Colorado could become the first state with universal health care if proponents of a new ballot measure get their way. It’s a move at least one presidential contender says could “lead the nation.”
This week, proponents of a new initiative called ColoradoCare say they turned in enough signatures to put a question before voters that, if passed in November 2016, would make Colorado the first state in the nation with a universal health care system.
The move has already drawn a response from Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is running for president as a Democrat.
“Colorado could lead the nation in moving toward a system to ensure better health care for more people at less cost,” Sanders said in a statement to The Colorado Independent. “In the richest nation on earth, we should make health care a right for all citizens. No one should go bankrupt or skip getting the care they need because they cannot afford it.”
Sanders wants universal health care at the federal level paid through the government in a Medicare-for-all model.
In Colorado, the program here would be called ColoradoCare and would do for Colorado what Medicare does for seniors.
When people talk about a universal health care system, what they mean is that everyone gets coverage.
The campaign for the ballot measure in Colorado uses the phrase “universal health care” and shies away from the phrase “single-payer.”
“You can’t do single-payer on a state-by-state basis because there are federal programs that can’t change,” says Ivan Miller, executive director and head of policy of the campaign for the ballot measure. “What ColoradoCare kind of does for Colorado is like what Medicare does for seniors.”
In Colorado, what Miller and his campaign envision is a plan that would cover all residents, and stop Coloradans from having to shop for private insurance. Instead, Coloradans would pay for the system through $25 billion in taxes deducted largely from payrolls.
ColoradoCare would be able to do all this by waiving the state out of the Federal Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, and offer “comprehensive, high-quality” universal health care through a 21-member board of elected members, a giant health care cooperative that would oversee a team of executives. In promotional material for ColoradoCare, proponents liken the model to credit unions, rural electric co-ops, companies like REI, and even the Green Bay Packers.
Residents would pay into the health care system through new taxes and the system would pay health care providers, doing away with the need for Coloradans to shop around for private insurance companies. Proponents say Coloradans would be able to choose their primary care providers, and could also pay for additional coverage through insurance companies if they wish. Certain federal health care programs like Medicare and and the VA “cannot be transferred to ColoradoCare, and will continue coverage, with ColoradoCare providing supplemental benefits,” according toColoradoCare documents.
“ColoradoCare would be owned by and accountable to the residents of Colorado,” Miller wrote in a brochure prepared for his group that’s pushing the proposal.
Ben Carson’s Health Care Plan: New and More Confusing
For the last few years, Ben Carson has beentalkingabout a very disruptive but simple plan to reform the health care system in the United States: replace Obamacare, Medicare and Medicaid with an easy-to-understand universal, cradle-to-grave annual cash allowance for health spending.
But last weekend, in a series of interviews, Mr. Carson, who is now narrowly leading in some national polls for the G.O.P. presidential nomination, said he had discarded that idea, and was now presenting a new health plan. It’s less politically toxic, but much less coherent. It is also less likely to lead to the big changes to the health care system he seeks.
Like the original plan, his new one would include health savings accounts, meant to encourage people to pay for their medical care directly. But it would also coexist with existing government health programs — and the degree to which the government would be involved is unclear. It’s very hard to determine who would benefit from the Carson plan or how much it would cost the federal government. It seems possible that it could actually cost more than the current system.
I’m a little bit confused,” said Chris Wallace, the “Fox News Sunday” host, in an extended interview with Mr. Carson about the proposal.
Yes, Mr. Carson’s new plan is confusing.
The new plan would still repeal Obamacare, but apparently not do away with Medicare and Medicaid, the big government health insurance programs that have been around since the 1960s. In previous statements, Mr. Carson has said he’d like to scrap them both as wasteful and inferior to his idea of a lifetime $2,000-per-year health care allowance for every American. On Thursday, Kyle Cheney and Jason Millman at Politico described that plan, including critical voices from Republican health policy analysts, who worried that ending the popular Medicaid and Medicare programs would be both politically and practically problematic.
“No, that — that’s the old plan. That’s been gone for several months now,” Mr. Carson told Mr. Wallace on Sunday, adding that he’d recently consulted with “a lot of economists and various people” who helped him shape his new plan.
WASHINGTON — Gains in the American life span have slowed in recent years, according to a new report, with death rates flattening for the first time since researchers started measuring them in the late 1960s.
Researchers from the American Cancer Society used federal mortality data to analyze trends in longevity from 1969 to 2013. Death rates in the United States have been declining for decades, an effect of improvements in health care, disease management and medical technology — and the researchers had expected to find more of the same.
Instead, they stumbled upon a disturbing shift. The declines in death rates flattened in the most recent period, from 2010 to 2013, dropping by an average of just 0.4 percent annually, a rate so slight that it was not statistically significant. The rate had slowed in previous periods but never this substantially, researchers said.
Researchers did not attempt to find the reason for the slowdown, saying their analysis — which was published in JAMA on Tuesday and was the first of its kind using the federal data — was limited to identifying the broader trends, not explaining them. But researchers who did not participate in the study said the obesity epidemic, which has plagued Americans of all ages since the 1980s, was probably a factor.
Dr. Ahmedin Jemal, head of surveillance and health services research at the American Cancer Society and one of the report’s authors, cautioned that the slowdown had taken place over just four years, a very short period for the purposes of long-term mortality trends. He said that it was too early to tell whether the finding marked the start of a trend. Even so, it was the first departure from years of declines, and it caught researchers off guard.
“I was surprised,” Dr. Jemal said. “We were expecting to see more declines.”
S. Jay Olshansky, a public health professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said the study was the first indication of what could be the early stages of obesity’s toll on American life spans. It took decades for smoking to appear in death rates, in the form of lung cancer and other ailments, and obesity is expected to have a similarly delayed effect.
“You need to look at the health status of the living, not the mortality dynamics of the deceased,” he said. “The younger cohorts moving through the age structure are not doing so well.”
The theory seemed to be supported by another finding in the study: The rate of decline in death rates had slowed for heart disease, stroke and diabetes, all ailments associated with obesity.
Still, the past few years could not erase gains since the study began in 1969. Death rates over all dropped by about 43 percent, and mortality rates for various ailments also fell, by 77 percent for stroke, by 68 percent for heart disease, by 18 percent for cancer, and by 17 percent for diabetes. But not for everything: The death rate for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a lung ailment often associated with smoking, doubled during the period.
Read more at http://thefreethoughtproject.com/york-doctor-builds-farmacy-treat-diseases-healthy-food-pharmaceuticals/#UM4FVxeixt28f4ux.99
Dr. Robert Weiss believes that a change is coming about in the way we approach health and medicine, or rather a reconnection with knowledge that was shunned with the onset of big pharma.
He sold his practice in New York and built the first farm-based medical practice on a 348-acre farm in Long Valley, New Jersey. It can be called a “farmacy,” a place that explores and utilizes plant-based “food as medicine.”
“Plant-based whole foods are the most powerful disease-modifying tools available to practitioners — more powerful than any drugs or surgeries,” said Weiss, a doctor of 25 years in Hudson County.
Untold billions have been put into the production of synthetic chemicals to treat the symptoms of disease, yet the research of plant-based medicine has taken a back seat, despite its ancient history and already known potential.
The priority is prevention through proper diet, including fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, beans and seeds. It’s “paleo” plus the best parts of human agriculture before they were turned into processed foods. However, this strict diet regimen can also be used to treat those already afflicted with ailments.
“I am not saying if you fall down and break your ankle, I can fix it by putting a salve of mugwort on it. You need someone to fix your fracture,” Weiss said. “I am talking about treating and preventing chronic disease — the heart attacks, the strokes, the cardiovascular disease, the cancers … the illnesses that are taking our economy and our nation down.”
He says that the nutrients in fruits and vegetables prevent inflammation, which is believed to be the cause of many chronic diseases.
Dr. Weiss said the lunch that was prepared during the interview—“a salad of baby kale, radicchio, purple carrots, cucumbers, onions and cherry husk tomatoes tossed with a walnut vinaigrette, followed by eggplant rollatini with tofu instead of cheese, and dairy-free chocolate pudding garnished with raspberries”—contains many naturally occurring drugs.
The goal is to reduce the reliance on dangerous pharmaceuticals that bring on a host of negative side-effects, addiction, and overdose death. Also, he strives to avoid, where possible, unnecessary surgeries.
You can’t always shop around when it comes to your medical care. The back of an ambulance is no place to start Googling hospitals to find out which one provides the best and most affordable treatment for the heart attack you’re experiencing.
But when you can plan ahead — think an elective procedure or imaging test — it often pays to do your homework.
The state has launched a new website designed to help consumers learn how much Maine health providers charge for common procedures and how they stack up on the quality of that care.CompareMaine.org allows users to research the typical costs for more than 200 medical procedures at more than 170 medical facilities across the state. The site reflects the median amount* (more on this below) paid by insured individuals who have coverage through the state’s private health insurance companies.
Visitors can also compare quality ratings for many health providers.
Let’s take gallbladder removal surgery as an example. The cost ranges from $9,789 at Redington-Fairview General Hospital in Skowhegan to nearly $23,000 at The Aroostook Medical Center in Presque Isle. The state average for that procedure clocks in at about $13,000.
Is the more expensive option better? Very often, no. Research shows that cost is a poor indicator of the quality of care patients can expect.
CompareMaine.org is one of only two state health care comparison sites that present quality ratings alongside cost information, according to the state.
“In Maine and across the nation, there can be large differences in the cost and quality for the same health care service. You may pay a lot more for the same procedure depending on where you go,” Gov. Paul LePage said in a news release announcing the new site. “Many of us are paying higher out of pocket costs for our health care services. I hope that by making this information available, consumers and employers will be positioned to make better informed decisions.”
The Maine Health Data Organization created the site using federal grant funding, in collaboration with the Human Services Research Institute in Massachusetts, NORC at the University of Chicago, and Minneapolis web designer Wowza. The site pulls cost information from health insurance claims that MHDO collects from insurers. The quality data is based on several state and national sources.
What CompareMaine.org shows:
Typical costs for nearly 200 common procedures, such as chest X-rays, cholesterol blood tests and knee replacements, in eight categories: office visits, physical and occupational therapy, integrative medicine, mental and behavioral health services, obstetric and gynecological procedures, radiology and imaging, laboratory services, and inpatient and outpatient surgery. Search by facility or choose from five different health insurers.
Prices charged by hospitals, labs, imaging centers, surgical centers, clinics, and physician practices.
Quality ratings that shed light on how satisfied patients are with their care and how well the facility prevents both serious complications and two common infections that can result from hospital stays.
What CompareMaine.org doesn’t show:
Exactly how much you’ll pay for a procedure — don’t count on the site to predict your medical bill. CompareMaine.org shows typical costs, but yours will vary depending on whether you have insurance and how much you pay out of pocket (deductibles, co-pays and co-insurance) under your plan. Use the information to inform yourself before calling your insurance company or health provider for specifics.
*Let’s get back to that asterisk. The site displays “average costs” for various procedures, but it uses “the median value rather than the mean to come up with the average cost.” Anyone else hearing their high school math teacher lecturing about how a median and an average are two different calculations? I did too. (Shout out to Mr. Birkel and Mr. Mooers at Bangor High). After speaking with MHDO’s acting director, Karynlee Harrington, I learned that the site actually displays median costs (the middle value when all items in a sample are sorted from lowest to highest) but it describes them as averages. A consumer advisory group thought the term “median” wasn’t user-friendly enough, she said.
Cost and quality information for individual doctors. You can’t look up your family physician or surgeon by name. State law allows MHDO to report that though, so the agency may add the information later.
Data for emergency room visits. MHDO plans to include that in the future.
Costs for people with MaineCare and Medicare (more than a third of the state’s population). The claims database MHDO oversees pulls only from private health insurers, not government-sponsored insurance. Still, that leaves the site with more than 10 million claims from 47 payers.
LAST week, the American Cancer Society announced changes to its influential guidelines for breast cancer screening. The society no longer recommends that women at average risk between the ages of 40 and 44 have mammograms and advises reducing the frequency of mammograms from every year to every other year for women 55 and older. The group is also recommending ending physical breast examinations by doctors entirely.
We profoundly disagree with these changes. All three of us, two breast radiologists and one breast surgeon, have been named “Mothers of the Year” by the American Cancer Society in recognition of our roles as mothers and physicians who have devoted our professional lives to the fight against breast cancer. One of us, Dr. Drossman, received her award the day before the new guidelines were issued.
Because of our shared goals — early detection of breast cancer, improved treatments and saving lives — we were happy to support the cancer society. Now, we no longer wish to be involved.
Despite the changes, the society’s website still states: “the American Cancer Society breast cancer screening guidelines are developed to save lives by finding breast cancer early, when treatment is more likely to be successful.” Mammography in all age groups, starting at 40 years old, is the only test that has been proven to do exactly this: reduce the risk of dying from breast cancer, by up to 30 percent.
Today, the overall survival rate for breast cancer in the United States is very close to 90 percent, the highest it has ever been, giving most newly diagnosed patients every reason to be optimistic. Early detection with mammography and better treatment options are both directly responsible for that.
It’s not just a matter of saving lives. There are other, almost equally important benefits of early detection by mammography. For example, women with cancers detected at smaller sizes are much more likely to be able to have a lumpectomy and less aggressive, less disfiguring surgery. In addition, the smaller the cancer, the lower the likelihood is that the disease may have spread to lymph nodes and elsewhere. In turn, this means there is less likelihood of needing aggressive treatment after surgery like chemotherapy and radiation.
A further problem with the new guidelines is that increasing the interval between screenings for women over the age of 55 will result in delayed diagnosis and larger tumor sizes. This will lead to more extensive and potentially expensive treatment.
DENVER — With Colorado’s shaky Obamacare exchange in peril, some health care advocates are calling for voters to scrap it and replace it with something far more ambitious.
Proponents of a statewide single-payer health care system have submitted 156,107 signatures, far more than the 98,492 required to qualify for the November 2016 ballot, to the Colorado secretary of state’s office for verification.
If the measure qualifies, Colorado would immediately become ground zero for a national debate on the concept of steep tax increases in return for guaranteed health care coverage for all residents, all against the backdrop of a pivotal presidential race.
The program, called ColoradoCare, comes with a steep price tag: $25 billion, which would be raised with a 10 percent payroll tax increase. At the same time, the plan would provide all residents with Medicare-style health care coverage and allow the state to dump Obamacare.
Whether Colorado voters would agree to take on that kind of tax hike is another question — two years ago, they rejected a comparatively paltry $1 billion tax increase for education — but there is no doubt that the “no-more-Obamacare” argument resonates with certain segments of the population.
“For some people, I say, ‘It gets us out of Obamacare,’ and some people cheer,” T.R. Reid, a spokesman for ColoradoCareYES, said during the signature-gathering campaign. “It’s a purple state, and we have this purple plan that can appeal to both sides.”
Under the proposal, known as Initiative 20, employers would be on the hook for the lion’s share, 6.67 percent, and employees would be responsible for 3.33 percent of the 10 percent. The program would be administered by a nonprofit cooperative, not a state agency, run by a 21-member board.
Much as Colorado conservatives may dislike Obamacare, they were quick Friday to denounce the single-payer proposal.
“‘Affordable’ care just got more expensive in Colorado,” Colorado Senate Republicans said on Twitter.
Jonathan Lockwood, executive director of the free-market Advancing Colorado, warned that ColoradoCare “will triple Coloradans’ taxes to rake in a state budget-sized $25 billion a year.”
“ColoradoCare is a charade, and their campaign has been deceptive on every level, preying on millennials and the underserved communities, promising them relief that will deliver pain,” Mr. Lockwood said.
Supporters argue that the state’s $25 billion estimate is too high and insist that the plan would actually save people the money they would normally spend on health insurance. In addition, the program would allow Colorado to opt out of the Affordable Care Act, which would free up federal dollars.
“We’re a rich, compassionate country. We should provide health care for everybody,” said Mr. Reid, a former Washington Post reporter. “We’re not going to get there at the federal level. The federal government can’t do much. They’re gridlocked. So the way we’re going to get there is state by state.”