Trump

Trump

Repealed or Repaired?

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Last Wednesday marked the sixth anniversary of the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. As of this week, the five Presidential aspirants have each articulated key changes they’d propose, though polls show interest in the law is largely among Democrats who consider healthcare a major issue along with national security and the economy.

GOP candidates Trump, Cruz and Kasich say they will repeal the law; Democratic frontrunner Clinton says she will repair it, and her challenger, Bernie Sanders, promises to replace it with universal coverage. Some speculate that candidate Clinton’s plan will ultimately mirror her Health Security Act of 1993 that parallels the Affordable Care Act in many respects. But the law gets scant attention on the campaign trails other than their intent about its destiny if elected.

I have read the ACA at least 30 times, each time musing over its complexity, intended results, unintended consequences and hanging chads. At the risk of over-simplification, the law purposed to achieve two aims: to increase access to insurance for those unable to qualify or afford coverage, and to bend the cost curve downward from its 30 year climb. It passed both houses of Congress in the midst of our nation’s second deepest downturn since the Great Depression. Unemployment was above 10%, the GDP was flat, and companies were cutting costs and offshoring to adapt.

The “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” soon after became known as the “Affordable Care Act”, and then, in the 2010 Congressional Campaign season that followed its passage, “Obamacare”. It was then and now a divisive law: Kaiser tracking polls show the nation has been evenly divided for and against: those opposed see it as “the government takeover of healthcare” that will dismantle an arguably expensive system that works for most, while those supportive see it as a necessary to securing insurance coverage for those lacking.

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.

An Independent Medical Review Panel for the Candidates

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Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 9.10.32 AMAs unusual as the 2016 presidential election has been, one obvious aspect has gone largely unnoticed: By the time the next president of the United States is inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2017, he or she will have reached or come close to reaching 70 years old.

That all the remaining major candidates are among the “young old” at this stage of the election process is unprecedented. Yet, in spite of the stakes for the American people, there is no independent source that can provide an adequate accounting of the medical condition of the next president.

Historians have examined the ways that previous administrations have been affected by the medical problems of presidents including Abraham Lincoln, William Henry Harrison, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan. The news has not always been positive.

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.

Will Clinton Take Another Look at Value-based Healthcare?

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Paul Keckley“Value” is the most important concept in healthcare today. But it’s problematic.

Futurists say our system is transitioning from volume to value. Device and drug manufacturers tout the value of their products. It even found its way into Wednesday night’s Presidential debate when frontrunner Hillary Clinton answered Chris Wallace’s query Medicare’s long-term viability with the following reply: “We’ve got to get costs down, increase value, emphasize wellness. I have a plan for doing that.”

Value is defined as “a fair exchange in return for a thing” (Dictionary.com). Per Webster’s, it is a “fair return in goods, services, or money for something exchanged; worth in money; usefulness, or importance in comparison with something else.”  In essence, it is the relationship between what something costs and the benefits that accrue to its purchaser. Transactions between buyers and sellers based on the purchaser’s deduction of what something costs and the benefits derived are the basis for value-based economics. They’re aided by rating services like Consumer Reports that provide useful methods for making selections: the current issue covers SUVs, coffee makers, nut butters and gas/electric ranges.  Very straightforward. Side by side.

Dancing on the Grave of Obamacare: Questions

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I hate to interrupt the festivities, but I have a few questions. There are one or two little unknowns here. The answers to these questions are matters of life and death to many in the industry, literal life and death to many thousands of patients, organizational life and death to thousands of companies, hospitals and systems. 

Tuesday’s extraordinary events obviously present an enormous challenge for anyone who wants to think about the future of healthcare. The challenge is far more than simply trying to imagine the healthcare industry without Obamacare, or under whatever Trumpcare will turn out to be. A much more powerful effect will be come into play far earlier: the uncertainty over that future will have reshape the industry before we even get to the actual “repeal and replace” part.

And the Democrats Wonder Why They Lost the Election?

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Now I have insurance. But I can’t use it. What am I supposed to do? I know this one is long but it’s worth a read if you want to understand issues pertinent to the Affordable Care Act. My personal story illustrates many of the problems with the ACA.

