Who do we blame for ObamaCare, the unAffordable Care Act? Big Government corrupts
Who do we blame for soaring health insurance premiums?
You can blame AARP, health insurers, doctors and hospitals and the politicians that they paid with campaign contributions to distort the health insurance and health care markets.
And you can blame uninformed, unorganized and powerless voters for letting the Henry Waxmans of Congress and every president since JFK for making it all go wrong.
Health care is big money and big government.
Big government spends big money.
Big money in the hands of Big Government corrupts.
Big government corrupts politicians, campaign contributors, drug companies, hospital administrators, physicians and regulators who have anything to do with distorting our health insurance and health care markets.
That's why America's huge government is and looks so corrupt. We're a third world country now.
Congress 113th • Ethics • Trust • Health Care Providers • Health insurance • Fraud and Abuse • Health Insurance Reform • Individuals • Medicaid • Medicare • Healthcare Providers • Hospitals • Permalink
Keep health care providers out of the health insurance business
The Wall Street Journal reports that some health care systems are getting into the health insurance business.
Gosh, how history repeats itself. Back in the 80s and 90s, several so-called "integrated" health systems got burned in the health insurance business. They didn't have insurance expertise, financial resources, market clout or credibility with individuals, employers or regulators. So most failed.
Hospitals and docs created Blue Cross and Blue Shield back in the 30s to make sure that they got paid the way they wanted to be paid, patients and payers be damned. That scam worked for decades until Medicare/Medicaid and smarter employers came along and forced the Blues to work for the payers instead of the providers.
If hospital systems try to compete with national health insurers, they'll lose the price wars even if they are the providers. This is because the national insurers have the financial and political resources and the market share that will allow them to crush the providers' plans whenever they decide to do that.
Over the last 35 to 40 years, too many hospital administrators have gotten their institutions into businesses that they knew little about, and they cost those institutions millions. Or, I should say, they ran up huge losses that they recovered by over-charging insurers and self-insured patients.
Most health care administrators are too smart to get into the insurance business. But their medical staffs get frustrated with insurers and demand that the hospital systems go into the health insurance, medical supply, group purchasing or whatever business the docs think will help them become richer.
Any board of directors that lets its CEO take it into what will be a money-losing, over-regulated business such as health insurance strikes me as being either incompetent, manipulated, self serving and/or all of the above.
State and federal legislators and regulators should not only outlaw health care providers from getting into the health insurance business, they also should enact anti-trust laws that break up the big regional and national health care chains and insurers.
Health insurance • States' Health Legislation • Health Insurance Reform • Healthcare Providers • Hospitals • Physicians • Permalink
How to make a fiscal cliff deal on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security
Democrats and Republicans are deeply divided within each party as well as between parties on how to avert putting the country over the "fiscal cliff," which really is a slope, not a cliff. As a Small Government Republican Medicare beneficiary who's benefited from the free gift of Part D, cheap Medicare premiums, tax credits on home mortgages and coverage of primary care services that I should be paying for out of pocket, here's the deal I would like to see:
1. Make Medicare and Medicaid catastrophic programs only. Drop all the wellness and primary care nonsense that enriches providers and often hurts patients with false positives and harmful procedures.
2. Take all Congressionally imposed mandated benefits out of M/M.
3. Take all payments for teaching and medical research out of M/M. Fund them in separate bills and programs.
4. Breakup regional and metro hospital systems, medical groups and national health insurers.
5. Free seniors to buy non Medicare health insurance plans that cover primary care, wellness care and alternative care services without any Medicare subsidies for those premiums.
6. Raise premiums on all parts of Medicare. They're ridiculously low.
7. Raise co-pays for all primary/preventive care and lower co/pays on catastrophically expensive cases.
8. Make Medicare Advantage enrollees pay the full premiums for the expanded coverage.
9. Use money saved by eliminating coverage of provider-enriching preventive and wellness services to cover long-term care expenses that become catastrophically expensive as a percentage of the beneficiary's wealth, including the value of a a home or other investments. If someone is worth, say, $5 million, and long-term care costs, say, $80,000 to $100,000 a year, let that person pay for that care. If the person is worth $500,000 or less, Medicare could pay. That's the Moocher Nation way, of course.
10. Eliminate the death tax. Keep taxes on capital gains and dividends at 15%. No tax increases on the rich unless everyone gets income tax increases. Shrink the number of people who don't pay income taxes, get food stamps and are fraudulently filing disability claims.
11. Keep SS/Medicare enrollments at current ages. Change CPI calculations to reflect real inflation, which is a lot higher than the CPI shows today.
