Every day, over 7,600 baby boomers turn 65. By 2029, this number will rise to over 11,000. As more and more Americans approach senior citizenship, health care for seniors through Medicare becomes increasingly relevant. The question is, how will this affect you?
We all have questions about how the current budget battle and resulting spending cuts are going to impact Medicare. It seems unavoidable that Medicare costs will have to be reduced in some manner. Both Democrats and Republicans have proposed fixes to counteract these budget cuts. President Obama, in his State of the Union address, recommended adjustments to Medicare Part D that would enforce mandatory rebates–in other words, price controls–on drug companies.
But we need to ask ourselves: why would we make changes to the most successful part of Medicare by far? Polls indicate that 90 percent of seniors are happy with their current Part D coverage. Not only is Part D popular; it is also cost effective. It has cost 30 percent less than originally estimated. Premiums are an average of half the price originally estimated. Meanwhile, price controls are estimated to increase drug costs by 40 percent. Clearly, they are not the answer to cutting Medicare costs.
Continue reading “A Model for Health Care Reform:Would You Guess Medicare Part D?”
Filed Under: THCB
Tagged: Hank Pomeranz, Health Reform, Medicare, Medicare Part D
Apr 4, 2013
It was one of the most notorious quotes that emerged from the battle over the Affordable Care Act.
We have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it. – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, March 9, 2010.
The line was taken out-of-context, as Pelosi’s office has continued to protest. But more than three years after her quote — and nearly three years after the ACA passed Congress — Pelosi’s accidental gaffe seems pretty apropos.
The law continues to delight supporters with what they see as positive surprises; for example, some backers say Obamacare deserves credit for the unexpected slowdown in national health spending. But critics warn that the law’s perverse effects on premiums are just beginning to be felt.
And there still are “vast parts of the bill you never hear about,” notes Timothy Jost, a law professor at Washington & Lee. “I wonder if they’re [even] being implemented.”
Jost and a half-dozen other health policy experts spoke with me, ahead of Obamacare’s third birthday on Saturday, to discuss how the law’s been implemented and what lawmakers could have done better.
Continue reading “Five Things Obamacare Got Right-and What Experts Would Fix”
Filed Under: THCB, The Business of Health Care
Tagged: Affordable Care Act, Costs, Dan Diamond, Health Reform, HHS, Obamacare, PPACA, Preventive care, Universal coverage
Mar 20, 2013
Wang Li is a 48-year-old farmer from Dalian, China. After a two-day trip to the major provincial hospital, he’s heading home to his village to die. Wang has lung cancer, and even with insurance, his surgery will cost him 20,000 RMB — $3,000, which is twice his annual salary. The surgery would be curative, but it doesn’t matter. “I cannot burden my family,” he said.
I am a Chinese-born, American physician who just returned from a two-month research trip spanning twelve cities and nine provinces in China, where many of the health care reforms in contention in the U.S. have already been tried. As Americans contemplate the decisions ahead, consider China’s cautionary tale.
Today’s China is one of great disparity. The wealthy minority receives top-notch care, while the poor majority suffers from little access to care and no way to pay for it. Stories abound of patients like Wang Li who sign out of hospitals when they run out of savings, knowing they will die without treatment.
Continue reading “What the US Can Learn From China’s Health Care Reform”
Filed Under: OP-ED, THCB
Tagged: Affordable Care Act, barefoot doctors, China, Costs, doctor shortage, health care access, Health Reform, Hospitals, Incentives, Leana Wen, primary care, universal health insurance
Mar 18, 2013
If the devil is in the details, we got the motherlode this past week as to how the most incendiary part of President Obama’s health reform will actually work when it launches next January.
The Department of Health and Human Services issued lengthy rules on the controversial individual mandate requiring uninsured Americans to purchase a health plan. The IRS followed with nearly as lengthy a set of rules specifying who is eligible for subsidies for those purchases and who pays penalties when they refuse. In what critics will consider an Orwellian flourish, both federal agencies refer to these penalties as “shared responsibility payments” — even though the Supreme Court, in its upholding of the mandate, plainly referred to them as what they are: a tax.
The two sets of rulings represent a sort of good cop, bad cop routine from the Obama administration. The bulk of the HHS rules defines individual outs for the mandate, identifying 11 different types of uninsured Americans who will be exempt from the de facto tax, ranging from sudden financial impairment to genuine religious objection to medical care. The IRS rules are all bright hard lines about who has to pay, when, and how.
The major media, echoing criticism by Obamacare’s agitators from the Left, seized on the stinginess of the IRS rules regarding subsidies and penalties for family members of people covered by their employers, or what they call the “family glitch.” The glitch is technically real, but statistically remote, and will affect almost no one in the real world, but it does make for good inflammatory headlines.
Continue reading “Life Support and Taxes”
Filed Under: THCB
Tagged: Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, family glitch, Health insurance, Health Reform, HHS, Individual mandate, IRS, J.D. Kleinke, Obama administration, Taxes, The IRS rules
Feb 7, 2013
The history of president Obama’s health reform bears an uncanny and disturbing similarity to the life cycle of a hurricane. With Sandy fresh in our memory, the similarity is not comforting.
