Archivi delle etichette: Obamacare

Predicting the next 4 years of health reform @Medici_Manager @kevinMD

 | POLICY | DECEMBER 21, 2012 http://bit.ly/S5bySb

Predicting the next 4 years of health reform

Although members of the Obama team are now celebrating their election victory, the next four years will not be smooth sailing. Ignoring the campaign rhetoric, there is still much more work to be done in order to reshape our health care system; the effect on academic medical centers and teaching hospitals will be significant.

The political conscience is still being driven by the fear of the fiscal cliff, which dominates most Washington conversations. Both political parties agree that health care is a significant contributor to our present and future deficit and that we have to figure out how to deliver more care at a lower cost. But, they argue about what to call it, who gets credit, and whether the solution is bigger government involvement or a dominant private market?The potential cuts to NIH funding and graduate medical education support do not go away with another four Obama years. We anticipate that the president will reform the tax code and transform how we deliver health care. The latter will be his lasting legacy.

However, in all this chaos, there are opportunities. While we no longer hope for a bipartisan middle ground on health care — and rancor will certainly escalate if President Obama is reelected — to many people, the Affordable Care Act is starting to look like a tangible business opportunity. Every insurer is looking at the 30 million uninsured people who will receive coverage through a mix of subsidized private insurance for middle-class households and expanded Medicaid for low-income people. These new markets could be worth $50 billion to $60 billion in premiums in 2014, and as much as $230 billion annually within seven years. The structure and implementation of these programs present specific challenges for AMCs.

Medicaid

Academic medical centers currently deliver 28 percent of inpatient care for Medicaid recipients and 40 percent of uninsured care in the United States — in only 6 percent of the acute care facilities. We have the Medicaid specialty care market cornered — because no one else will accept these patients. The expansion of Medicaid will create stress in our historical access points: emergency rooms and primary care offices. We will be overwhelmed if we do not dramatically reengineer where we deliver care and rethink who should deliver care for what conditions. We will experience costs that quickly spiral out of control if we just expand our current system.

Obama’s re-election removes the indecision about whether to opt in or opt out for many state governors. Most insurers are betting on the fact that dual eligibles (patients who are disabled or poor enough to qualify for both Medicaid and Medicare) will be moved into the managed Medicaid plans. This will require active care management, better EHRs, geomapping of resource utilization, and a greater understanding of the impact of social determinants of health on this population. It will be interesting to see if the role of the insurer really expands to manage the outcome instead of just the cost.

Health exchanges

The implementation of the exchanges poses challenges for states, because they are supposed to be self-sustaining by 2015. Their ability to achieve this comes down to demographics and the size of their insured pool. Small high-risk pools will need to be intensively managed (like the District of Columbia), in contrast to larger populations that can be more loosely managed as they develop state-wide infrastructure. For academic medicine, the exchanges will present specific challenges. Our services could be subject to higher deductibles, copays and even co-insurance if the exchanges choose to tier providers according to cost. As a result, our care could be inaccessible to many patients without means.

There has also been very little discussion about how to transition graduate medical education support into the exchange market. Currently Medicare, Medicaid, and other insurers support the educational mission through explicit or implicit support. Supporting the training of the health care workforce has been considered a public good that increases access and quality for patients. Medicare Advantage programs use a “carve out” to preserve this support, but this option has not yet been part of the exchange discussions.

Physician shortages

The Center for Workforce Studies at the AAMC estimates that the nation will face significant physician shortages by 2020. As the newly insured begin to seek care in 2014, and as we anticipate these shortages, one must wonder who will care for these patients? By 2017, the number of physician retirees will be close to the number of new medical school graduates. While medical schools as a whole have been expanding the number of students they admit, there may not be enough residency positions to accommodate them. The Obama team can ignore the growing physician shortage — but at their peril. Unfortunately, we also continue to debate within specialty societies about who should provide the services, rather than talking about how we can deliver care as a team more efficiently. Use of interprofessional teams holds great promise for improving the efficiency of the physician workforce, and we anticipate that the administration will continue to support innovative reforms in health care delivery.

The election outcome is good news … with caution. Health care reform will continue to move forward, imperfect as it may be. I have great hopes for bipartisan solutions, but I won’t hold my breath. The really hard work is not over; it has just begun.

Joanne Conroy is Chief Health Care Officer at the Association of American Medical Colleges.  She blogs at Wing of Zock and can be reached on Twitter@joanneconroymd.

 

How Obamacare will create a new normal for medicine @Medici_Manager @kevinmd

 | POLICY | DECEMBER 7, 2012 http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2012/12/obamacare-create-normal-medicine.html

The 2012 Presidential election is over. Obamacare is the law of the land and is certain to remain so.  There was tremendous uncertainty not knowing whether the law would be repealed, revised or remain.  Many of us opposed the bill, and there certainly are negatives.  Like it or not, it is time to “get over it,” and not a second later than now.  The new-found certainty offers an opportunity to reassess and adapt to the coming changes.