Health insurance • Medicaid • Preventive Care • Medicare • Healthcare Providers • Taxes • Permalink
13 ways to cut Medicare costs
Over the last 35 years, there have been a lot of attempts to slow the growth in Medicare expenditures, which have continued to soar unabated because of poor policy making by both parties.
Although the Budget Control Act of 2011 (S. 365) says the Joint Budget Committee that will try to agree on the next round of budget cuts won't be allowed to change Medicare's benefits, I think it should.
Here are some ideas for changing Medicare that would give consumers and providers strong financial incentives to increase access to care and higher quality care at lower costs per patient and per enrollee:
Congress 112th • Health insurance • Fraud and Abuse • Health Insurance Reform • Medicaid • Medicare • Healthcare Providers • Quality • Quality Patient Care • Read More
People who are smart about money won’t buy health insurance until they become sick
ObamaCare will give working Americans who are smart about money strong financial incentives to become and stay uninsured until they need catastrophically expensive health care. If they recover and no longer need insurance, they’ll drop it until the next time. The number of people who can afford to buy health insurance today but don’t is about 15 million. In five years, it could be several multiples of that.
What this means:
Colorado • PPC • Health insurance • Buying Insurance • Health Insurance Reform • Healthcare Providers • Hospitals • Read More
What does defensive medicine cost? It depends on your agenda
Democrats who depend on malpractice lawyers for huge campaign contributions do everything they can to down play the cost of defensive medicine. Republicans who don’t get money from trial lawyers do everything they can to show that the threats of malpractice suits cause physicians to increase the cost of health care by 30% to 50% by practicing defensive medicine. When physicians practice defensive medicine, they order more tests and procedures and drugs than they should in an effort to reduce their risks of being sued. Trial lawyers win. Medical supply companies and medical device companies win. Physicians and hospitals win. Patients and taxpayers lose.
A new Gallup poll of physician finds that 25% of procedures ordered by physicians are unnecessary. Jackson Healthcare uses that number to estimate that $650 billion of the $2.5 trillion spent on health services is spent on unnecessary tests and treatments. Click on the hed of this story to see links to several relevant articles.
Colorado • PPC • Healthcare Providers • Hospitals • Physicians • Quality • Read More
Catholic hospitals, nuns split with bishops over Nelson’s abortion solution in HR 3590
Catholic hospitals and a group of nuns are splitting with their bishops over Sen. Ben Nelson’s (D-Neb) abortion compromise in the health bill (HR 3590) that the Senate passed on Chistmas eve.
The hospitals are “cooperating with evil” because
Health insurance • Health Insurance Reform • Healthcare Providers • Hospitals • Read More
Providers are trying to keep health insurance premiums high by protecting expensive mandates
In Colorado, state laws that mandate that health insurers cover services offered by numerous alternative care providers increase the cost of health insurance by some 50%. These mandates generally are backed by the providers who profit from them and by disease-specific advocacy groups that don’t care that they’re making health insurance unaffordable for millions.
The health insurance reforms in the bill before the Senate (HR 3590) would allow
Health insurance • States' Health Legislation • Health Insurance Reform • Preventive Care • Healthcare Providers • Read More
Senate dumps public option: Wins for Michael Bennet, Joe Lieberman?
Are Colorado’s Sen. Michael Bennet and Conneticut’s Joe Lieberman both winners as a result of the reported decision by Senate Democrat leaders to dump the government-run public option health plan from the health spend and tax bill (HR 3950)?
Bennet has strongly backed the public option that won’t happen. He has endeared himself to
Colorado • Politics • Health insurance • Health Insurance Reform • Medicare • Healthcare Providers • Home Care • Read More
Obama, Pelosi HMO gets new life but not there yet
President Obama, Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid are doing all they can to force working Americans and their families into a Medicare for all HMO/PPO that would sharply cut payments to providers and limit patients’ access to advanced medical technology and quality care. The Wall Street Journal is the only news organization covering this scandal in depth, and it explains in an editorial what the hard left Democrats are plotting. Other media are willingly being sucked in by clever White House distractions designed to hide what’s going on in Congress.
The Public Option Comeback The secret to its budget ‘savings’? Medicare price controls. [Read comments after the editorial.]
