Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Health Care Reform Articles - December 31, 2010


Health Plans For High-Risk Patients Lag

WASHINGTON — President Obama’s administration and states are stepping up their efforts to motivate people to buy government-sponsored health plans for high-risk patients, as the new program continues to attract only a fraction of the projected customers.

Terrain Shifts in Challenges to the Health Care Law

The legal challenge to the Obama health care act has invigorated a dispute as old as the Constitution about the framers’ most nettlesome grant of power, which gives Congress treacherously broad authority to pass laws “necessary and proper” to carrying out its assigned responsibilities.

Death Knell For 'Death Panel' Debate?

The debate over “death panels” is hard to kill — but at least one Senate Democratic aide says the issue has now become “Kryptonite for the Right,” thanks to the way a new Medicare regulation is written.

State Medicaid Plans -

Health insurers are preparing to capitalize on $40 billion of new opportunities to run privately managed Medicaid plans for the states, which would position insurers to benefit from the health overhaul's expansion of Medicaid in 2014.
Medicaid, the state and federal program for the poor, has become a growth area for big insurers such as UnitedHealth Group Inc. and more specialized plans such as Molina Healthcare Inc. Texas and Georgia will solicit new contracts for their private Medicaid plans early next year, while California, Florida and others are likely to meaningfully expand their programs, companies and states have said.

Article: New Year Predictions: The Tea Party Strategy And U.S. Economy In 2011

New Year Prediction I: Tea Party Conservative Strategy
Next week starts the new Congress, and with it the Tea Party conservatives. What's their strategy? What will they rally around?
They'll grouse endlessly about government spending but I don't think they'll use any particular spending bill to mobilize and energize their grass roots. The big bucks are in Social Security, Medicare, and defense, which are too popular. And their support for a permanent extension of the Bush tax cuts will make a mockery of any argument about taming the deficit.

What You Pay For Medicare Won't Cover Your Costs

WASHINGTON – You paid your Medicare taxes all those years and want your money's worth: full benefits after you retire. Nearly three out of five people say in a recent Associated Press-GfK poll that they paid into the system so they deserve their full benefits — no cuts.
But a newly updated financial analysis shows that what people paid into the system doesn't come close to covering the full value of the medical care they can expect to receive as retirees.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Health Care Reform Articles - December 27, 2010

Obama To Enact End-Of-Life Planning For Medicare

WASHINGTON — When a proposal to encourage end-of-life planning touched off a political storm over “death panels,” Democrats dropped it from legislation to overhaul the health care system. But the Obama administration will achieve the same goal by regulation, starting Jan. 1.
Under the new policy, outlined in a Medicare regulation, the government will pay doctors who advise patients on options for end-of-life care, which may include advance directives to forgo aggressive life-sustaining treatment.

Medicaid Bonuses To Reward States For Insuring More Children

The Obama administration plans to announce Monday that it will make $206 million in bonus Medicaidpayments to 15 states — with more than a fourth of the total going to Alabama — for signing up children who are eligible for public health insurance but had previously failed to enroll.

Can Congress Make You Buy Broccoli? And Why That’s A Hard Question

Wendy K. Mariner, J.D., M.P.H., George J. Annas, J.D., M.P.H., and Leonard H. Glantz, J.D.
The continuing uncertainty over the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), illustrated by conflicting trial court rulings and scholarly commentaries, raises the question of why this constitutional question is so hard to answer. There are at least four reasons.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Health Care Reform Articles - December 24, 2010

U.S. Proposes Rules On Raising Insurance Premiums

WASHINGTON — In a move to protect consumers, the Obama administration said Tuesday that it would require health insurance companies to disclose and justify any rate increases of 10 percent or more next year.

Hospital Stops Its Recruiting Of Donors

UMass Memorial Health Care on Saturday halted its recruitment of bone marrow donors in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
The decision came amid a multistate investigation into the Worcester hospital’s use of models in short skirts and heels in malls and at public events to entice people to be tested for a potential life-saving bone marrow match, and then charging high rates to insurers for testing the DNA samples.

Checking In With Dr. Robert Kocher On Who Might Stay Uninsured In Spite Of The Individual Mandate

DEC 20, 2010

Insurance, California, Children: Major Health Insurers In California To Resume Offering Individual Policies For Children

California's largest health insurers, fearing they'll lose new customers in the state's lucrative individual insurance market, have canceled controversial decisions last fall to stop selling policies for children.