In addition to Obamacare, other pillars of our “new normal” include patient satisfaction surveys, threats of reimbursement cuts, increasing pressure from administrators obsessing over “metrics,” more time drained by cumbersome electronic health records, resentment from patients who blame us for the failings of the healthcare system, as well as a steady stream of frivolous lawsuits with no end in sight.  It’s time to adapt to our “new normal.”

Comparing and contrasting with other industries

In this modern age of Medicine, these factors have been piled on top of the traditional responsibilities of physicians such as life and death, health and wellness, and paradoxically have seemed to rise above them in importance like unstoppable flood waters drowning the ghosts of Hippocrates, Osler and Marcus Welby M.D.  This contributes to poor morale among physicians and understandably so.  Other industries have had to deal with the same concepts for decades, however.  The service industries are bound by “patient satisfaction” measures and always have been.  Businessmen also have to guard against lawsuits. They expect them and manage the risk and accept it as a norm. I doubt they perceive a lawsuit where they did nothing wrong, as life altering like so many physicians do.  Companies often times have decreases in sales just as our reimbursements may drop and constantly have to adapt.  Just about everyone else in the “real world” has to deal with a “boss” of some variety and a necessary part of their job is to keep that person or entity happy, regardless of whether they like them personally or not.  So why do we find it so difficult to deal with such factors?

Are we special?

Are we different?

In a word, “No.”  Not anymore.  It’s time to accept that fact and move on.  We are now cogs, replaceable de facto employees of a massive business-medico-legal-political machine; nothing more.  All indications are that it will remain this way.  Much can be learned from such other industries that have had to adapt to the stark realities ahead of us.  I think for the profession of Medicine to reinvigorate itself, and for us to truly value what we do have again, we must properly manage expectations.

What government will (or will not) do

Though we might each individually be very replaceable, the reality is that we still have extremely high paying jobs in a profession that is relatively recession proof with greatly increasing demand for our services. There are some other positives and ironic realities that I think many physicians are glaringly overlooking.  One is that Obamacare proposes to commit about 1 trillion more dollars towards healthcare over the next 10 years, with tens of millions newly insured.  Necessarily, demand for our services will go up, way up.  And the best (or worst) news is that despite all the talk about “severe rationing” and “draconian reimbursement cuts” there’s good reason to believe that talk is a big load of … nonsense.  That’s right; they’re not going to cut a damn thing.  How can I be so sure?

There has been essentially no real political will, whatsoever, by either political party to make any significant cuts from the federal budget, ever.  Even the most “harsh” and “cruelest” proposals only call for a decrease in the rate-of-increase, of overall spending.  There never has been any, and there’s no reason to predict there ever will be, any policy other than kicking the can down the road until after the next election, and the next one and the next one. The voters have spoken and they want to spend an extra $1,000,000,000,000 on healthcare.  Santa Claus is in fact coming to town! That may be terrible for the country, but it may well be very good for doctors; that is the smart ones.  There may be more hoops to jump through, more requirements and regulations, as well as creative strategies needed to get a “piece of the pie,” but demand for doctors’ services will necessarily increase, and tremendously so.  Also, despite much posturing, tough talk and threats of showdowns year after year, the SGR-fix has always been passed and the budget debt ceiling has always been raised.  Medicare expenditures will necessarily continue to go up, and up, and up. More patients will be insured wanting our services. The elderly baby-boom population will be sick and growing older and need us desperately.

I was told a story by a retired physician about his long deceased cardiologist father who practiced before Medicare was instituted.  He tells of his father who was a very compassionate physician, but a staunch free-market conservative who like many physicians at the time vehemently opposed the proposed Medicare system.  His father would say that physicians provided charity care for free to the disabled and elderly all the time and that Medicare was just a Trojan-Horse for socialists who wanted to take over the American healthcare system.  He may or may not have been correct, but ultimately to his dismay, Medicare passed and became law.  All of a sudden and very unexpectedly, his salary … doubled.  He never complained about Medicare again.

The point of this anecdote is not to suggest that physicians’ salaries will double as a result of Obamacare.  They will not.  However, it is to suggest that despite the 2000 pages of regulations and requirements in the cloud of Obamacare that hangs over our heads, there will be an unexpected silver lining, somewhere.  I think we can simultaneously work vigorously to reform our profession, yet shed the “culture of victimhood” that has grown like mold upon physician attitudes and search for positive opportunities.

Some physicians will “opt-in”

Such new opportunities will not be the same as in the dead era of Osler, Hippocrates and Marcus Welby M.D.  Also, I cannot say that chugging along with the same old strategy, expectations, and disappointments of a bygone Golden Age will be a winning plan, either.  It may involve simply being content as a cog in a large machine or “system.”  It may involve thriving in the role of “corporate soldier,” learning how to “play the game” while finding ways to save costs, increasing efficiency for your group or other groups and “promoting” your hospital.  Others may move into the government side of healthcare and find opportunities in healthcare policy planning and consulting.  Clearly, knowing “the medicine” isn’t enough anymore and in fact, seems the least important of that which is expected of us.