I started taking notes on the Health and Human Services Secretary hearing, and I will share more as I scrutinize the hearing in more detail but let’s start with the breakdowns below and my experience with Obamacare.  Here goes:

These are the breakdowns of who gets what coverage in the United States:

Medicare 18% – 52m

Employer 61% – 178m

Medicaid 22% – 62m

Individual 6% – 18m (exchanges cover 4% of the 6%–these are the people who have been forced onto the Obamacare plans)

Note: this writer is in the BOTTOM of the barrel here (Individual). Most of the individuals in the “Individual” category are either the upper contingent of the working poor, those who work for small businesses like restaurants or family owned grocery stores and the like that don’t provide health insurance benefits (more and more common these days), and/or sole proprietors like myself. Many health care providers are self employed hence we have been forced into the Obamacare exchanges if we are not high earners. High earners won’t buy on the marketplace and will purchase individual plans outside of the marketplace.

There’s a Story Behind the “Craziest Thing in the World”

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screen-shot-2016-10-04-at-12-39-26-pmIs he on or off message — or what?  We are taking about Bill Clinton, who said in a speech today/yesterday that small business folks and individuals were “getting killed” by Obamacare….with “premiums doubled and their coverage cut in half.”  

“The people who are getting killed in this deal are the small businesspeople and individuals who make just a little too much to get in on these subsidies,” Clinton said. He added that for many people, Obamacare’s changes have meant “their premiums doubled and their coverage [was] cut in half.”

Ouch.  But then he went on to say that one solution is to allow Americans to buy into Medicare, as Hillary has proposed.   We’re not sure if she’d be pissed or pleased with these remarks.  Perhaps not bad to let Bill signal her awareness that things with the exchanges are not good, and that she might be open to bigger changes in the program than she’s owned up to so far.

The Politics of Hillary’s Pneumonia

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It is selfish of a leader of a nation to drop dead during office. Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, died suddenly at 74, apparently from a ruptured aneurysm. His aneurysm, allegedly, had something to do with Edwina Mountbatten – the wife of Lord Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India. Shortly after Nehru’s death, Pakistan attacked India. Nehru’s replacement, Lal Bahadur Shastri, died mysteriously in Tashkent two years after Nehru’s death, and was succeeded by Indira, Nehru’s daughter. India’s future was forever changed by a burst aneurysm or, if rumors are to be believed, by a flagellating spirochaete which left the Raj in bliss.

Clearly, the death of a leader creates turmoil for a republic. So it is understandable that a nation obsessed with health is obsessed with the health of its presidential runners. Mr. Trump’s doctor declared he’s the healthiest presidential candidate ever. Mr. Trump has drawn attention to his super health by pointing to the size of his hands – by Mr. Trump’s standards a rather decorous allusion. It matters not what has hypertrophied Mr. Trump’s hands, what matters is that Mr. Trump’s large hands signal vigor and imagination. The American Psychiatric Association, to their credit, in ruling out a new diagnostic code for Mr. Trump’s colorful soundbites in the next edition of their Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, ended all hopes of banning Mr. Trump from the presidential race on health grounds.

Obama Channeled Orszag, Orszag Channeled the Dartmouth Institute

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flying cadeuciiIn an open letter to President Obama that I posted here on August 24, I stated that his expectation that the Affordable Care Act would have a deflationary effect was naive. I said he was badly misled by the managed care movement, and that he should never have accepted the movement’s diagnosis (overuse) and solutions (shifting insurance risk to doctors and micromanaging them). To help him understand that, I said I would post criticism of three prominent managed care proponents who influenced him: Elliott Fisher and his colleagues at the Dartmouth Institute, Atul Gawande, and Peter Orszag.

I will start with Elliott Fisher and his colleagues at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Research because they have been so influential with the entire health policy elite, not just Obama. I will devote this post and the next to them. I devote this post to demonstrating how influential they have been; I devote the next post to demonstrating how misleading they have been.

The Dartmouth Institute deserves credit for assembling data that shows substantial variation in the rate at which medical services are provided, both within small areas and between regions of the country. This data is very useful for generating hypotheses in need of further research. But the group deserves severe criticism for promoting the conclusion that variation can be explained primarily by overuse and virtually none of it can be explained by underuse, and for promoting “accountable care organizations” and other forms of “integrated care” as the solution that will address their erroneous overuse diagnosis.