Image: healthcare reform is implemented. Therefore, it is important that he or she is the best person for the job.
Some doubt that President Obama’s nomination of Dr. Donald M. Berwick is the right choice, including the premier industry trade group. America’s Health Insurance Plans declined to sign a letter that supported his selection.
Republicans are also worried that Berwick prefers a government-run National Health Service, similar to the one in Great Britain. They plan to bring up the threat of health plan rationing of care once again during the confirmation hearings.
Americans over the age of 65 have been among those most opposed to the Obama administration’s healthcare reform law. Several provisions result in cuts to supplemental Medicare Advantage programs, while most of the benefits have little impact on a demographic that is already insured.
President Obama is looking to change that through a speaking tour of “virtual town halls”. Recently, he was in Maryland, touting upcoming $250 prescription drug rebate for seniors. Eligible individuals will receive those checks later this year.
He has an uphill battle ahead of him: senior citizens must be convinced that most of the purported savings will in fact come from waste and fraud in the Medicare program, instead of negatively impacting the quality of their health insurance plans.
When a person goes into the hospital, they hope to get out as soon as possible. Unfortunately, early discharge isn’t best if they later end up being readmitted.
Currently, the fee-for-service compensation system has health insurance plans paying a lump sum to hospitals for each treatment–making it more profitable to move patients out quicker. Sometimes, those patients aren’t provided with appropriate support to prevent their return to the hospital. Readmission is more costly for patients, in both health and financial terms.
Healthcare reform looks to change that, starting in 2012. In that year, hospitals with high rates of readmission will be financially penalized. It is a tactic to encourage appropriate-length hospital stays (as opposed to the highest possible turnover), as well as quality care after discharge. The exact details of that provision are as of yet unknown.
Recently, the federal government sent out an informational pamphlet to millions of Medicare beneficiaries. What’s the problem with that?
The issue is that some people believe that the mailing crosses the line from information into propaganda. The pamphlet talks about how the positive impact the healthcare reform law is predicted to have on its recipients.
Republicans in Congress want the Government Accountability Office to investigate whether the cost of printing and sending the document was legitimate. They contend that the the information about medical insurance in it is biased and inaccurate.
If a person needs nursing care–and an at-home nurse would be equally effective and less costly than a residential nursing home–why would some health insurance plans only cover the full cost of the latter?
It seems very strange, but it happens under Medicare health insurance. Private options often follow suit, with payments to doctors and hospitals that provide negative incentives.
Proponents of reform believe that a bundled payment system (with strict quality control to avoid too much cost cutting) would reduce wasteful medical care. It would also result in more competitive price bidding, which some experts believe could save Medicare up to 8% per year–money that could be used to fund the healthcare reform legislation.
Even if you’re not quite eligible for Medicare Advantage yet, it’s a heartening sight. Private health insurance companies predict that the upcoming cuts in payments to their programs won’t stop them from selling the supplemental plans after the majority of the subsidies end in 2014.
United HealthCare has stated that they will continue to sell their Medicare Advantage health insurance plans, and other major competitors will probably follow suit. About 10 million senior citizens have these policies.
Contrary to prior belief, it looks like healthcare reform won’t kill Medicare Advantage, although the programs may adapt to the new market. The best, most efficient plans will actually receive a 5% bonus in payments.
Contrary to some initial estimates, a Medicare actuary predicts that health insurance reform will actually end up increasing the cost of health care in the United States!
On the positive side, there are measures to control the cost of Medicare by cutting provider payments and a tax on employer-sponsored high-cost health insurance plans that encourages more affordable options. Unfortunately, those are outweighed by the expansion of coverage and accompanying subsidies. According to Richard S. Foster, spending will increase by 0.9% ($311 billion) by 2019 than it otherwise would have without healthcare reform.
Some may believe that the relatively small increase is worth it in order to insure up to 30 more Americans, especially for progressives who consider affordable health insurance a human right. However, the findings go against the Obama administration’s promises that costs would eventually decrease.
It seems like somewhat of a paradox: a piece of legislation costing nearly $1 trillion reducing the national deficit? Yet that’s what proponents of health insurance reform believe will happen.
Of course, the American government’s debt won’t be wiped out immediately. Rather, it is supposed to be a process with four steps:
According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the bill will cost $940 billion over the next decade. That is reduced from earlier estimates of past versions’ expenses.
How will they get this money? Although the CBO predicts that affordable health insurance reform will lead to cost savings in the long run, the government will definitely add to the federal deficit in the short term. In addition, they are finding various sources of money, including:
According to a report from the Center of Medicare Services, over half of healthcare spending is set to come from federal and state governments by 2012. That’s even if health insurance reform is not enacted. They blame the increasing number of baby boomers aging and therefore becoming eligible for Medicare insurance, as well as the recession. The latter is at fault for leaving millions out of work and without employer-sponsored health insurance (meanwhile unable to afford short term health insurance), causing them to then apply for Medicaid.
The reality could be even worse! The report assumes that a long-planned cut in Medicare’s reimbursements to doctors would take effect next year. Instead, physicians cried foul and the 20% reduction was shelved. Such a reduction would force private health insurance companies to pick up the slack. The premiums of temporary health insurance and other types of insurance would increase as a result.
Many are understandably concerned about the Obama administration’s healthcare reform proposals. Some people believe that there is the potential decreased quality of health care if the government is more deeply involved in providing health insurance. However, this new research ignores the pending legislation altogether. Granted, the Democratic-led reforms could lead to an even larger share of government spending. Either way, taxpayers will be contributing more towards health insurance costs.