Other physicians will “opt-out”

Greater numbers of physicians will find opportunity in opting-out of the system by making their practices cash only, concierge, or declining to participate in Medicare and a more dominant Medicaid system.  Another option may be for more Emergency Physicians and surgeons to exploit technicalities in Obamacare and States with liberal certificate of need laws and open their own centers that offer services for a flat fee outside of traditional government or private insurances.  As more insurance plans require deductibles in the thousands of dollars and refuse to pay for certain services entirely, such centers may gain more traction where they are feasible.

Others may “opt-out” more insidiously.  The new generation of physicians may very well evolve into protocol-following, brown-nosing, corporate mantra-spewing clock-punchers, indistinguishable from other “providers” all while refusing to make the tremendous sacrifices of doctors past, such as incredibly long hours, over-burdensome call schedules with great sacrifice to marriage, family, and personal well-being.  Maybe that’s okay, and maybe that’s what our new Overlords of Healthcare want and will reward.

More primary care physicians and other specialties likely will take the “9-5, no call” route and leave the after-hours hassles to the ED and hospitalists.  More medical students may pick careers in cosmetics over critical care.  More Emergency Physicians may leave high-stress clinical shift work in the Emergency Department for Administration, group management, Hospice and Palliative care fellowships, Urgent Care ownership or anything else seen as less stressful.  More surgeons and specialists may opt out of emergency call for a less stressful life and a focus on elective cases with higher reimbursement to liability ratios.  I see more Anesthesiologist moving to “lifestyle” positions at ASCs doing elective cases, or pain procedures with little or no call.  Many physicians will consider early retirement.

The silver lining

The pioneers of Medicine did not have to worry about our “new normal” of Obamacare and all of its 2000 pages of regulations and requirements.  They didn’t have to worry about $300,000 of medical school debt, mega-million dollar frivolous lawsuits or being fired over patient satisfaction surveys based on complaints that may or may not even be valid.  But they also didn’t have our modern-day luxuries, salaries, exploding technologies, or a nation of patients soon to be more widely insured and in demand of our services than ever.  There is much worth fighting to reform, yet even more worth fighting to preserve.  All things considered, we are tremendously better off.

Be sure, Obamacare will change modern medicine, and it will change it mightily.  Also be sure, that with us or without us, and whether we look forward to seize new opportunities or look back upon shattered expectations, the profession of Medicine will be alive and well, and thriving more than ever before.

“BirdStrike” is an emergency physician who blogs at WhiteCoat’s Call Room at Emergency Physicians Monthly.

 

Interesting US report on healthcare payment reform from UnitedHealth Group @Medici_Manager @helenbevan

FAREWELL TO FEE-FOR-SERVICE?

A “Real World” Strategy For Health Care Payment Reform

Qualche spunto interessante anche per il SSN italiano?

http://www.unitedhealthgroup.com/hrm/UNH_WorkingPaper8.pdf

 

Brandeis professor traces efforts to reshape health care @Medici_Manager @DonaldsonLiam

By Sarah Shemkus GLOBE CORRESPONDENT FEBRUARY 12, 2012 http://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2012/02/12/brandeis-university-stuart-altman-traces-efforts-reshape-health-care/9MsebmF9rT5Dw0c3xmDEmI/story.html

When President Nixon wanted to overhaul the health care system to provide universal coverage, his administration turned to Stuart Altman.

Ten years later, when Congress created a commission to improve the Medicare payment system, Altman led the effort. And, in the early ’90s, when newly elected Bill Clinton assembled a team to guide his health care policies, Altman was among the first chosen.

There may be no single person with a longer or deeper history in the health care overhaul efforts of the past 40 years than Altman, a professor of national health policy at Brandeis University in Waltham. He has advised five presidents, both Democratic and Republican; authored countless articles about health policy; and served on a variety of task forces aimed at fixing health care on both the national and state levels.

These four decades as policy maker, adviser, and scholar play a central role in Altman’s new book, “Power, Politics, and Universal Health Care,’’ which traces 100 years of debate and confrontation over one of the nation’s most intractable issues. With President Obama’s health care overhaul under attack from Republicans – and certain to be a defining issue in the November election – Altman and his coauthor, former Brandeis fellow David Shactman, show that today’s controversies have roots in the political and philosophical battles that raged a century ago.

In 1915, for example, the American Association for Labor Legislation, a workers advocacy group, proposed that the US government provide health insurance for low-income workers and their families, similar to programs adopted in Germany and England. Special interests, including the insurance industry and American Medical Association, lined up against the plan. Conservatives, raising alarms about government intervention into the private sector, joined the opposition.

“Opponents claimed that national health insurance was a tool of socialists and communists – rhetoric that still reverberates today in the halls of Congress,’’ Altman and Shactman wrote.

Altman first became involved in health care reform in the early 1970s. He earned his doctorate in economics at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he wrote his dissertation on unemployed married women, then went to teach at Brown University. Former colleagues, working at the US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare during Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration, recruited him to study the supply of registered nurses in the workforce.

