Peggy O’Kane has been running the NCQA for longer than she might care to remember. NCQA is an independent, non-profit organization whose mission is to improve the quality of health care everywhere, but it’s best known for creating the HEDIS measures that rate health insurer and provider performance. I’ve been a fan of Peggy since I met her in the mid-1990s. Today she shows she’s still fighting the good fight. This is her first contribution to THCB —Matthew Holt
Suppose you’re one of the 22 million Americans living with diabetes and you have to decide where you want to live. Your choices: Providence, Rhode Island, or Houston, Texas. Providence is pretty and you’d have easy access to lobster dinners and weekends at the Cape. But Houston is warmer in the winter and just a hop, skip and a jump from a weekend in Cancun. A hard decision but you’re leaning toward Houston because, let’s face it, you hate shoveling snow!But then you take a look at the 13th annual State of Health Care Quality Report by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (plug alert: I run the place) and you find out the quality of care for diabetics is nearly 11 percentage points better in New England than it is in the South Central region of the U.S. and you begin to reconsider. In fact, you look at the newest data released October 22 and you find that the quality of care in the Texas region of the country is consistently the worst while care in New England is almost always the best. Providence here I come!
Here’s the problem: Most people don’t have a choice of moving from Texas or Oklahoma or Alabama to Massachusetts, Connecticut or Rhode Island. They have to live with the health care system they have. For a diabetic, those 11 points can translate into more kidney problems, loss of vision, toe or foot amputations or, heaven forbid, a shorter lifespan.The thing is, it doesn’t have to be this way. True, care isn’t going to be identical in all parts of the country. And, true, the population of Dallas may have a lot more health problems than the people in Hartford. But 11 points is too big a gap to explain away with demographics.
Here’s a dirty little secret: Cutting health care costs is not that difficult, nor will it harm patients. That’s because it only involves giving up unnecessary medical care—tests and treatments patients may want but really don’t need because they don’t benefit their health.
How is this supposed to happen? In Minnesota we call it “unallotment.” When the state had to reconcile a projected multibillion dollar budget deficit this year, and the Republican governor and Democratic lawmakers couldn’t agree on how to do it, the governor simply “unalloted” billions of dollars of planned expenditures.
Medicare should do the same. All Congress has to do is pass the MedPAC Reform Act of 2009 (SF 1110) and give it teeth. We can then unallot the 30 percent of Medicare expenses that most health care experts believe are unnecessary. That’s the 30 percent that goes for tests, drugs, and devices that don’t have any proven benefit but sell like hotcakes anyway.
When Gov. Tim Pawlenty decided to cut medical expenditures during the unallotment process, he took no prisoners. More than 30,000 indigent adults will simply have their medical insurance eliminated starting next March. Medicare would take a higher road, eliminating unnecessary care and costs, not “unnecessary” people.Continue reading…
Actually I’m kidding. I knew Regi says she likes it, and Maggie Mahar ripped her position—(Herzlinger’s position being that she espouses a version of the Swiss system for the US)—to shreds a while back. But would Herzlinger really want to live in a world where there was no easy money to be made trading in the stock of health insurers who are defrauding state governments? But I’ve got to say that Herzlinger and O’Reilly make a interesting couple.…pass the falafel.
We get sent lots of rants to our tips line, most of which we ignore in an amused jaundiced way. But this one I found very amusing. I’m not sure it’s 100% accurate, but it is very funny and essentially details something that we know happens every day. So to have some fun with how to buy individual insurance in California, head over to this post on a blog usually concerned with selling you credit cards.
By the way, a close colleague of mine trying to buy a short-term stop-gap policy while her husband changed jobs got a very similar “we’re not selling you insurance and we’re not telling you why” just last week.
Don’t forget that virtually any form of the bills in Congress outlaws these shenanigans.
This is much more fun and better sung than traditional protests! And given that AHIP would benefit from a public option, I suspect Karen Ignagni hired them. It looks like it happened in the closing session of this AHIP conference on Friday although having sat in many of these conferences I do need to tell the protestors that no plotting is done in these Forums. That happens elsewhere…
The switch to electronic health records can be a daunting task. To make the shift less painful, healthcare organizations should first consider taking control the number of documents flowing through the organization – and the costs associated with printing, sharing and updating them. Developing proactive ways to better manage both hard copy and electronic documents will better equip these organizations for the 2014 EHR deadline.
A recent survey of healthcare professionals found that nearly half (46 percent) of respondents chose document and records management as the most inefficient area within healthcare organizations.1 In fact, the survey revealed that document inefficiencies trump traffic woes – 58 percent said that searching for information at work is worse than being stuck in traffic.
A reader asks: “If the current bill passes are my health insurance costs likely to go up, down, or remain about the same?”
If the form that I believe most likely to pass actually passes (insurance reforms, individual mandate, weak or no public option or co-ops), I believe that they will continue to go up. There simply is nothing in the bill that would make things more affordable. In health care markets, for a convoluted nest of reasons, more competition causes prices to go up, not down.
The Congress has investigated about every conceivable way to tax people to pay for the health care proposals—a millionaire’s tax, bigger taxes on home mortgages and charitable contributions, and a couple of dozen more ideas.
Now Congress looks to be the most interested in taxing insurance companies to pay for a big chunk of their health care proposals. The new taxes would come in two parts––a 35% excise tax on any health benefit cost above an $8,000 single and $21,000 family annual premium as well as a flat $6 billion annual tax on the industry to be allocated among the companies proportionate to their premium.
There is certain logic to this. Taxing high priced benefits could help deflate the health care economy. Taxing all of the health insurance companies that stand to get more than a $1 trillion in new business—most of it in the from new private insurance and Medicaid subsidies and the rest from the consumer’s share of those new private plan premiums—seems fair at one level.
Calling for a tax on that big rich insurance company also sounds a lot better to the politicians than looking voters straight in the eye and raising their taxes directly.Continue reading…
The green-eyeshade meanies in the Congressional Budget Office took another whack at the public plan today, at least the one contained in the health reform bill passed by the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions committee last June. Responding to queries from ranking member Michael Enzi (R-WY), CBO chief Doug Elmendorf noted on his blog that “premiums for the public plan would typically be comparable to the average premiums of private plans offered in the insurance exchanges.”
The reason given was the HELP bill emasculated the public plan’s ability to piggyback on the administrative efficiencies of Medicare and required it to be “financially self-sufficient.”Continue reading…