Hurricanes have three phases. The front wall of the storm brings high winds, lightening, and rain. Next, at the hurricane’s center, or eye, the wind drops and the air warms. If one is at sea, the water may turn calm and warm, bringing the illusion that the storm has ended. As the storm moves on, wind and rain return, often with increased force. Those fooled by the calm who leave safe havens may be destroyed by what follows.
The life cycle of a hurricane will bear an eerie similarity to that of health reform. Nearly four years elapsed between president Obama’s initial call for national health reform until the bill became law and the Supreme Court ruled on its constitutionality. The political and legal turmoil was intense and continuous. The process was rancorous and the outcome in doubt from start to finish. It took a bitterly fought presidential election to put an end to this phase of the struggle.
Now, we are in a period of relative calm. The 2012 election settled the immediate fate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The candidate who swore to repeal it lost. The ACA was the major domestic legislative achievement of the victorious incumbent president who won reelection. Now, eighteen states are in process of designing rules for health insurance exchanges — the administrative entities that will manage implementation of the new law, the most important provisions of which will take effect one year hence. The other states will either leave implementation entirely to the federal government or share administrative responsibilities with federal agencies.
A huge amount of work remains to be done by October 1, 2013 when people can begin enrolling for insurance coverage in the new exchanges.
Continue reading “Health Reform: The Political Storms Are Far from Over”
Filed Under: Commentology, THCB
Tagged: 2012 Election, Affordable Care Act, Health Insurance Exchanges, Health Reform, Henry J. Aaron, Obamacare
Dec 29, 2012
Healthcare reform was a frontline topic during the recent presidential elections. The political warfare and misleading information around the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), also known as Obamacare, has prevented the public from understanding its intended purpose, and has left many skeptical about its benefits. It is safe to say the general public has little to no idea about the quality of healthcare delivery in their respective regions.
In fact, it is not a far cry to claim that even healthcare professionals might not truly understand the issues facing American healthcare. Thus, most of the public is generally uninformed or misinformed about the population level problems facing the healthcare system. Therefore, it is quite simple for political parties to misguide the public and capitalize on their uninformed perceptions. If the public knew more about the flaws present in the healthcare system, perhaps they would better realize the PPACA is a reasonable start at addressing the failings of our system.
The Dartmouth Atlas Project is an online database which collects Medicare spending and utilization data from around the country. Information gathered from the database has shown immense variation in the way medical resources are utilized by even similar regions, communities, and health care organization. Evidence has repeatedly shown that, from a population perspective, areas that spend more on medical care do not consistently benefit from increased quality of care or patient wellbeing. Variation in the type of care delivered can be attributed to diverse incidence and prevalence of disease severity or the type of care a well- informed patient chooses. Variation in health care delivery is thus omnipresent and expected, because every patient is unique and medical innovation presents a growing number of care options to choose from.
Continue reading “What Does the Dartmouth Atlas Have to Say About the Politics of the ACA?”
Filed Under: THCB
Tagged: 2012 Election, Affordable Care Act, Anubhav Kaul, Dartmouth Atlas Project, Health Reform, Medicare, Peter Bhandari, Thom Walsh, Waste
Dec 27, 2012
While all eyes focused on the presidential race, the ultimate fate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) could depend on the Senate contests in the states.
Even if Mitt Romney were elected, he alone could not overturn major provisions of healthcare reform. Only Congress can pass the legislation needed to change the ACA.
Republicans are expected to maintain control of the House, but if Democrats hold the Senate, they will be able to block House bills aimed at eviscerating “Obamacare.”
What is at stake
If Republicans take the Senate, the two chambers could pass legislation that would:
· eliminate the premium subsidies designed to make health insurance affordable for middle-income and low-income families
· bring an end to Medicaid expansion, and
· rescind the individual mandate that everyone buy insurance or pay a tax.
Under “budget reconciliation,” Republicans would need only a simple majority to pass such legislation. In the Senate, 51 votes would do it. Today, Republicans hold 47 seats.
Razor-sharp margins in many states make it impossible to predict outcomes. Polls only give us a blurry snapshot of one moment in time – and in states like Arizona, candidates have been trading leads from week to week.
Continue reading “The Future of Health Reform May Turn on Senate Races”
Filed Under: THCB
Tagged: 2012 Election, Affordable Care Act, Barack Obama, Health Reform, Individual mandate, Jennifer Duffy, Maggie Mahar, Medicaid Expansion, Mitt Romney, Obamacare, Senate Races
Nov 5, 2012
I grew up in Rochester, NY. Statistically, this means that I probably had a family member who worked at Eastman Kodak, as the company employed over 62,000 people in Rochester at it’s peak. I did, in fact, have two: my father and my brother-in-law. My brother and I both worked there during two fun and profitable summers of our college years in the delightful “roll coating” division. It actually paid quite well, but was miserable work.