When Nixon was elected president, Altman stuck around. Although a Republican, Nixon was eager to propose a universal health care plan to compete with more far-reaching alternatives pushed by liberals such as Massachusetts Senator Edward M. Kennedy. Altman was asked to examine policy options. “I was sort of thrust into it,’’ Altman said.

The challenges he confronted – ballooning health care costs and high numbers of uninsured – were “the exact problems we have today,’’ he said. Watergate intervened before the administration’s proposal got very far, and Altman returned to teaching, at Brandeis, after Nixon resigned. But his involvement in policy making was far from over.

From 1984 to 1996, Altman chaired the congressional Prospective Payment Assessment Commission, an independent panel created to oversee Medicare payments to hospitals to help control health care costs. He worked on Clinton’s transition team, only to see his recommendations to build on the existing system rejected in favor of a more sweeping plan that died in Congress.

Altman later served on the Commission on the Future of Medicare during Clinton’s administration, and advised Obama on health policy during the 2008 campaign. Altman conceived the idea for his book during the early debates over Obama’s health care proposals. Ultimately, Obama got his overhaul passed without a single Republican vote.

Altman wanted to explore why health care has proven such a difficult, divisive issue, and why so many attempts to make it more available and affordable did not succeed. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy, Nixon, Clinton, and any number of lawmakers all failed to push through major proposals.

In fact, Altman and Shactman began their book assuming that Obama, too, would fall short. The book’s working title: “Failure Again.’’

Health care reform has been so intractable because it provides a lightning rod for long-running political and philosophical conflicts over the role of government, according to Altman. While the left favors a social safety net, the right fears creeping socialism. Conservatives prefer to let market forces meet health care needs, but liberals distrust the motives of private business. Advocacy groups representing special interests such as doctors, hospitals, and senior citizens fight any proposal that may cost them money, jobs, or influence.

With these opposing forces constantly in play, the history of health care reform is replete with attempts at compromise, but short on success stories.

In 1974, in a church basement near the US Capitol, opposing factions met in secret to craft a deal on universal health care. Among the attendees were Altman, representing the Nixon administration, and an aide to Kennedy, then advocating a single-payer system, similar to those in Europe and Canada.

“It would make a good ending to the story if the secret church meetings in June resulted in a successful compromise, but it was not to be,’’ Altman and Shactman wrote. “Neither side felt they could agree to the concessions necessary to make a deal.’’

At 74, Altman remains immersed in health care policy. He advises lawmakers, administration officials, and nonprofit groups about health care economics. Chris Jennings, a consultant in Washington who worked with Altman in the 1980s and ’90s, said Altman “is still incredibly relevant.’’

“He continues to be viewed as a substantive and intellectual health policy reform expert,’’ said Jennings.

Altman said the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, will reduce the number of uninsured Americans – if it survives court challenges and repeal efforts. If the law is undone, Altman predicted, the nation faces “the worst of all worlds’’: high numbers of uninsured and soaring medical costs.

Altman has donated to Democratic candidates, but he is more pragmatist than partisan. Incremental, rather than revolutionary, change, he said, is the best approach for improving the complex patchwork of government programs and private coverage that has evolved over the past century.

The insurance industry remains important to the US economy and must be included in overhaul efforts, he said. At the same time, the federal government’s involvement is vital to ensuring that all have access to health care.

“The idea that you can do it without the government is pure nonsense,’’ he said. “People have a legitimate concern with ‘too much government,’ but the question is, where is the balance?’’

After The Election: A Consumer’s Guide To The Health Law @Medici_Manager @KHNews

By Mary Agnes Carey and Jenny Gold KHN Staff Writers NOV 08, 2012

http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/Stories/2012/March/22/consumer-guide-health-law.aspx

Now that President Barack Obama has won a second term, the Affordable Care Act is back on a fast track.

Some analysts argue that there could be modifications to reduce federal spending as part of a broader deficit deal; for now, this is just speculation. What is clear is that the law will have sweeping ramifications for consumers, state officials, employers and health care providers, including hospitals and doctors.

While some of the key features don’t kick in until 2014, the law has already altered the health care industry and established a number of consumer benefits.

Here’s a primer on parts of the law already up and running, what’s to come and ways that provisions could still be altered.

I don’t have health insurance. Under the law, will I have to buy it and what happens if I don’t?

Today, you are not required to have health insurance. But beginning in 2014, most people will have to have it or pay a fine. For individuals, the penalty would start at $95 a year, or up to 1 percent of income, whichever is greater, and rise to $695, or 2.5 percent of income, by 2016.

For families the penalty would be $2,085 or 2.5 percent of household income, whichever is greater. The requirement to have coverage can be waived for several reasons, including financial hardship or religious beliefs.

Millions of additional people will qualify for Medicaid or federal subsidies to buy insurance under the law.

While some states, including most recently Alabama, Wyoming and Montana, have passed laws to block the requirement to carry health insurance, those provisions do not override federal law.

I get my health coverage at work and want to keep my current plan. Will I be able to do that? How will my plan be affected by the health law?