Health Means Life; Health Means Freedom

Life and freedom are moral issues.
It is time for Democrats to talk about health in those terms, beyond just policy terms like health insurance reform, bending the cost curve, types of exchanges, etc.
Health means life. If you get a major illness or injury and cannot get it treated adequately, you could die. And tens of thousands do.

Untellable Truths |

Democrats of all stripes have been so focused on details of policy that they have surrendered public political discourse to conservatives, and with it the key to the nation's future.
Materialist Perspectives
The differences between Democratic progressives and the president over the tax deal the president has made with Republicans is being argued from a materialist perspective. That perspective is real. It matters who gets how much money and how our money is spent.
But what is being ignored is that the answer to material policy questions depends on how Americans understand the issues, that is, on how the issues are realized in the brains of our citizens. Such understanding is what determines political support or lack of it in all its forms, from voting to donations to political pressure to what is said in the media.
What policies are proposed and adopted depend on how Americans understand policy and politics. That understanding depends on communication. And it is in that the Democrats -- both the president and his progressive critics -- have surrendered. The Democrats have left effective communication to the conservatives, who have taken advantage of their superior communications all too well.

A Year After Christmas Eve Senate Vote, Health Reform Celebration Seems Premature

It was the ultimate Christmas Eve present for Barack Obama. Around 7 a.m. one year ago today, every Democratic senator in office - 60 in all - voted in favor of enacting comprehensive health care reform. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had leveraged the threat of spending Christmas in the Capitol to force even reticent Democratic senators to support the landmark legislation, close a major chapter of the debateover health care and head home for the holiday.
In a brief press conference after the vote, Democratic Senate leaders lauded each other and celebrated their historic victory. Max Baucus, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, which assembled most of the bill, referred to a "finish line." Sen. Chuck Schumer argued that negative rhetoric over the bill had "piqued" and that the legislation would soon become more popular. Obama, before flying to Hawaii for his family Christmas vacation, said, "Let's make 2010 the year we finally reform health care in the United States of America." (See 10 health care reform ads.)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Health Care Reform Articles - December 21, 2010

December 18, 2010

Transplants Cut, Arizona Is Challenged by Survivors

PHOENIX — First, it was distraught patients awaiting organ transplants who protested Arizona’s decision to no longer cover such operations under its Medicaid program.
Now, Arizonans who received such transplants, and are alive and well as a result of them, are questioning the data that lawmakers relied on to make their controversial benefit cuts.

December 18, 2010

The Supreme Court and Obama’s Health Care Law

When it comes to the future of the Obama administration’s health care plan, the judicial math can seem simple.
So far in three lawsuits against the plan, two federal judges appointed by Democrats have upheld the law; one Republican-appointed judge has declared an important part of it unconstitutional. Use party as your measure, send the cases up the appeals ladder, and you quickly get to a 5-4 decision at the Supreme Court: the justices appointed by Republican presidents will vote to strike down the law. Game over, thanks for playing.

Daniel Ellsberg, Ray McGovern, Margaret Flowers Speak Before Their Arrests At White House Protest
(Margaret Flowers is one of the "Baucus 13)

Senator Sanders's Socialism - Nancy Folbre

 Nancy Folbre is an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
When the rumpled, plain-spoken Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont spoke virtually nonstop for more than eight hours on Dec. 10 to explain his opposition to tax cuts for the rich, he quickly became a YouTubeand Twitter celebrity.

A Doctor’s Mammogram Mission Turns Personal

Dr. Marisa Weiss scheduled her mammogram this spring, just as she does every year. She had just turned 51, and after having annual scans for a decade, she knew what to expect: her dense breast tissue made reading the films difficult — “like looking for a polar bear in a blizzard” — and the technician would probably ask her to sit for a few extra views.
This year was different. After Dr. Weiss went home, she got a call from the doctor’s office.
“They said, ‘Can you come back, now?’ ” she recalled. “I said I’d prefer not to, and they said, ‘Are you sure?’ And I realized at that moment that it was more serious.”

