Last week's Republican House and Senate retreat in Philadelphia revealed what we already knew; they don't have a plan to replace the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). This week there were reports that some Republicans have given up on repeal and replace and want to “fix” Obamacare instead. Also, this week, shady Congressman Tom Price came one step closer to becoming Secretary of Health & Human Services when the Senate Finance Committee approved his nomination without Democratic support.
It's been a frustrating week for Obamacare supporters concerned about the future of health insurance and health care in America. Every statement about health care reform, even if it is a repeat of what's been said before is scrutinized for new meaning. But for now, we are in limbo, and that is not a bad thing. Things could be worse. We should use this time to put forth some ideas on health care reforml.
Everyone agrees that Obamacare plans could be better—more affordable and there should be more of them. Also, there's majority agreement that some provisions of Obamacare are keepers, like no prohibitions on coverage for preexisting conditions, keeping dependent children on employer-provided plans up to age 26, and receiving subsidies to pay for coverage. But these goodies cost money and require trade-offs. So knowing that Republicans would prefer the government get out of the health insurance business, what suggestions would you give them if they were forced to stay in it. Keeping in mind that you can't get everything you want.
Protests are fine, but how can we improve Obamacare when we know universal coverage is out of the cards in this new Republican reality?
First, agree not to turn Medicaid over to the states via block grant or any other program. States may know their constituents better than the federal government, but equality often comes in a distant second to state budget priorities. We can't trust states to cover everyone who needs Medicaid. We also can't trust them to regulate the quality of care Medicaid recipients receive. Medicaid patients wait longer to see a doctor and get a lower quality of care than patients with private insurance.
Instead of Medicaid block grants or any other state-based Medicaid program, the federal government should run the Medicaid program just like it does with Medicare. Everyone gets the same benefits, and medical providers must meet predetermined quality standards in exchange for higher reimbursement levels.
There is no way for the government, federal or state, to get around paying for health care for the poor. States can assist in this effort by addressing the poverty in their communities, but they should stay out of the health care business for the poor. Continue Reading...
Employee Benefit Pros Should Add Medicare and Social Security To Their Knowledge Arsenal - Part 1 (Medicare)
Many employee benefit professionals working in the private sector know little about the federal Medicare and Social Security (SS) programs. This is probably true of public sector and not-for-profit pros too... And that's unfortunate because employees have a lot of questions about both programs. They see deductions from their pay for these programs and assume HR can provide answers to their Medicare and SS questions. They quickly learn that they are on their own in navigating these benefit programs that seem an extension of what their employer currently provides.
Of course it is not the employer's job to counsel employees on their Medicare and SS options but why not help provide a basic understanding of the programs. If the concern is legal liability, don't give advice. If the concern is fear of providing the wrong information, make sure you know what you are talking about before you open your mouth and always include a verbal or written disclaimer. And if the concern is that Medicare and SS benefits are not your area of expertise, don't claim that it is and study up.
Medicare 101 For Benefit Pros
Benefit pros don't need to know everything about Medicare, but they should have a very good understanding of these five basic Medicare features. Continue Reading...