If you get insurance through your job, it is likely to stay that way. But, just as before the law was passed, your employer is not obligated to keep the current plan and may change premiums, deductibles, co-pays and network coverage.

You may have seen some law-related changes already. For example, most plans now ban lifetime coverage limits and include a guarantee that an adult child up to age 26 who can’t get health insurance at a job can stay on her parents’ health plan.

What other parts of the law are now in place?

You are likely to be eligible for preventive services with no out-of-pocket costs, such as breast cancer screenings and cholesterol tests.

Health plans can’t cancel your coverage once you get sick – a practice known as “rescission” – unless you committed fraud when you applied for coverage.

Children with pre-existing conditions cannot be denied coverage. This will apply to adults in 2014.

Insurers will have to provide rebates to consumers if they spend less than 80 to 85 percent of premium dollars on medical care.

Some existing plans, if they haven’t changed significantly since passage of the law, do not have to abide by certain parts of the law. For example, these “grandfathered” planscan still charge beneficiaries part of the cost of preventive services.

If you’re currently in one of these plans, and your employer makes significant changes, such as raising your out-of-pocket costs, the plan would then have to abide by all aspects of the health law.

I want health insurance but I can’t afford it. What will I do?

Depending on your income, you might be eligible for Medicaid. Currently, in most states nonelderly adults without minor children don’t qualify for Medicaid. But beginning in 2014, the federal government is offering to pay the cost of an expansion in the programs so that anyone with an income at or lower than 133 percent of the federal poverty level, (which based on current guidelines would be $14,856 for an individual or $30,656 for a family of four) will be eligible for Medicaid.

The Supreme Court, however, ruled in June that states cannot be forced to make that change. Republican governors in several states have said that they will refuse the expansion, though that may change now that Obama has been re-elected.

What if I make too much money for Medicaid but still can’t afford to buy insurance?

You might be eligible for government subsidies to help you pay for private insurance sold in the state-based insurance marketplaces, called exchanges, slated to begin operation in 2014. Exchanges will sell insurance plans to individuals and small businesses.

These premium subsidies will be available for individuals and families with incomes between 133 percent and 400 percent of the poverty level, or $14,856 to $44,680 for individuals and $30,656 to $92,200 for a family of four (based on current guidelines).

Will it be easier for me to get coverage even if I have health problems?

Insurers will be barred from rejecting applicants based on health status once the exchanges are operating in 2014.

I own a small business. Will I have to buy health insurance for my workers?

No employer is required to provide insurance. But starting in 2014, businesses with 50 or more employees that don’t provide health care coverage and have at least one full-time worker who receives subsidized coverage in the health insurance exchange will have to pay a fee of $2,000 per full-time employee. The firm’s first 30 workers would be excluded from the fee.

However, firms with  50 or fewer people won’t face any penalties.

In addition, if you own a small business, the health law offers a tax credit to help cover the cost. Employers with 25 or fewer full-time workers who earn an average yearly salary of $50,000 or less today can get tax credits of up 35 percent of the cost of premiums. The credit increases to 50 percent in 2014.

I’m over 65. How does the legislation affect seniors?

The law is narrowing a gap in the Medicare Part D prescription drug plan known as the “doughnut hole.” That’s when seniors who have paid a certain initial amount in prescription costs have to pay for all of their drug costs until they spend a total of $4,700 for the year. Then the plan coverage begins again.

That coverage gap will be closed entirely by 2020. Seniors will still be responsible for 25 percent of their prescription drug costs. So far, 5.6 million seniors have saved $4.8 billion on prescription drugs, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

The law also expanded Medicare’s coverage of preventive services, such as screenings for colon, prostate and breast cancer, which are now free to beneficiaries. Medicare will also pay for an annual wellness visit to the doctor. HHS reports that during the first nine months of 2012, more than 20.7 million Medicare beneficiaries have received preventive services at no cost.

The health law reduced the federal government’s payments to Medicare Advantage plans, run by private insurers as an alternative to the traditional Medicare. Medicare Advantage costs more per beneficiary than traditional Medicare. Critics of those payment cuts say that could mean the private plans may not offer many extra benefits, such as free eyeglasses, hearing aids and gym memberships, that they now provide.

Will I have to pay more for my health care because of the law?

No one knows for sure. Even supporters of the law acknowledge its steps to control health costs, such as incentives to coordinate care better, may take a while to show significant savings. Opponents say the law’s additional coverage requirements will make health insurance more expensive for individuals and for the government.

That said, there are some new taxes and fees. For example, starting in 2013, individuals with earnings above $200,000 and married couples making more than $250,000 will paya Medicare payroll tax of 2.35 percent, up from the current 1.45 percent, on income over those thresholds. In addition, higher-income people will face a 3.8 percent tax on unearned income, such as dividends and interest.

Starting in 2018, the law also will impose a 40 percent excise tax on the portion of most employer-sponsored health coverage (excluding dental and vision) that exceeds $10,200 a year and $27,500 for families. The tax has been dubbed a “Cadillac” tax because it hits the most generous plans.

