Articles Posted in Insurance

uvahealth-300x200The University of Virginia health system has decided to end decades of draconian bill collection, giving a reprieve to tens of thousands of patients and their families who faced harsh legal actions to recover crushing medical debt.

The taxpayer-supported institution proclaimed itself “proud” that it will stop aggressively suing its own employees, university students, and hard-working and poor Virginians after they experienced illness and injury serious enough to require hospitalization.

The university jammed the state courts with these actions, as well as liens against properties — including those of family members and not just patients themselves. The process to clear the debt-collection backlog may take a year or more. The health system “will release all liens and judgments filed against all households making less than 400% of the federal poverty level, or about $106,000 for a family of four,” the Washington Post reported.

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.

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:

waitingroom-2-300x202Patients packed in their doctors’ waiting rooms in pre-pandemic times may have looked around and wondered: Why are there so many seniors here receiving medical care?

It isn’t just age that gets older Americans in numbers to treatment for illness or injury or preventive care — it’s also, of course, their qualification at 65 for government-supported medical insurance, aka Medicare. That, perhaps, unsurprising conclusion has been affirmed by Stanford doctors and researchers in newly published research. The study also offers important insights on delayed treatment and the crucial role played by health insurance.

The work involved running down a hunch of Dr. Joseph Shrager, a cardiothoracic surgeon who wondered why so many older patients he saw were diagnosed with lung cancer at age 65 — and not, say, at 61, or 64? He discussed the observation with colleagues who concurred in their curiosity about Medicare eligibility and its role in disease diagnosis. As the university news service reported of the insurance hypothesis:

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.

brooks-lasure-150x150With millions of Americans now eligible to seek affordable health insurance on Obamacare exchanges newly re-opened to them, even more consumers will want to see if Congress’ impending action on the $1.9 trillion coronavirus pandemic response plan pushed by President Biden further expands coverage options.

The Democrats in Congress have made clear that they hope to get Biden’s financial package passed and in place by mid-March, when earlier approved pandemic plans, notably for unemployment insurance and other economic aid, are set to expire.

Their vote margin is so narrow, however, that they may need to rely on so-called budget reconciliation paths to pass the “American Rescue Plan,” a measure that includes an array of Democratic initiatives, notably those involving their plans to improve the access and affordability of health care, especially with greater coverage of the aged, poor, children, as well as the chronically physically and mentally ill.

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.

autowreck-300x178Congressional investigations may be coming none too soon on revelations about predatory billing by big hospitals and hospital chains against patients for costly care they received after they were hurt in vehicle wrecks.

The New York Times reported that its investigations showed that patients, especially the poor and vulnerable, too often have gotten ripped off on treatments that their health insurance could have covered when they were involved in car crashes. Instead, hospitals and hospital chains seek to maximize profits — and purportedly to protect themselves against financial losses — by making legal claims against wreck victims and their finances.

The claims, permitted under centuries-old practices, are called liens. They are a legal “claim on an asset, such as a home or a settlement payment, to make sure someone repays a debt,” the New York Times reported.

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