Health insurance • Health Insurance Reform • Medicare • Healthcare Providers • Hospitals • Physicians • Permalink
Senators Michael Bennet, Mark Udall vote to deceive public on $900 billion health care bill
Colorado’s two Democrat Senators, Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, today voted for a slight of hand accounting measure that would have taken $247 billion in Medicare physician payments out of the Senate Finance Committee’s health bill (S 1796) and added them to the Federal government’s budget deficit. more
Colorado • Politics • Health insurance • Health Insurance Reform • Medicare • Healthcare Providers • Physicians • Read More
Rep. Mike Coffman’s town hall: won’t support HR 3200; wants Congress to deal with jobs, economy
Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO, CD-6) met in Conifer with more than 30 constituents. His summary of the most pressing issues before Congress and questions and answers that followed are below. Click on the headline.
Colorado • Economics • Politics • Health insurance • States' Health Legislation • Health Insurance Reform • Individuals • Medicaid • Medicare • Healthcare Providers • Hospitals • Read More
Mandated health benefits in Colorado increase the cost of health insurance up to 50%
Colorado laws mandate that health insurers cover 51 preventive and alternative health care services and providers. Nationally, the 50 states and Washington, DC, have 2,133 health benefit mandates on their books. Each mandated benefit increases Colorado’s health insurance premiums by less than 1% to between 5% and 10%, according to a compilation and actuarial calculations by the Council for Affordable Health Insurance (CAHI). These mandates apply to health insurance purchased by small employers and individuals who buy non group policies. Large, multi-state employers are not affected because they are governed by federal laws and regulations, specifically the Employe Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). Among expensive services that Colorado mandates insurers cover and the amount they add to insurance premiums:
Health insurance • States' Health Legislation • Health Insurance Reform • Healthcare Providers • Alternative Care • Read More
Letting health insurers sell across state lines is not the easy answer
Conservatives and Republicans (there is a difference) repeatedly hammer home the message that the way to reform health insurance regulations is to let insurers sell across state lines.
The argument is that this would let insurers avoid the benefit mandates that high cost states impose on insurers and insurance buyers. And they rightly blame the states’ politicians for the mandates. But it’s not just the states’ politicians who have made health insurance so unaffordable for millions of Americans.
Blame the providers who profit from states’ mandates for the expensive premiums in those states. If the mandates were reduced or eliminated, premiums would be 30% lower.
What the WSJ doesn’t say in its editorial today (see link below) is that
Health insurance • States' Health Legislation • Health Insurance Reform • Healthcare Providers • Read More
Health insurance public option HMO would win by cheating
Here’s a great explanation of why President Obama’s proposed public option health plan, or Government HMO (Fannie Med), would cheat competitors and customers and drive private insurers out of the market.
Steve Steckler, Chairman and founder, Infrastructure Management Group (IMG):
When Government Competes, It Usually Cheats: Why A Public Option Is A Very Bad Option for Taxpayers
The debate over a public option in health care has exposed a core public policy issue that until now has been seen only at the local level: what services should be provided directly by the government and its employees versus simply having the government ensure access to those services in the open market. Enlightened conservatives like the late Jack Kemp, who respected the power of free markets but wanted to make sure that low- and moderate- income citizens were empowered to benefit from them, have argued passionately that government has a moral obligation to ensure access to these services but a near-equal obligation to stay out of the service business itself. Kemp—and Al Gore, incidentally—once said government works best when it steers rather than rows, otherwise it tends to become bloated and—when competing with private firms—gluttonous. Indeed, in the few opportunities I had to discuss Kemp’s populist ideas with him, he was quick to cite the painful experiences of local service firms and non-profits in their competition against federally subsidized, book-cooking and rule-bending local governments.
Our various levels of government provide many essential services, from the city planning and law enforcement to safety inspection and professional licensing. These particular types of services are direct expressions of the government’s police power, and so are rightfully and for the most part confined to public providers. A second service category is more discretionary, which means they could be provided by the private market but, for both good and bad reasons, the government has intervened as the monopoly provider. These usually include mass transit, water and sewer services, etc. Rarely—as in almost never—has a government allowed private firms to continue to compete for customers once it has established itself as a provider, and truly never on a level playing field.