In addition, the law also imposes taxes and fees on several major health industries. Beginning in 2013, medical device manufacturers and importers must pay a 2.3 percent tax on the sale of any taxable medical device to raise $29 billion over 10 years. An annual fee for health insurers is expected to raise more than $100 billion over 10 years, while a fee for brand name drugs will bring in another $34 billion.

Those fees will likely be passed onto consumers in the form of higher premiums.

Has the law hit some bumps in the road?

Yes. For example, the law created high-risk insurance pools to help people purchase health insurance. But enrollment in the pools has been less than expected. As of Aug. 31, 86,072 people had signed up for the high-risk pools, but the program, which began in June 2010, was initially expected to enroll between 200,000 and  400,000 people. The cost and the requirements have been difficult for some to meet.

Applicants must be uninsured for six months because of a pre-existing medical condition before they can join a pool. And because participants are sicker than the general population, the premiums are higher.

Enrollment has increased since the summer, after the premiums were lowered in some states by as much as 40 percent and some states stepped up advertising.

A long-term care provision of the law is dead for now. The Community Living Assistance Services and Supports program (CLASS Act) was designed for people to buy federally guaranteed insurance that would have helped consumers eventually cover some long-term-care costs. But last fall, federal officials effectively suspended the program even before it was to begin, saying they could not find a way to make it work financially.

Are there more changes ahead for the law?

Some observers think there could be pressure in Congress to make some changes to the law as a larger package to reduce the deficit. Among those options is scaling back the subsidies that help low-income Americans buy health insurance coverage. The amount of the subsidies, and possibly the Medicaid expansion as well, could be reduced.

It’s also possible that some of the taxes on the health care industry, which help pay for the new benefits in the health law, could be rolled back. For example, legislation to repeal the tax on medical device manufacturers passed the House with support from 37 Democrats (it is not expected to receive Senate consideration this year). Nine House Democrats are co-sponsoring legislation to repeal the law’s annual fee on health insurers.

Meanwhile, the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), one of the most contentious provisions of the health law, is also under continued attack by lawmakers. IPAB is a 15-member panel charged with making recommendations to reduce Medicare spending if the amount the government spends grows beyond a target rate. If Congress chooses not to accept the recommendations, lawmakers must pass alternative cuts of the same size.

Some Republicans argue that the board amounts to health care rationing and some Democrats have said that they think the panel would transfer power that belongs on Capitol Hill to the executive branch. In March, the House voted to repeal IPAB.

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JAMA Forum: End of the Threat to Obamacare? Not at All @Medici_Manager

The JAMA Forum

By Stuart M. Butler, PhD http://newsatjama.jama.com/2012/11/08/jama-forum-end-of-the-threat-to-obamacare-not-at-all/

 

President Obama’s narrow victory has left proponents of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) breathing a collective sigh of relief, believing that the legislation is safe. It’s true, of course, that the election’s outcome has ended the prospect of a new administration using Republican majorities in both chambers and the budget reconciliation process to force outright repeal. But the reality of the economic and political situation means the core elements of the ACA remain very much in play.

The primary reasons for this are the continuing problems with the federal budget deficit and the national debt and the worrying long-term weakness of the economy. Add to that the increasing skepticism that the ACA’s blunt tools will slow costs.

Let’s remember that the most important provisions of the ACA, such as penalties for Americans lacking insurance and firms not offering it, the expansion of Medicaid, and the heavily subsidized exchange-based coverage, do not go into effect until 2014. Meanwhile, new taxes on self-employment and limits on flexible spending accounts are scheduled to go into effect next year, just as Congress will be trying to boost employment growth. Additionally, lawmakers will be desperately searching for ways to delay or cut spending to deal with the deficit. That adds up to 2013 being a year for buyer’s remorse in Congress and around the country.

The reaction of employers to the ACA is likely to be the first pressure point for changes in the ACA or at least the suspension of some of its provisions. Employers have been reporting for some time that concerns about mandatory benefits are slowing their hiring. And as the Wall Street Journal recently reported, lower-wage employers are moving towards hiring part-time employees to avoid the ACA’s penalties. These patterns will only grow in 2013 as many employers eye the prospect of putting their employees into the heavily subsidized exchange plans. And the possibility of larger-than-expected enrollment in health insurance exchanges will sharply increase the budget costs, adding to the deficit pressures to curb the ACA.

These developments in the economy will force Congress to reopen key ACA coverage provisions, perhaps as part of a deficit reduction package. Effects on employment and continued increases in health care costs could also increase the prospects of a bipartisan redesign of employer-based coverage within a tax reform package. That could involve switching clumsy mandates and penalties on employers for the kind of structural tax reform that many Republican and administration insiders have actually long supported—measures that gradually curb and eventually replace the current tax exclusion for employer-sponsored coverage with tax credits and subsidies that would apply to all employees.