Kodak was, at one point, the consummate American success story, dominating its market like few others. In 1976, it had a 90% market share of film, as well as 80% of cameras sold in the US. Kodak Park, the property at the center of manufacturing once employed 29,000 employees, with its own fire company, rail system, water treatment plant, and continuously staffed medical facility.
Fast-forward to 2012, and the picture changes dramatically. In a single year, Kodak declared chapter 11 bankruptcy, received a warning from the New York Stock Exchange that its stock was below $1/share for long enough that it was at risk of being delisted, announced it is no longer making digital cameras so as to focus on its core business: printing, and then a few weeks ago announced it was no longer making inkjet printers. The job force in Rochester alone has gone down by nearly 90%, to an estimated 7200 employees. (All of this info came from Wikipedia, if you wondered).
Adding pain for former Kodak fans was the announcement in April of this year that Facebook was buying the photo sharing company Instagram (which employed 13 people at the time) for an estimated $1 Billion.
So how could a company so dominant be overcome by one with only 13 employees? Didn’t the resources of Kodak give them anything better to sell than this small start-up? And what spelled the doom of a well-proven system of photography that fueled one of the most successful companies of its time? Was it acts of congress? Was it passage of a photography reform bill, or Obamachrome? Was it formation of ACO’s (accountable camera organizations), the use of the photographic centered media home, or the willingness of the government to pay photographers over $40,000 if they prove they use digital cameras in a “meaningful” way?
Continue reading “Instadoc!”
Filed Under: THCB
Tagged: ACOs, direct care practice, EHR, Health Reform, Instagram, Kodak, Rob Lamberts, Social Media
Oct 9, 2012
In some ways, the Insititute of Medicine is like the famed “Academy” of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. Having membership conferred is the ultimate accolade in a field full of brains, competition, money, and ego. A major difference is that the IOM doesn’t give out annual awards for best studies or best theories–the whole institute is comprised of lifetime achievement award winners.
That’s why when the IOM issues a report, it garners a lot of attention.
Their most recent, “Best Care at Lower Cost: The Path to Continuously Learning Health Care in America” attracted the usual spate of headlines:
I’ve looked over the report–it’s been released in ‘pre-publication’ form on their website, and you can read the whole thing. It’s a worth a click over, because even if you can’t slog through 350+ pages, they’ve made several executive summary features (including a top ten list) andgraphics that do a great job of conveying the authors’ findings and recommendations. A few things jumped out at me:
- $750 billion of our collective annual $2.3 trillion health care outlay does not improve health
- we still have far too many errors in hospitals
- too many patients discharged from hospitals are readmitted in less than a month (20%!)
- which points to the lousy job we do ‘transitioning’ people from hospital to home
- communication amongst medical personnel is abysmal
The report uses analogies from many industries. There’s the requisite comparison to aviation, since the safety record of commercial airlines is enviable. But there are also comparisons to hotels, manufacturing, general contractors, engineers, and even ‘mission control’ at NASA. [Health care does not compare favorably to NASA. Doctors should, but are not working for a common purpose like getting people to the moon.]
Continue reading “Waste Not”
Filed Under: Hospitals
Tagged: Costs, Health Reform, IOM, John H. Schumann, NIH, Patient Safety, Quality
Sep 21, 2012
Annie Lowrey’s July 28 article “Doctor shortage likely to worsen with health law” in the New York Times noted the growing shortage of primary care doctors particularly in economically disadvantaged communities, both in rural and inner-city America. This problem will likely get worse before it gets better as more Americans gain coverage and seek a regular source of care. As the article suggests, training more doctors and incentivizing them to pursue careers in primary care will be a key part of the solution. And it will require a multipronged campaign, using both some of the traditional strategies for workforce renewal and a few unique tactics not typically deployed in efforts to fix health care.
The primary care workforce pipeline had dried up before the Affordable Care Act was passed. Currently, one out of every five Americans lacks access to primary care. As a result, up to 75% of the care delivered in emergency departments these days is primary care . This overcrowds and overburdens EDs, raises costs, and limits EDs’ ability to do what they were designed to do: provide acute, emergency care that makes the difference between life and death. So the primary care shortage threatens our access not only to primary care but also to emergency care.
How did we get here? Many are quick to point to primary care doctors’ low salaries compared to those of their sub-specialist colleagues. Indeed, choosing a career in primary care rather than a sub-specialty means walking away from 3.5 million dollars of additional lifetime earnings.That’s tough to do when you’re looking at $150-200,000 of debt, which is the average debt of an American medical student at graduation.But the crisis in our primary care pipeline goes far beyond the money.
Continue reading “Reviving the Pipeline: A Call to Action For All”
Filed Under: OP-ED, Physicians, THCB
Tagged: Affordable Care Act, Andrew Morris-Singer, Health Reform, Medical Education, Medical School, PCMH, Physicians, primary care
Aug 11, 2012