ones. We’ve lived with serious dysfunction in Washington for two decades. Now we join the ranks of countries with a corrupt and devious government, one without a moral compass.

And I’m not just talking about Trump.

The news and blogosphere is replete with this sentiment surrounding the White House, of course, a la the “Russia thing” and Comey’s firing and all the rest.

But the cynicism and political bankruptcy that suffuses our elected leaders’ failure to assure that the cost-sharing subsidies for people buying health insurance through the exchanges will be secured for 2017 and 2018 is a new low in the wretched ongoing saga of Obamacare vs. Trumpcare.

This is playing out right now and could affect 12 million people come this fall and in 2018.

How the “Public Option” Became Just Another Fuzzy Buzzword

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In an earlier post, I criticized managed care proponents for promoting concepts defined only by the aspirations of their proponents.  HMO, ACO, “medical home,” and “patient-centered this and that” are examples.

The “public option” (PO) is the latest example of a buzzword defined only by the aspirations of its proponents. The PO, first introduced to the public a decade ago by Jacob Hacker, Democratic presidential candidates and advocates of what would become the Affordable Care Act, has been revived by Democrats over the last five months. [1] Hacker, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and others say a PO would reduce premium inflation. But they refuse to define the PO, which makes it impossible to determine whether it could survive, much less reduce premium inflation. It’s not even clear whether proponents are proposing a PO open to all Americans or just to those who shop on the state exchanges established by the Affordable Care Act. The best they can do is say the PO will be “like Medicare.” That’s not a definition. That’s an aspiration.

A Real (Living, Breathing) Health Care Reform Plan: Drop MACRA

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Dear Washington,

Congratulations! You have listened to the AMA and practicing physicians and made it a little easier to comply (at first) with the Medicare Quality Payment Program, part of the massive MACRA “pay for value” law. 

But CMS’ announcements in The Federal Register and “fact sheet” are incomprehensible gobbledygook that will be understood by neither doctors, patients, nor the rest of society. The language personifies the complexity, unwieldiness and confused thinking in this huge national policy. 

MACRA is a $15 billion boondoggle that the best research shows will neither improve quality nor control costs. Paying doctors for quality (e.g., doing a blood pressure exam) or efficiency may make sense theoretically, but it doesn’t work. Rather than making a dent in the continuing upward spiral of healthcare costs in America, it can even result in some doctors avoiding sicker patients because it affects their quality scores and income.

Early, poorly designed research suggested that paying for health or cost savings was effective, but these research designs did not account for already occurring improvements in medical practice that the policymakers took credit for. Decades of stronger, well-controlled research debunked these early findings and conclusively showed no effects of these economic policies.

So why does the Congress and administration continue to press ahead with this same tired and impotent policy?

Unpacking the 21st Century Cures Act

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President Obama signed the 21st Century Cures Act into law this week.  It’s the largest piece of health legislation since the Affordable Care Act.   No doubt you’ve heard or read that—and it’s true. 

But while the legislation was three years in the making and much hyped, it became the best recent example of that old saying that passing federal laws is akin to sausage making:  You don’t really want to watch what goes into it.

(An aside:  I made venison and bacon sausages from scratch for the first time this year and can attest to the “visceral” nature of that exercise.) 

There’s something for almost everybody in this new law.   That’s one reason it was the most lobbied health bill since the ACA.  In particular, the pharmaceutical and medical device industries were big winners.  Fifty-eight drug companies, 24 device companies and 26 biotech companies lobbied the bill, spending close to $200 million altogether, according to a Kaiser Health News analysis of lobbying data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

What they got:  a big nudge to the FDA to find ways to approve drugs and devices faster.

For example, one change in the law allows FDA to accept as proof of safety and effectiveness less rigorous clinical trials, as well as other types of studies and data—both for the initial approval of drugs and to authorize new uses for drugs already on the market.