I Know Not -

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA — When I was a wide-eyed medical student, I looked forward to taking the Hippocratic Oath at my graduation. Sadly it was not to be. In fact, contrary to popular belief, the Hippocratic Oath is not required by most medical schools.
It would have been the height of cool to have sworn by Apollo, Asclepius, Hygieia and Panacea. Apollo was the Greek god of healing, truth and prophecy. Asclepius was the son of Apollo and he too was in the business of healing and medicine. Both Hygieia and Panacea were the daughters of Asclepius and by birthright were goddesses. They were the first family of physicians and it would have been fitting to have their blessings during our rite of passage.

Death By Enlarged Prostate? It Almost Happened To Him

William Siewert almost died from an enlarged prostate.
Not prostate cancer, just a “benign” enlarged prostate. He is yet another example of the people who fall victim to our currently broken health care system. He agreed to share his story in the hope that someday cases like his would be rare exceptions.
Mr. Siewert, a 61-year-old native of San Francisco, had been living in Idaho for the past 10 years to care for his disabled girlfriend. He had to give up his job as a truck driver — and along with it, his medical insurance — but he did so willingly so his girlfriend could remain in her home as long as possible.

Blue Cross Antitrust Suit In Michigan Will Test Premise Of Health Law

DETROIT — When the Justice Department filed an antitrust lawsuit against Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan in October, the unusual action was widely seen as a warning shot to dominant health insurancecarriers in many other states.
The case is viewed as a test for the Obama administration’s introduction of the federal health care law, which is aimed at spurring competition and driving down costs.

Health Chief To Take On Medicaid

Posted: December 21
Updated: Today at 12:52 AM

Longtime state public health director Dr. Dora Anne Mills will help implement reforms that she hopes will lower MaineCare costs.

Dr. Dora Anne Mills is leaving her longtime post as Maine's public health director to help reform MaineCare, the state's Medicaid health insurance program for low-income and disabled residents.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Health Care Reform Articles - December 18, 2010

December 16, 2010

Flirty Models Were Hired in Bid to Find Bone Marrow

BOSTON — On its face, it seemed reasonable enough: a bone marrow registry sending recruiters to malls, ballparks and other busy sites to enlist potential donors.
But the recruiters were actually flirtatious models in heels, short skirts and lab coats, law enforcement officials say, asking passers-by for DNA swabs without mentioning the price of the seemingly simple procedure. And the registry, Caitlin Raymond International, was paying up to $60,000 a week for the models while billing insurance companies up to $4,300 per test.
(Your health care dollars at work)

December 16, 2010

Can Congress Force You to Be Healthy?

HENRY E. HUDSON, the federal judge in Virginia who ruled this week that the individual mandate provision of the new health care law is unconstitutional, has become the object of widespread derision. Judge Hudson explained that whatever else Congress might be able to do, it cannot force people to engage in a commercial activity, in this case buying an insurance policy.

The Revolution Next Time? -

It has been 15 years since the Rehnquist court began applying the constitutional brakes to assertions of federal power that had seemed unassailable since the New Deal. Its first target was modest, a five-year-old federal statute called the Gun-Free School Zones Act that most people had never heard of, which made it a federal crime to possess a gun within 1,000 feet of a school.
(If the individual mandate is found unconstitutional, what then for health care?)

Fallback Plan Could Save Health Care Rule

WASHINGTON — Opponents of President Obama’s health care overhaul law are cheering a federal court ruling that one of its core provisions is unconstitutional. Obama, however, has a fallback option that could also do the job.

Funding Savings Needed for Health Expenses for Persons Eligible for Medicare By Paul Fronstin, Dallas Salisbury, and Jack VanDerhei, Employee Benefit Research Institute
UPDATED MODELING: This report updates earlier modeling by EBRI on the level of savings needed for health care expenses in retirement. Some prior estimates have been significantly revised down as a result of changes to Medicare Part D cost sharing that will be phased in by 2020 due to recently enacted health reform. However, the research indicates that retirees will continue to need a substantial amount of savings to cover their health care expenses in retirement, and that uncertainty related to health care use, prescription drug use, and longevity will still play a major role in planning for retiree health care.

