Archive for Health Care Reform

Obamacare dead for 2009?

Posted in Economics of Health Care, Health Care Policy, Medicolegal with tags , , on November 3, 2009 by drbobbs

Is Obamacare, for the present at least, dead on arrival?  According to ABC News, it is:

Senior Congressional Democrats told ABC News today it is highly unlikely that a health care reform bill will be completed this year, just a week after President Barack Obama declared he was “absolutely confident” he’ll be able to sign one by then.

“Getting this done by the by the end of the year is a no-go,” a senior Democratic leadership aide told ABC News. Two other key Congressional Democrats also told ABC News the same thing.

This administration seems to have been totally unprepared for the resistance to their proposed health care reforms.  The town halls of this past summer will go down in American political history as the model of how not to sell an idea to the American people.  And the series of health care reform bills, culminating most recently in a 1,990 page behemoth that “runs more pages than War and Peace [and] has nearly five times as many words as the Torah,” are bloated and bureaucratic.  The $1.2 trillion price tag does little to inspire confidence that health care costs will in any way be lowered by it.

Of course, we don’t really seem to inclined to lower health care costs in the United States anyway.  Are fast food restaurants going out of business due to a lack of customers?  Is there a public outcry for loser pays medical malpractice reform?  Is there bipartisan support to allow individuals and groups to purchase health insurance across states lines to create a truly national health insurance market with competition and lower prices?  Are there any substantive steps to increase the number of primary care physicians in the country?

So far, the answer across the board appears to be “No.”


Obama health care plan on the ropes

Posted in Health Care Policy with tags , , , , on September 15, 2009 by drbobbs

From The Hill: Senate Democrats are going to have to move forward on healthcare without a single Republican supporter after Sen. Olympia Snowe said Tuesday she could not back the Finance Committee’s bill.

From the Associated Press: Health bill harder after Obama speech, says Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel of New York.

Administration NOT throwing in the towel?

Posted in Economics of Health Care, Health Care Policy with tags , , on September 8, 2009 by drbobbs

Last month it looked like the Obama administration was giving up on a public health option.  But according to this, the Obama team may not have given up on the public option after all.  Incidentally, this plan also calls for, well, read it for yourself:

The plan includes some of the stiffest penalties Congress has proposed for Americans who don’t carry health insurance coverage.

Sen. Baucus emerged from a meeting with the six-member bipartisan group saying he had given his colleagues until 10 a.m. Wednesday to provide feedback on his draft. The group will meet again Wednesday afternoon in an attempt to come up with an agreement before Mr. Obama’s address.

Under the plan, people who earn between 100% and 300% of the poverty level (or between about $22,000 a year and $66,000 a year for a family of four) would face fees ranging from $750 to $1,500 a year.

For taxpayers with incomes above 300% of poverty, the penalty starts at $950 a year and reaches as high as $3,800 for families. Nearly 12 million people fit in this category, according to the National Institute for Health Care Management.

The idea behind the penalty is that those who can afford insurance but don’t buy it are imposing costs on the entire health system. Under the proposal, nearly 12 million people who currently have no insurance could be subject to such fines, according to figures compiled by the National Institute for Health Care Management.

Starting next year, the plan also calls for annual fees of $6 billion on health-insurance providers, $4 billion for medical-device makers, $2.3 billion on drug makers and $750 million on clinical laboratories. The fees would be levied on individual companies based on market share. Insurers also face an excise tax of 35% for any health plan worth more than $8,000 a year for individuals and $21,000 a year for families.

Karen Ignagni, chief executive of America’s Health Insurance Plans, an industry lobbying group, said the new fees would make it more difficult for health insurers to contain rising costs. “Our members are talking about that being at odds with the goal of cost containment,” she said.

Either the administration has compromising photos of hundreds of Congressmen and Senators in a desk drawer somewhere, or they are seriously misreading the political tea leaves.  This sounds like the kind of thing that would give all those irate town hall meeting people from this past summer hemorrhagic strokes.

Telling it like it is

Posted in Economics of Health Care, Health Care Policy with tags , , on August 20, 2009 by drbobbs

I don’t think I can add anything to this great editorial by Dr. Marshall Ackerman.  Read the whole thing:

Devaluing Doctors — and Care

President attacks health insurance carriers

Posted in Economics of Health Care, Health Care Policy with tags , , , , , , on August 15, 2009 by drbobbs

After allowing these town hall meetings to become daily opportunities for healthcare reform opponents to scream at his fellow Democrats, the President finally went on the offensive:

“No one is holding the insurance companies accountable for these practices. But we will. We’re going to ban arbitrary caps on benefits. And we’ll place limits on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses,” [President Obama] said.

The practice of canceling or denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions will also come to an end, he said.

“No one in America should go broke because they get sick.”

I don’t find myself defending the insurance companies too often, but the President’s statements do invite some questions.  So we are going to ban “arbitrary” (whatever that means) caps on benefits?  Unless we also have tort reform with respect to medical malpractice, won’t this incentivize physicians to order all sorts of tests to cover themselves from liability?  If caps on benefits have been banned, why wouldn’t a rational physician do so?

And we’re going limit out-of-pocket expenses, too?  Great.  That dovetails nicely with the caps on benefits ban.  As a patient, don’t you want to get checked out as thoroughly as possible?  Especially if said checking out is on somebody else’s dime?

And denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions will come to an end?  One would have to be hard-hearted indeed not to sympathize with the poor soul who has multiple medical problems and cannot get health insurance as a result.  But how will a healthcare system work where the patient pays little or nothing, benefits are without limit, and patients with multiple medical problems who will inevitably draw more money from the system than they will ever contribute are guaranteed coverage?  The short answer is, it won’t work.  There will, of course, be rationing.  There already is rationing in healthcare just as there is rationing of any commodity.  The only question is, what or who will do the rationing?  I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for the President or any of his political associates to give a straight answer to that question.

The President picked an easy target with the health insurance carriers.  Still, America’s love-hate relationship with private health insurance seems to tilt more toward the former when government intervention into healthcare is the alternative.  Mr. Obama and company have certainly seemed to have lost a lot of the political momentum they had just a few short months ago.

Today’s inane neologism

Posted in Health Care Policy with tags , , on August 13, 2009 by drbobbs

From Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.):  Reid dubbed town hall meeting protesters who disagree with the Democrat plan for healthcare reform “evil mongers”.  I’m not sure what this odd term is supposed to mean other than sounding like an absurdly sinister thing to call people who don’t like your healthcare reform proposals.

The Democrats appear to be relentless in their effort to undermine their own agenda.  The idea that one needs to persuade skeptics that one’s policies have merit and thereby win support for said policies seems to be an alien concept.

Reach out, reach out and touch someone

Posted in Health Care Policy with tags , , , on August 13, 2009 by drbobbs

Another day, another town hall meeting fiasco.  This time, Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tx) takes a cell phone call in the middle of a cancer survivor giving her opinion on government run healthcare!