For example, private jitney services are forbidden in most US cities, especially in densely-traveled bus corridors (i.e., where the customers are). And as President Obama prepares to push billions of new dollars into intercity high-speed passenger rail, Amtrak is already claiming with legislative justification that it has a monopoly to operate the trains in almost every corridor in which the services are being planned, despite the existence of dozens of US and global companies eager to do so. Solid waste collectors are routinely blocked from offering their services in service areas attended to by a public operator. And then there’s K-12 education, where any family using anything other than government schools must pay twice (once through their property taxes and again through tuition), while the poor are economically prohibited from choosing at all. In fact, many public union teacher contracts allow the sale of surplus school property to almost anyone, such as liquor store operators and shopping mall developers, but not to private school foundations that might build a competing facility. Reduce…
Other barriers are less obvious but equally effective. They amount to cheating, and they have a huge and readily calculable cost to taxpayers. Here’s how they work:
1. Cooked Cost Accounting: For a time in the 1990’s, numerous city governments invited private companies to bid against their public in-house operations to provide services ranging from wastewater treatment to city vehicle maintenance. Unfortunately, the cities usually limited the contracts to 3-5 years, too short to allow private firms to recover the cost of the equipment they’d have to buy or to earn back their other start-up costs. Moreover, when comparing their own service costs to the private option, the government usually left out much of its general overhead and long-term liabilities, such as pensions and equipment replacement, arguing that they would have to carry those costs whether the service was contracted out or not. The private competitors, on the other hand, had no choice but to include these costs in their bid. So they often lost. Once the private competition was wiped out or otherwise deterred, the public operator breathed a big sigh of relief and usually returned to its normal cost escalation or lower service level.
2. Debt and Capital Subsidies: Government debt is subsidized by federal taxpayers; that is, the interest on the government’s debt is generally tax-free, while interest on a private provider’s debt is taxed at combined rates of up to 50 percent. This means that, by comparison, taxpayers pays up to half of the debt service cost of public option vis-a-vis private companies. The result is that public operators can borrow at 3 or 4 percent while private service and infrastructure companies—and health insurers—must raise their capital in private debt and equity markets at normal, much-higher rates. Even worse, the equity component of a private operator’s financing is taxed twice: once at the corporate level (corporate income tax) and then again at the individual shareholder level. Government providers almost never include the enormous taxpayer cost of these subsidies in a public-versus-private comparison.
3. Implicit Service and Revenue Guarantees: There are two main types of public service operating agencies: internal enterprise fund units, such as the Chicago Department of Aviation, and independent public authorities, such as the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Bonds issued by or on behalf of internal enterprise funds may or may not have the explicit backing of the participating government; that is, the government has varying hurdles (sometimes none) it must clear to backstop one of its financially underperforming business units. This contrasts somewhat with bonds issued by independent (but still government-owned) public authorities, which are usually prohibited by their covenants from being backstopped by general government revenue. But what governments can almost always do fir their captive operators is to direct customers, and therefore revenue, to its business units. It does so by adding additional communities to its client base (e.g., incorporating smaller suburban jurisdictions into its service area, thus improving its economies of scale) or by driving private providers out of the market, either through regulation or temporary or customer-class marginal cost pricing. It can also use its monopolist oligopolist pricing power to simply raise rates to cover bloated costs.
4. Artificial Scale: The government is almost always the largest provider of public-use services in its region. A private company hoping to provide potable water or other infrastructure alternatives therefore finds itself competing against not just the “natural monopoly” aspects of infrastructure, with miles of existing pipe and connections already in the ground, but against the enormous economies of scale that benefit the government in the first place. It’s the same advantage that a handful of private companies like Wal-Mart and Verizon enjoy because of the relative size of their customer base. It manifests itself in enormous, competition-killing way, including input pricing (e.g., Wal-Mart’s power to squeeze its suppliers) and installed service structure, such as Verizon’s numerous cell towers in its Bell-legacy regions. The US health insurance market has a large number of private providers, but state-by-state regulation has kept many of them confined to their regional customer base. A Fannie Med public option, by contrast, would operate nationally and, as Medicare does in many cases, would surely use its scale to force its will on hospitals, doctors and drugmakers while other insurers pick up the real tab.
5. The Fannie Mae Lesson: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were supposed to be stand-alone, corporate-like purchasers of home mortgages (this should be sounding familiar already). The authorizing legislation that created them and the language of their founding charters refer many times to their full operating and financial independence from the government and, by exclusion and more, the absence of taxpayer liability for any possible corporate mishaps. In its subsequent competition with other firms offering the same mortgage bundling services, the feds were never supposed to be able to step in. But that’s exactly what happened in late 2008, to the tune of hundred billions of dollars of taxpayer dollars. You can be absolutely certain that the new managers of any public option—and most of its prospective customers—will remember that comforting golden parachute. And while the Congressional Budget Office can tell you how costly it is to taxpayers, Lehman Brothers can tell you how it is not to have had it.
No doubt President Obama will make promises that the House and House-Senate conference committee’s won’t keep when it comes to the financial independence and honest accounting of the public health insurance option. But even if they don’t explicitly empower a new public entity to cheat as it competes with private insurers, and even if they do offer the usual platitudes about ensuring a level playing field, there are at least five big reasons and many billions of dollars of experience to convince you not to believe a word of it.
Healthcare Providers • Electronic Medical Records • Permalink