Some people think the original sin of health care and health insurance is government regulation and "patches" like Medicare and Medicaid. Other people think the problem originated from a different government sin—the employer health care tax exclusion. This tax break translates into significant money saved for individuals enrolled in employer-provided health plans. Individuals not enrolled in these plans and who purchase health insurance, do not receive these savings.
So which sin should the country address first, health insurance regulations and patches or health insurance costs equity? The easiest issue to address—equalizing or eliminating the special tax treatment of employer-sponsored health insurance plan payments is a good place to start. But our time-strapped Republican-majority Congress decided to spend the majority of its limited attention tinkering with the political and policy challenges of health care regulations. The Congressional health care reform bill, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), does not equalize or eliminate the employer health care tax exclusion but goes very far in changing health insurance regulations.
These proposed regulatory changes will take hundreds of millions of federal dollars out of the health insurance and health care system if they survive the Senate and reconciliation processes and are signed by the President. Potentially, tens of millions may lose their health insurance coverage and access to health care. People opposed to the AHCA are focusing their energies on protesting at congressional town halls, emailing and writing their representatives and educating the public about its possible impact. It's an uphill battle for these protestors to change the course of legislation, which is why I think they may have more luck at addressing the unequal tax treatment of health insurance premiums that exists between employer-sponsored and individually paid private health insurance.
The AHCA, in a very limited way, does address the employer health care tax exclusion by providing tax credits to individuals that purchase health insurance. However, these credits may not equal the value of the exclusion and the health plans available in the individual market do not equal what employers offer. So, at a minimum, protesters should demand that the AHCA equalize the tax treatment of all health insurance plans. But they shouldn't stop there. AHCA opponents may have more success trying to convince employers to stop providing health insurance or provide only supplemental health insurance. Continue Reading...
After spending years studying the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) and related health care reform proposals, I am on a journey to explore the other side. While I've made a point over the years to read the health care reform opinions of Obamacare opponents, I never took seriously their prescriptions. But with the dreaded feeling that the country is on the path to indefinitely postpone the next level of health care reform, I decided to read and reread the writings of those who think our most recent health care reform efforts were a big mistake.
So this past weekend I read a lot of Michael Cannon articles and blogs. Cannon is the Director of Health Policy Studies at the libertarian Cato Institute and an avowed Obamacare hater. Cannon is famous for his many attempts to sabotage the Obamacare law in its early stages by mounting a legal challenge of the subsidies provided to federal exchange enrollees. He also encouraged states not to create their own exchanges (this approach went hand-in-hand with his legal challenge as to whether the federal government could provide subsidies to non-state exchange enrollees). Of course Cannon does not view his fight against Obamacare as sabotage, and although I think it clearly was, I am setting this aside for now.
Today, I'm more interested in understanding the health care reform viewpoint of single payer and universal health care opponents. But not just any opponent, more specifically, I am interested in comprehending the beliefs of the policy wonks, the die hard free market crusaders that oppose government playing any role in providing or paying for health insurance and health care. Consequently, I am reading the works of Michael Cannon and Ron Paul. Free market conservatives draw many negative conclusions about universal health care, including: Continue Reading...
Recently, Congressman Steve Chabot of Cincinnati, Ohio wrote on hisblog, "I haven’t seen so much misinformation and hysterics about a piece of legislation in a long, long time—maybe ever" about the passage by the House of the American Health Care Act (AHCA). I guess he was asleep during the passage of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). But all kidding aside, I strongly suspect that the Senate will continue the House's work to make American health care look more like it did pre-Obamacare. They never thought health care reform was necessary in the first place.
Republicans have the numbers to pass the health care bill they want; still, I can't help but think that a return to the status quo is not in the country's future, at least not long-term. You see, Republicans may think that they are about to accomplish something that's never happened before, taking away a huge federal entitlement program, but not even health insurers are prepared to return to the bad old days. Insurers know they passed the big-changes-are-coming-moment and are in the redefining-and-refining-our-purpose-moment, and if the GOP had consulted them during the health care reform debate, they would know this also.
What Health Insurers See As Their Future
Optimizing value by providing doctors with data analysis services.
Last week Humana's CEO, Roy Beveridge, described the country's third largest health insurer as an IT company focused on data analytics to improve health care value. According to Beveridge, the future of health care may be using data to understand risk better and sharing this data with doctors to improve patient outcomes. Doctors can use this data to determine which patient populations need what care and how often to engage with them.
Focusing in on getting a bigger piece of the (new) pie.
Also, last week, health insurer Aetna, Inc., announced it would pull out of the Obamacare exchanges for next year. In addition, Aetna CEO, Mark Bertolini, reportedly said, the country needs to have a conversation about single-payer health care. However, instead of health insurers competing with the government to offer health insurance, Bertolini envisions health insurers managing the single-payer program for the government, as it does with Medicare and Medicaid.
Enhancing patient access to health care services.
The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association is looking to help the very population the AHCA would possibly harm, the poor and isolated. Recognizing that not everyone has access to reliable transportation to get to non-emergency medical appoints BCBSA is piloting a program to partner with Lyft to provide free rides to its members. Continue Reading...
Obamacare Supporters May Accomplish More By Focusing On Multiple Policy Issues To Reduce Health Care Costs
You chose the wrong job. You're the wrong gender. Your lifestyle choices suck. You should pay for your risks. You're a celebrity and should stay out of the health care debate; also that's not how preexisting condition provisions work. The anti-universal health care set has a rational, in their eyes, retort for every appeal for government-paid health care for all.
Mocking the emotions of Medicare For All supporters is so easy it's been pushed down to the level of millennial reporters. And the formula for attacking their opponents is always the same—a charge of too much emotion and not enough facts. The fact that they know little about how health insurance and risk management works, the history of health insurance plan design and access, and the conflict associated with insurers determining risk while seeking profit is unimportant to them.
There's a wall between supporters of government-sponsored health care and those that oppose it that won't come down with appeals to decency and empathy. Still, a change in public policy is the only solution to addressing health care access and affordability. And while it may appear that policy just tilted for anti-government assisted health care reform with the Republican-majority Congress's vote to make health care less affordable for millions, that may not be a bad thing for two reasons.
One, overall the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) is popular among the majority of Americans despite a vicious sounding minority that demonizes people who need assistance paying for health insurance and health care. If Obamacare "supporters" see the nation returning to pre-Obamacare days when coverage could be denied outright or so expensive as to represent a denial, they may demand to return to the protections offered by Obamacare or even greater protections.
Two, Obamacare supporters should take this as a sign to expand their support for health care reform by supporting policies that may potentially reduce health care costs. Policies that focus on alleviating hunger, especially among children and the elderly, should be at the top of the list. Also, addressing homelessness and mental illness is essential to reducing health care costs. These are issues policy advocates, and elected Democrats should include in any federal budget and hold firm on their passage. Of course, there will be opposition, possibly as strong as is currently for Obamacare, but with proper messaging, voters may come start to realize who want to address their needs and concerns.
Not everyone engages with the health care sector every day or even every year, but hunger, homelessness, mental illness and drug addiction are issues most people encounter regularly. Obamacare proponents have nothing to lose by dissecting and addressing the individual drivers of health care costs; it may even be easier than focusing solely on health insurance, which is too complex for most people to understand.