Articles Posted in Health Care Reform

disabledkidsfla-300x233When doctors, hospitals, and insurers bellyache about malpractice claims with little evidence on their prevalence or outcomes, patients and politicians should push back: And they can cite the nightmares people in grievous circumstance have suffered when their constitutional right to seek justice in civil lawsuits gets stripped away.

The Miami Herald and ProPublica, the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative website, have conducted a joint, deep dive into Florida’s decades-old legislative experiment, purportedly to assist families struggling with infants’ birth-related and catastrophic disabilities. The state’s neurological injury compensation initiative also was promoted as a way to stem a problem seen mostly in anecdote and not evidence — obstetricians and other specialists supposedly fleeing Florida, reputedly due to spiking malpractice insurance costs.

The media investigators, in a multipart series , have found that eliminating medical malpractice lawsuits for this slice of patients has benefited not the patients but instead, doctors, hospitals, and insurers.

bauchner-150x150dredlivingston-150x150While the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has declared racism a serious threat to the nation’s health, establishment medicine finds itself mired in an angry scandal over doctors’ inability to recognize the term, much less its existence, or its considerable harms.

An uproar at a leading medical journal might seem a tempest in an ivy-covered tower. But patients will want to track even a little the professional furor falling on the leaders of the respected Journal of the American Medical Association.

Its website recently featured a podcast, for which doctors could get continuing professional education credit, in which host Ed Livingston (photo above left), JAMA’s deputy editor for clinical content and “a white editor and physician, questioned whether racism even exists in medicine,” Usha McFarling, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist reported for Stat, the medical-science news site.

agedwalk-179x300As the coronavirus pandemic’s most catastrophic effects recede in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, notably due to vaccinations and other public health measures, residents and their loved ones still face costly, confounding issues in safeguarding the aged, sick, and injured. The Biden Administration wants to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to help.

But will the plans founder due to Republican resistance? And will even a huge jolt of funding be enough to deal with a graying nation’s growing problems with long-term care?

Our own homes provide a cornerstone of Democratic proposals to deal better with nightmares with the cost, safety, and availability of long-term care. Instead of sinking yet more public money — via Medicare and Medicaid — into institutions, can the federal government, instead, improve funding so seniors, the ill, and injured can stay home and get treatment there? As the Washington Post reported:

arpacaextension-300x191The Biden Administration has further expanded a special sign-up season for health insurance plans offered on Obamacare exchanges, giving consumers until Aug. 15 to enroll in coverage that also may be much cheaper.

The newly confirmed Health and Human Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement:

“Every American deserves access to quality, affordable health care — especially as we fight back against the Covid-19 pandemic. Through this special enrollment period, the Biden Administration is giving the American people the chance they need to find an affordable health care plan that works for them.”

The Biden Administration’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus pandemic relief law, called the American Rescue Plan, tackles one of the leading concerns expressed by American voters in repeated recent political campaigns: our health and health care. Foes have denounced it as wasteful and unfocused. But it arguably offers common sense federal responses to the worst public health catastrophe in a century.

The Biden measure gives a huge boost to battling the coronavirus itself, providing almost $60 billion for “vaccine and treatment development, manufacturing, distribution, and tracking, as well as Covid-19 testing and contact tracing,” according to media reports.

The Biden package, as the president promised, also expands health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act, albeit for at least two years. As the New York Times reported:

bucksfloating-300x167Who wouldn’t want $352 billion in health care savings in 2021?

Insurers — and more importantly employers — could see that hypothetical big chunk of change staying in their pockets, if somehow they could persuade hospitals to forgo their sky-high and ever-increasing prices, tying those charges instead to rates established and paid in the federal Medicare program that covers millions of the nation’s seniors, a new study reported.

The independent Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) concedes it is unlikely that hospitals, insurers, and businesses would adopt the nonprofit organization’s newly published research any time soon.

corridorhospital-300x200Although politicians have obsessed for a decade about affordable health insurance, frustrated patients have seen little or no relief on another crucial concern — the skyrocketing costs of medical services. What policy paths could best offer dollars-and-cents help to struggling people with health care prices?

New research from the independent, nonpartisan RAND Corporation offers intriguing clues about billions of dollars in annual savings, based on complex modeling of actual options confronting the public and policy makers.

These choices, the experts say, may come to the political fore with new force due to the economic shocks the U.S. health system has been hit with due to the coronavirus pandemic.

bronzekff-300x264President Biden has increased the access and affordability of health care for millions of Americans, issuing executive orders to reopen Obamacare exchanges and review rules or practices that targeted the aged, poor, sick, and chronically ill or mentally ill and hindered them from benefiting from Medicaid.

These were fast, early actions that Biden campaigned on and said that voters wanted him to take with urgency, as he did.

Allowing a “do over” of ACA enrollment will be a boon for millions of the pandemic jobless, many of whom may have lost employer-provided health insurance (which covers more than 150 million Americans, or most of us) and could not afford the daunting prices of so-called COBRA policies. That coverage requires consumers to may their own share of health insurance, plus the big chunk their employers cover, as well as an administrative fee.

billsurprisemedica-300x167The do-little U.S. Senate and the House gave Americans an unexpected cause for glee at year’s end. Lawmakers approved long sought relief from “surprise medical bills,” the charges, too often whopping in size, that individuals and families rack up for care from all kinds of providers that their health insurers have not approved.

Multiple legislative committees and influential lawmakers compromised so Congress could mostly resolve this consumer nightmare as part of the 5,600-page bill that both provides desperately needed coronavirus relief and funds the government.

The legislative action exempted one costly area considered still too complex and fraught for Congress to deal with — pricey emergency transport by ambulances. The vehicular services, for which consumers can get staggering bills, are run by so many different providers, including local governments, and operate under such a patchwork of regulations that lawmakers decided against dealing with this extreme expense.

bentcostcurvekff-300x147The nation has gotten some long-desired, important health care economic news: The country  has “bent the cost curve,” seeing 2020 as the first year in at least six decades in which America’s health care spending went down. But this may not be a good thing.

As Drew Altman, president and chief executive officer of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), reported of his organization’s economic data:

Year-to-date spending on health services is down about 2% from last year. Health spending for the calendar year may end up lower than it was in 2019.  Adding spending for drugs, which are less affected by Covid-19 and have not fallen, total health spending is still down by about 0.5% from last year. At its low point in April when the pandemic first really hit, spending on health services had fallen an eye popping 32% on an annualized basis. This is the first time expenditures for patient care have fallen year-over-year since data became available in the 1960s. The largest drop-offs were in outpatient care as people put off elective services or [visits to] doctors’ offices and outpatient clinics shut down. Telehealth visits increased dramatically but did not make up all of the difference.”

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