Articles Posted in Insurance

mitch-300x226bernieBernie Sanders recently offered on Twitter what he described as a display of all the Senate Republicans’ public considerations of the American Health Care Act, aka Trumpcare: a photo of a blank piece of paper.

Not a bad jibe, and a window into the deepening bipartisan dismay that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his  Republicans soon will try to jam through the next step in their long-sought effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.

Does McConnell have the 50 votes he needs so Vice President Pence can break a Senate tie and move Trumpcare closer to reality? Will this occur in just days, before Congress heads to its July Fourth recess? Or will it happen in the small period before the long August recess, when Trump Administration officials also want Congress to take up an increase in the debt ceiling and to tackle a budget and maybe some tax law changes?

Florida_Supreme_Court_Building_2011-300x266As congressional Republicans pursue their counter factual campaign this week to strip patients of their rights to pursue legal redress for harms they suffer while seeking medical services, the Florida Supreme Court has sent a powerful message to federal lawmakers about the wrongheadedness of some of their key notions.

The justices in Tallahassee have repudiated state lawmakers’ assertions of the existence of a “malpractice crisis,” in which dire action is needed to ensure doctors can get affordable liability insurance and be sufficiently protected to practice good medicine.

They also have rejected caps on patients’ claims for pain and suffering, finding that these limits on “non-economic” damages violate constitutional rights to equal protection under the law, and “arbitrarily reduce damage awards for plaintiffs who suffer the most drastic injuries.”

mitchPresident Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress haven’t repealed the Affordable Care Act. Yet.

Still, analyses show how, as one critic said, the GOP plans a big move of federal money from “health to wealth”—to take support from the poor and middle class, especially from the very voters who put Trump in office, to finance a $1 trillion tax cut for the rich, Big Pharma, medical device makers, and, yes, operators of tanning salons.

There’s been a huge amount of press coverage, but look at some key health care numbers—from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the White House, and health policy experts— and see if this motivates you to get in touch with your elected officials:

Donald_Trump-1-225x300The Trump Administration raised major weekend alarms among some of the biggest players in health care with the president’s reported willingness to try a risky gambit by cutting off crucial federal subsidies to help millions of poorer Americans afford health insurance. Some in the GOP see the move forcing opponents to endorse the American Health Care Act, aka Trumpcare. But critics say it will cost millions their coverage and blow up existing insurance exchanges.

Politico, the website devoted to political coverage, reported that President Trump told his top advisers that he wants to cut off for this year $7 billion that Uncle Sam pays to insurers to reduce deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs so an estimated 7 million poorer Americans can afford health coverage on exchanges set up under the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.

Trump is said to think this draconian move will push Democrats to negotiate with the GOP to support Trumpcare. But opponents say it not only will wreck ACA health insurance exchanges, causing insurers to flee losses from participating in them, it will not save money. It will force Uncle Sam to pay $2.3 billion more in other related ACA costs, notably some tax credits.

It’s up to the U.S. Senate now whether tens of millions of Americans get stripped of the health insurance they obtained under the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, or what kind of coverage they might have under some version of  the American Health Care Act aka Trumpcare.

News organizations have posted some good, factual summaries of Trumpcare vs. Obamacare, as passed by the House last week, including here and here and here. The Congressional Budget Office, the federal outfit that is supposed to provide lawmakers a nonpartisan, independent analysis of the costs and effects of legislation, will score the House bill sometime this week so Americans really know what the bill does and how much it costs.

codes-300x220Hospital care accounts for a third of the nation’s $3 trillion in annual spending for medical services. And not only are these charges increasing—and driving up health costs—they’re infuriating patients and their families. Who can make heads or tails of hospital bills? And if consumers do, will they discover billing practices that only anger them more?

Elizabeth Rosenthal, a seasoned journalist, accomplished medical correspondent, and a non-practicing doctor, has created a stir with “An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back.” It’s her new best-seller, and was excerpted recently in the New York Times Magazine.

The book and magazine story delve, in part, into the sausage-making aspects of medical billing. These systems have enslaved American health care. They turn on bulky, balky coding systems that provide a short-hand summary for every therapy that patients receive from providers—physicians and hospitals. In turn, payers—patients, insurers, and Uncle Sam—rely on the codes to determine fees they will fork over for services and materials. In between are platoons of coders and billing experts for payers and providers, warring over ever number and the money they represent.

popularOcareRepublicans in Congress are heading home to their districts for a spring break. Will they hear again from angry constituents—but this time from zealous supporters angry that they failed to fulfill their seven-year promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act aka Obamacare?

Maybe, maybe not. It seems the House GOP, especially, has remedied one of President Obama’s notable shortcomings: Republicans have churned through the ACA so thoroughly and publicly that they have convinced Americans that Obamacare’s pretty good.

It’s polling more strongly than ever, hitting a peak 55 percent approval rating. Americans say they want politicians to improve the existing ACA, not replace it with the failed American Health Care Act, aka Trumpcare.

vox-300x255Now that the blitzkrieg assault on Obamacare is over, the battle to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act hasn’t gone totally up in smoke. It just has fallen, for now, into lots of still critical bits and pieces.

Keep your eye on:

Medicaid

Donald_Trump-1-225x300A GOP assault on American health care has been turned aside, for now. But major questions have been exposed that will need answering if we as a country are ever to come together over health care. Do we recognize that health care—comprising 17.5 percent of the Gross Domestic Product and trillions of dollars in spending annually— has become so costly, complicated, and critical that each of us, at some point in our lives, must have some assistance from all the rest of the collective us?

In short: Do we believe that health care is a right?

All other civilized countries answered that question long ago in the affirmative and have implemented systems that guarantee everyone living within their borders (or even visitors from places like the USA) a basic package of health care.  But we here in the United States still struggle with the world’s most expensive health care system that delivers care to a smaller percentage of its residents than anywhere else and that gets worse outcomes than most other advanced countries.

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