December 17, 2010

Protecting Your Credit Score From the Medical Bill Maze

IF there is one place where your health and your finances collide, it is on your credit report. That is something Darryle Watson learned the hard way.
Mr. Watson, 52, an automotive service adviser in Willow Park, Tex., and his wife, A. J., tried last fall to refinance theirmortgage. But instead of getting a big break on his monthly house payments, Mr. Watson found out he would have to pay more than $9,000 in closing costs because of the couple’s low credit scores.
Mr. Watson was flabbergasted. Both he and his wife are meticulous about paying their bills on time, he said.
The culprit was four unpaid medical bills that the Watsons say they never knew they owed. The largest was for less than $400; one was for about $15. According to the credit report, the bills had been sent to a collection agency. But Mr. Watson said he had never received a notice from a doctor or a collection agency about any of the bills.

Reaganomics Redux

By Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Blog
17 December 10

The New Tax Deal: Reaganomics Redux
ore than thirty years ago, Ronald Reagan came to Washington intent on reducing taxes on the wealthy and shrinking every aspect of government except defense.
The new tax deal embodies the essence of Reaganomics.
It will not stimulate the economy.
A disproportionate share of the $858 billion deal will go to people in the top 1 percent who spend only a fraction of what they earn and save the rest. Their savings are sent around the world to wherever they will earn the highest return.
(A little off-topic, but certainly related - SPC)


Getting to the Heart of Health Costs

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Health Care Reform Articles - December 16, 2010

December 13, 2010

Years of Wrangling Lie Ahead for Health Law

By contradicting two prior opinions, Monday’s court ruling in Virginia against the Obama health care law highlighted both the novelty of the constitutional issues and the difficulty of forging consensus among judges who bring differences in experience, philosophy and partisan background to the bench.

December 13, 2010

Panel Set to Study Safety of Electronic Patient Data

Almost two years ago, President Obama pledged $19 billion in stimulus incentives to help convert the nation’s doctors and hospitals to using a paperless system of electronic health records intended to improve the quality of care and reduce costs. But the conversion is still a slow work in progress.

“God Help You. You're on Dialysis.”

Every year, more than 100,000 Americans start dialysis. One in four of them will die within 12 months—a fatality rate that is one of the worst in the industrialized world. Oh, and dialysis arguably costs more here than anywhere else. Although taxpayers cover most of the bill, the government has kept confidential clinic data that could help patients make better decisions. How did our first foray into near-universal coverage, begun four decades ago with such great hope, turn out this way? And what lessons does it hold for the future of health-care reform?


December 14, 2010

Opposition to Health Law Is Steeped in Tradition

“We are against forcing all citizens, regardless of need, into a compulsory government program,” said one prominent critic of the new health care law. It is socialized medicine, he argued. If it stands, he said, “one of these days, you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children, and our children’s children, what it once was like in America when men were free.”
The health care law in question was Medicare, and the critic was Ronald Reagan. He made the leap from actor to political activist, almost 50 years ago, in part by opposing government-run health insurance for the elderly.

December 14, 2010

Ruling Has Some Mulling the Necessity of Mandating Insurance

WASHINGTON — Though they have battled for more than a year, President Obama and the health insurance industry agree that the requirement for most Americans to obtain insurance, struck down by a federal judge, is absolutely essential to the success of the new health care law.
Without it, they say, the whole package collapses, dashing hopes for universal coverage and cost control. Ripping the mandate from the law would have “devastating consequences,” the White House said Tuesday.
But not everyone agrees. In the wake of the decision Monday, which held that the individual mandate was unconstitutional, some lawmakers and some consumer advocates are investigating possible alternatives.

December 15, 2010

Health Suits Stir Concerns on Court Partisanship

PENSACOLA, Fla. — With a loose web of conservative plaintiffs leading the charge, and judicial rulings breaking thus far along ideological lines, the drive to scuttle the Obama health care law is once again highlighting the role of partisanship in America’s courts.

After Expanding Coverage, Mass. Looks To Cut Costs

BOSTON — Four years after Massachusetts embarked on the nation's most ambitious health care overhaul, Gov. Deval Patrick and legislative leaders are stepping up efforts to rein in spiraling insurance costs.
Those costs are threatening to undermine the 2006 health care law, which mandated nearly universal health coverage and provided a blueprint for the national health care overhaul pushed by President Obama.

New day in court for health reform
By: Jennifer Haberkorn
December 16, 2010 12:10 AM EST
The health care reform law confronts its most high-profile and politically charged challenge in a Florida courtroom Thursday, just three days after a federal judge in Virginia struck down a piece of the law in a similar case.