It’s also hard to imagine the expansion of Medicaid proceeding as planned. The number of Republican governors has now grown to at least 30, from 29. If slow economic growth continues, and statehouse fears of unsustainable employee pensions and other mounting costs continue to grow, even the short-term prospect of Washington picking up expanded Medicaid costs is not likely to prevent a strong pushback by states. That’s going to be exacerbated by a Congress that is desperately trying to curb spending. So expect structural reform of the ACA’s Medicaid, including some version of a block grant, to be on the deficit-reduction table.

Perhaps most important of all, the prospects for serious Medicare reform are actually on the rise. The Ryan version of premium support (in which the federal government would provide a limited payment to beneficiaries that could be used toward purchasing a private insurance plan or for the traditional Medicare program) was initially seen by the Obama campaign as a gift from heaven that would doom Romney among the elderly. But that didn’t happen. Indeed Obama’s initial large lead as the best defender of Medicare slid to just 5 points by the election.Exit polls show Romney also won the senior vote (and those older than 45 years) and even increased the Republican share over 2008.

What this suggests is that a version of premium support is now likely to gain renewed traction as budget pressures and underlying costs of health care force congressional action. The approach has actually had bipartisan support since the Clinton Administration and, in private, among many Democratic politicians. Versions have garnered strong support in the Bowles-Simpson Commission, from leading organizations outside Congress, such as the Bipartisan Policy Center and the Brookings Institution. And compared with alternative ways of slowing Medicare spending, it doesn’t look so bad politically. Relying on the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) of experts in health care economics and the health care system to crack down on physicians and hospitals is hardly going to make the ACA more popular among seniors. Let’s remember that repealing the IPAB had strong bipartisan support in the House, with even liberal Rep Barney Frank (D, Mass) as a cosponsor.

The Obama administration is arguing that the election means the ACA is a settled issue. It is far from that.

***

About the author: Stuart M. Butler, PhD, is Director of the Center for Policy Innovation at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC, where he focuses on developing new policy ideas. Previously he served as Vice President for Domestic and Economic Policy Studies. He is also an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University’s Graduate School.

 

$765 billion wasted by medical industry in 2009 could pay for health care reform @ProPublica @Medici_Manager

A Costly Equation: Medical Dollars Wasted Are Greater Than the U.S. Defense Budget

by Marshall Allen ProPublica, Sept. 18, 2012

http://www.propublica.org/article/a-costly-equation-medical-dollars-wasted-are-greater-than-the-u.s.-defense

I’ve heard a lot of reports about the staggering amount of fraud, overtreatment and unnecessary health care in the United States. But the recent “Best Care at Lower Cost” report by the Institute of Medicine included this stunner: In 2009, the health care system wasted an estimated $765 billion– more than the entire budget of the Department of Defense.

I’ve got to hand it to the IOM committee for finding an interesting way to give those numbers a punch.
The report outlined the varieties of waste: Care is provided that’s not based on evidence; discretionary care is used too much; high cost options are chosen rather than avoided; care is fragmented; insurance administration and paperwork are inefficient; and fraud is at every level. The estimates of money poorly spent included:

  • $210 billion on overuse and unnecessary care.
  • $130 billion in inefficiency, including mistakes and harm.
  • $190 billion in excess administrative costs.

Whose money is being wasted? Yours and mine. Medical inflation increases health insurance premiums. In 2010, Medicare spent anestimated $48 billion– our tax dollars – on overpayment and waste. But the most tragic victims are people who need medical care but don’t have the money to pay for it. The cost of care is a major barrierto many patients, and its driven higher by waste.
Who’s profiting from the status quo? Members of the health care industry – though certainly not everyone is feeding at the trough.When I wrote recentlyabout unnecessary stents, Dr. David Brown, an interventional cardiologist and professor of medicine at SUNY-Stony Brook School of Medicine, told me unnecessary treatment persists because “the medical system is addicted to the revenues that it generates.”
And here’s the kicker: The debates about health care reform might be moot if we eliminated the waste. The net cost of healthcare reform (i.e., President Obama’s Affordable Care Act) is estimated to be $1.1 trillion over a 10 year period. That’s less than two years of the estimated waste in health care.
So what do you think? The system is hemorrhaging money. What can be done to stop it? Have you had experiences with any medical facilities working in innovative ways to cut costs?

Ten Things You Didn’t Know Were In The Affordable Care Act @KHNews

By David Schultz and Christian Torres

JUL 12, 2012

So you think the Supreme Court upheld a law that requires most people to buy health insurance? That’s only part of it. The measure’s hundreds of pages touch on a variety of issues and initiatives that have, for the most part, remained under the public’s radar. Here’s a sampling:  

