Monday, March 23, 2020

A Plan to Quickly Confront and Defeat Coronavirus Without Collapsing the Economy?

What America lacks right now is a plan as we veer into one reaction to this pandemic after another.

I am not an epidemiologist so I offer no professional opinion on just what that plan should be.

But, if you haven't yet read the op-ed in the NY Times by David Katz of Yale University, you should.

An excerpt:
The data from South Korea, where tracking the coronavirus has been by far the best to date, indicate that as much as 99 percent of active cases in the general population are “mild” and do not require specific medical treatment. The small percentage of cases that do require such services are highly concentrated among those age 60 and older, and further so the older people are. Other things being equal, those over age 70 appear at three times the mortality risk as those age 60 to 69, and those over age 80 at nearly twice the mortality risk of those age 70 to 79...

The experience of the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which houses a contained, older population, proves the point. The death rate among that insular and uniformly exposed population is roughly 1 percent...

The clustering of complications and death from Covid-19 among the elderly and chronically ill, but not children (there have been only very rare deaths in children), suggests that we could achieve the crucial goals of social distancing — saving lives and not overwhelming our medical system — by preferentially protecting the medically frail and those over age 60, and in particular those over 70 and 80, from exposure...

If we were to focus on the especially vulnerable, there would be resources to keep them at home, provide them with needed services and coronavirus testing, and direct our medical system to their early care. I would favor proactive rather than reactive testing in this group, and early use of the most promising anti-viral drugs. This cannot be done under current policies, as we spread our relatively few test kits across the expanse of a whole population, made all the more anxious because society has shut down.

This focus on a much smaller portion of the population would allow most of society to return to life as usual and perhaps prevent vast segments of the economy from collapsing. Healthy children could return to school and healthy adults go back to their jobs. Theaters and restaurants could reopen, though we might be wise to avoid very large social gatherings like stadium sporting events and concerts...

A pivot right now from trying to protect all people to focusing on the most vulnerable remains entirely plausible. With each passing day, however, it becomes more difficult. The path we are on may well lead to uncontained viral contagion and monumental collateral damage to our society and economy. A more surgical approach is what we need.


Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Will the Trump Administration's Testing Snafus for Coronavirus Be Their Political Version of the Democrats' Catastrophic Launch of Obamacare?

As I have watched the Trump administration fumble the ball on getting mass coronavirus testing available to communities, I am reminded of the way the Obama administration fumbled their own ball during the Obamacare launch in 2013:

  • Repeated statements on how well things were going in the face of facts that did not match their rhetoric.
  • Not having a handle on what could go wrong and what did go wrong from beginning to end.
  • Delays that led to a public lack of confidence in the administration.

The difference this time is that the Obamacare fiasco was ultimately brought under control and, while people not being able to sign up for their health insurance for a few weeks was not a small deal, it wasn't the life and death scenario we are facing today.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Read "The Dispatch"

A few months ago, Steve Hayes and Jonah Goldberg founded a news site.
There are tons of those. This is different and worthy of your time.
In their own words:

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Why Obamacare Supporters Should Favor the Trump Administration's Medicaid Block Grant Proposal

Readers of this blog know that no one has been more critical of Obamacare's flaws––particularly over the impact the program has had on middle class consumers in the individual health insurance market.

And, readers already know that no one has been more supportive of the Medicaid expansion from the very beginning.

Now, the Trump administration wants to give states the option to abolish the open-ended federal funding of Medicaid via fixed block grants for only a small portion of those eligible, or potentially eligible.

Critics argue that by fixing these funds, particularly at a growth rate lower than paid in the past, will result in less money and if there is less money there will be fewer benefits and fewer people covered given the flexibility states would have to redefine the program.

That is a logical conclusion.

But it's a lot more complicated than that.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Despite All of Its Efforts to Insure Everyone and Control Health Costs Things Are Getting Worse in Massachusetts

Guest Post By: 
Jeffrey Hogan
Northeast Regional Manager 
Rogers Benefit Group

Few states have done as much as Massachusetts (MA) over the last 30 years to lower healthcare costs, improve quality and outcomes and, in general, to innovate.   

Last week the MA Health Policy Commission issued its 2019 Annual Health Care Cost Trends Report documenting wins, losses, and opportunities for change. Romney Care was passed in 2006 and, in 2012, the state passed a sweeping initiative to focus on a healthcare growth target and transparent metrics for evaluating healthcare performance statewide. 

Despite significant initiatives, the state reports slippage in many metrics, including burdensome cost increases for employers and their employees. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Profitability in the Health Care Market Has Never Been Better

For many years I have followed Allan Baumgarten's detailed health care market reports.

His latest covers the state of Florida and provides what I am sure is a representative sample of what is happening across the country.

A few excerpts:

Iowa Caucus Goers Strongly Support Single-Payer Health Care

This from the Washington Post:
About 6 in 10 Democrats at the Iowa caucuses on Monday reported that they support eliminating private health insurance as part of establishing a single-payer health-care system, according to preliminary poll results, suggesting that most of the party’s voters agree with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on the divisive issue.
 Only these voters can reelect Donald Trump.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Comprehensive Enrollment and Cost Estimates for the Biden Health Plan, the Buttigieg Health Plan, the Warren Health Plan, and the Sanders Health Plan

In this hyper-partisan environment, I can't think of an organization that better fits the definition of bipartisan than the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

Their mission is to keep the federal budget process honest and responsible. 

Its current board members include a veritable who's who of Washington, DC adults; Mitch Daniels, Leon Panetta, Tim Penny, Erskine Bowles, Kent Conrad, Vic Fazio, and Bill Gradison.

The Committee has just released a comprehensive evaluation of the leading Democratic candidates' health care plans.

It is required reading for any serious health policy wonk. Disbelieve their work at your own peril.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Republican Health Care Reform: The Congressional Republicans' Irrational Opposition to Medicaid

Congressional Republicans have consistently, if not unanimously, opposed Obamacare's expansion of Medicaid.

Their opposition is irrational.

It is also unpopular with voters. In dark red states like Nebraska, Idaho and Utah voters recently went over the heads of their Republican legislators and governors by approving referendums to expand the program. And, Kansas is about to become the 37th state to expand Medicaid under Obamacare after a bipartisan agreement between the Democratic governor and Republican leaders in the legislature.

While Obamacare's individual health insurance reforms and subsidies have been a disaster for the middle class (See: Obamacare is "Stable" at an Incredibly Unstable Place), the Medicaid expansion in the states that have approved it has covered millions of people that would never have been covered otherwise––at a cost that could never have been less.

Republican opposition has centered around a number of arguments. Let's take a look at each of them.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Biden, Bloomberg, and Buttigieg Have the Health Plans That Can Become Law and Will Work

In an earlier post, I pointed out that there is no better chance of passing a Medicare for all health care plan through Congress in the coming years than there was in 1977, or 1993, or 2009.

Then Elizabeth Warren showed us just how politically unrealistic single-payer health care is when she released her funding plan and then quickly backtracked to the public option approach in the face of rapidly declining polls. See my post: Elizabeth Warren Backs Into the Public Option and Effectively Takes Medicare for All Off the Table for Democrats in 2021

In a separate post, I pointed out that single-payer advocates, like Sanders and Warren, have yet to answer the biggest financial questions surrounding putting the entire country on a single government reimbursement system: How will their paying providers Medicare rates for everything not bankrupt hospitals and doctors? And, if they don't pay providers these lower Medicare rates, how will their proposals save us any money?

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Health Care Special Interests Four Hundred Billion - Consumers Zero

That's the Congressional health care score card for December.

As the year winds down and must pass year-end spending bills are completed––and with that any chance of attaching and approving health care legislation––the special interests have won big and consumers have lost big.

Employers, unions, and insurance companies won big with the repeal of the "Cadillac" tax on high cost benefit plans at a cost of $200 billion over ten years as well as the repeal of the health insurance tax (HIT), and the 2.3% medical device tax sales tax.

The total cost for repealing just these things will add about $400 billion to the deficit over a decade and are part of a mammoth $1.4 trillion spending bill larded up for lots of different interests.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Buttigieg and Biden Spend What They Would Gain Repealing the Republican Tax Cuts on Health Care

Shouldn't any gain from repealing the Republican tax cuts on the wealthiest go toward fixing the debt and deficit problems these tax cuts have contributed to?


Democratic presidential candidates Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg both rely on repealing some of the Trump tax cuts––particularly those for the "rich"––to pay for their very similar and incremental health care plans that rely upon making a government-run public option available to consumers.

On one level that notion can be attractive to Democratic voters turned off by the 2017 Republican tax cuts.

But when those tax cuts were passed, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated those cuts would add $1.6 trillion over ten years to the deficit. The Democrats were apoplectic over the Republican irresponsibility of it all.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Greed Outranks Compromise in Congressional Attempts to Fix Surprise Medical Bills

There are few things in our health care system that are more unfair than surprise medical bills. Consumers think they have good coverage and are getting treatment in their health plan network only to get a huge unexpected bill in the mail because it turned out that something like the anesthesiologist at their recent surgery wasn't covered.

How were they to know that? As you're sitting on the gurney about to be rolled into surgery do you need to do a provider roll call asking each to confirm their network status?

The worst of these examples often has to be with air ambulances sending patients bills for tens of thousands of dollars they had no reason to expect. As the patient lays there with burns over 60% of their body and they need to be transferred to the regional burn center, are they supposed to say, "Before you put me on the helicopter, what is this going to cost?

Now, every politician I know of says that all of this needs to end.

But, they are yet to end it.

Monday, December 9, 2019

The Trump/Republican 2020 Health Care Plan

The Republicans don't yet have a health care plan less than a year before the 2020 elections.

But based upon their 2017 Obamacare repeal and replace efforts, as well as a major document recently issued by the House Republican Study Committee, what might a Republican plan look like?

Monday, December 2, 2019

Elizabeth Warren Backs Into the Public Option and Effectively Takes Medicare for All Off the Table for Democrats in 2021

Medicare for all is dead because Democratic voters aren't buying it.


Fixing Obamacare and adding a public option is the health care policy territory first staked out by Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden.

Writing about Biden's plan recently on this blog, I said:
IF the Democrats capture the White House, keep the House, and take over the Senate, no matter who they elect as President, this Biden health care outline, not Medicare for all, will likely be the plan Democrats embrace in 2021.
Not even I thought Elizabeth Warren would act so quickly to move off her only days-old detailed Medicare for all plan and onto about the same place all of the leading Democratic candidates, save Bernie Sanders, sit on health care––just fixing Obamacare and adding a public option.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Medicare for All––the Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren Health Care Plans

The Question That Single-Payer Medicare for All Advocates Need to Answer


You are probably thinking that question is, How are you going to pay for it?

Ultimately, yes.

But, I will suggest there is another critically important issue that is part of the overall question about how it will be paid for––What will your plan do to our existing health care system?

Medicare and Medicaid cost less than commercial insurance because Medicare and Medicaid pay providers––doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers–– a lot less for their services.

Advocates argue their single-payer Medicare for all health care system will overall cost us all a lot less. They are right that their systems can be a lot less expensive by expanding Medicare to everyone––primarily because government payment rates are so much smaller.

But here's the hitch––paying Medicare rates on behalf of all patients would literally bankrupt the system we have.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The Public Option's Silver Lining?

Joe Biden's Health Insurance Plan Would Fix the Individual Health Insurance System and Have the Potential to Politically Stabilize the Entire Private Health Insurance Market for Decades to Come

Biden's Public Option


In a prior post, I argued that the Biden health plan directly takes on the most problematic parts of Obamacare by making individual market coverage affordable––and would therefore make the individual insurance system much lower in cost and therefore financially sustainable.

A lower cost individual market would also make the entire private insurance market more politically sustainable––if people find their coverage affordable why move to a complete government takeover such as Medicare for all?

As part of his plan, Biden also calls for a "public option."

Monday, October 21, 2019

Joe Biden's Health Insurance Plan Would Fix the Individual Health Insurance System

IF the Democrats capture the White House, keep the House and take over the Senate, no matter who they elect as President, this Biden health care outline, not Medicare for all, will likely be the plan Democrats embrace in 2021


The Biden health care proposal directly takes on the big things that haven't worked in Obamacare.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Obamacare is "Stable" at an Incredibly Unstable Place

The Democrats Want to Move Beyond Obamacare Because We Have No Other Choice

 

Before I start talking about the presidential candidates' health care plans, let's review just exactly where we are with the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).

Monday, October 14, 2019

There is Now No More Support for a Medicare For All Single-Payer Health Care Than There Was in 1977, or 1993, or 2009

Buy HMO Stocks––They're a Bargain

The more things change the more they stay the same.

With many of the Democratic presidential candidates' flirtation with Medicare for all, the topic is once again front and center going into the 2020 presidential campaign.

Just like it was when Jimmy Carter ran on a Medicare for all platform in 1976––and it turned out there weren't the votes for it in 1977 even though Carter had a filibuster-proof 61 Democrats in the Senate and a whopping 292 Democratic House seats. In fact, Carter failed to move any significant health care legislation.

In 1993, the Clintons didn't even try to move a single-payer plan even though the Democrats controlled 57 Senate seats and 258 House seats because only about half of the House Democrats favored a single-payer system.

The same for 2009 when both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama ran on health care platforms during the primaries that looked a lot like the eventual Obamacare because again only about half of the House Democratic caucus favored a single-payer program.

Now in 2019 we are in the very same place we were in 1977, 1993, and 2009––only about half (118 as of September 6th) of the House Democratic caucus now supports the Medicare for all proposal introduced by Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-WA).
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