Postpartum Depression (Sec. 2952)
Urges the National Institute of Mental Health to conduct a multi-year study into the causes and effects of postpartum depression. It authorized $3 million in 2010 and such sums as necessary in 2011 and 2012 to provide services to women at risk of postpartum depression.
Abstinence Education (Sec. 2954)
Reauthorizes funding through 2014 for states to provide abstinence-only sex education programs that teach students abstinence is “the only certain way to avoid out-of-wedlock pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and other associated health problems.” Federal funding for these programs expired in 2003.
Power-Driven Wheelchairs (Sec. 3136)
Revises Medicare payment levels for power-driven wheelchairs and makes it so that only “complex” and “rehabilitative” wheelchairs can be purchased; all others must be rented.
Oral Health Care (Sec. 4102)
Instructs the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to embark on a five-year national public education campaign to promote oral health care measures such as “community water fluoridation and dental sealants.”
Privacy Breaks for Nursing Mothers (Sec. 4207)
Requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide a private location at their worksites where nursing mothers “can express breast milk.” Employers must also provide employees with “a reasonable break time” to do this, though employers are not required to pay their employees during these nursing breaks.
Transparency on Drug Samples (Sec. 6004)
Requires pharmaceutical manufacturers that provide doctors or hospitals with samples of their drugs to submit to the Department of Health and Human Services the names and addresses of the providers that requested the samples, as well as the amount of drugs they received.
Face-to-Face Encounters (Sec. 6407)
Changes eligibility for home health services and durable medical equipment, requiring Medicare beneficiaries to have a “face-to-face” encounter with their physician or a similarly qualified individual within six months of when the health professional writes the order for such services or equipment.
Diabetes & Death Certificates (Sec. 10407)
Directs the CDC and the HHS Secretary to encourage states to adopt new standards for issuing death certificates that include information about whether the deceased had diabetes.
Breast Cancer Awareness (Sec. 10413)
Instructs the CDC to conduct an education campaign to raise young women’s awareness regarding “the occurrence of breast cancer and the general and specific risk factors in women who may be at high risk for breast cancer based on familial, racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds such as Ashkenazi Jewish populations.”
Assisted Suicide (Sec. 1553)
Forbids the federal government or anyone receiving federal health funds from discriminating against any health care entity that won’t provide an “item or service furnished for the purpose of causing … the death of any individual, such as by assisted suicide, euthanasia, or mercy killing.”
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The Supreme Court on health reform: Everybody wins! @kevinmd

by  | in PHO | 31 responses

The Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act.

I’ll leave the detailed legal analysis  to other commentators that you’ll no doubt find elsewhere.

Although some may not feel this way, this is an outcome everybody should be happy with.

Most important, patients should be happy.  As I wrote in the New York Times Room for Debaterecently, the ACA has already provided benefits not to only the uninsured, but one of the most vulnerable segments of the population — seniors:

One of the unsung benefits of the Affordable Care Act is Medicare’s Annual Well Visit exam, which has been offered since 2011. Thanks to these visits, which I perform everyday in my primary care clinic, I have the opportunity to evaluate seniors for their risk of falling, screen for depression and ensure preventive services like vaccines and cancer screening are adhered to.

Furthermore, health reform has already helped seniors save money. In 2011 alone, nearly 3.6 million Medicare beneficiaries saved $2.1 billion in prescription drug costs.

Primary care doctors should be happy as well. As the ACP’s Bob Doherty has written, they had much to lose, including billions of dollars in higher Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements.

Of course, progressives will be happy with the outcome. The President’s signature accomplishment is allowed to stand. 32 million previously uninsured Americans will have access to affordable health insurance in 2014, which will certainly help the scores of millions who live everyday without that safety net. Those with pre-existing conditions will have access to insurance at reasonable prices. And although not optimal, various cost control initiatives, like bundling care and the formation of Accountable Care Orgnaizations, will proceed.

Conventional wisdom dictates that it would be those on the political right who would be most disappointed with this outcome. Although they may be stinging now, here’s why they should be happy as well. It will prevent, or significantly delay, the prospect of a single payer system.

The Affordable Care Act entrenches the current system of private insurers. In fact, they should expect tens of millions of new patients because of Obamacare. And concerning the individual mandate, remember it’s actually a conservative idea born from the Heritage Foundation, and implemented by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in Massachusetts.

Had the ACA been struck down, we would have been back to the drawing board. No one would touch health care again for years, while costs continue to spiral out of control, and the number of uninsured continue to rise. Progressives would have introduced a Constitutionally compliant way to expand coverage that could be passed via budget reconciliation, bypassing the need for a Senate supermajority. That solution would have been a gradual expansion of Medicare: effectively, steps to a single payer system.

In fact, had the Supreme Court ruled the other way, some states couldn’t wait to go the single payer route.

And that is a true government takeover of health care.

Now, I’m aware that scenario may happen whether the ACA was held up or not. If the ACA’s cost control measures fail, for instance.  But at least this gives the private insurance system a chance to fix our system before resorting to a draconian single payer route.

Obamacare is far from perfect. It doesn’t do anything to fix our broken medical malpractice system, its most glaring flaw. It doesn’t provide enough incentive for medical students to choose primary care. It doesn’t address the crushing burden of medical school education.

But it’s a start.

The Supreme Court’s ruling is an obvious victory for primary care doctors, patients, and progressives. Considering what the alternative could have been, those on the political right should take comfort in the decision as well.

 is an internal medicine physician and on the Board of Contributors at USA Today.  He is founder and editor of KevinMD.com, also on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn.