Yes, Mr. President, Health Care Is Complicated

Yes, Mr. President, Health Care Is ComplicatedI nearly fell off the couch when I read the President’s statement that “nobody knew health care could be so complicated.”

Um, Mr. President, everyone knew. In fact, health care is considered the most complex industry out there. That would be why, as you and your colleagues are finding, transforming the system is “incredibly complex.” It is also why it will be nearly impossible to repeal-and-replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with something better unless you move to a single-payer system.You can, of course, focus on fixing its weaknesses.

I remember a healthcare economics course I took when I was in my 20s. During the first class, the professor told us: “Take every basic economic concept out there, including resource allocation, supply-and-demand pricing, and rational consumer behavior, and toss it aside. Very few apply to health care.”

The past 30 years as a healthcare writer have reaffirmed that statement hundreds of times over.

The Health Care System as a Tube of Toothpaste

I have my own analogy to describe the US healthcare system. I think of it as a tube of toothpaste … Continue Reading

ACA Affordable Care Act health insurance healthcare reform healthcare system; Medicare Obamacare politics Value-based reimbursement

Doctors Are Angry. I Get That. But . . .

surgeonI knew this would be the toughest audience yet in my three years of teaching/speaking about the US healthcare system and healthcare reform. I even put on a flak jacket at the beginning of my talk as a way of breaking the ice (and protecting myself; I mean, these guys pack scalpels!). And I made it through the two-hour talk and their anger without losing my composure or my sense of humor (thank god for that sense of humor).

Now I’m sitting in the airport waiting for my flight home and find myself tearing up. Not because the doctors were mean or cruel — they weren’t — but because of how much distance there is between  reality and perception, how much anger is out there, how too many people rely only on anecdotes and commentary instead of facts to develop opinions, and how scary it is to look at where we are and where we need to be — and realize that, more and more, it is unlikely we will ever get there given the rhetoric and anger in this country.

The doctors this morning, most of whom have been in practice … Continue Reading

ACA Affordable Care Act health insurance healthcare costs healthcare reform healthcare system; malpractice insurance Obamacare patient-centered care patient-centered healthcare Uncategorized

Welcome to the Roller Coaster Ride of the Affordable Care Act

I’m behind in the blog, I admit it. Last week I was planning a blog on all the good news about the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including the 10 million people who signed up; the lower-than-expected premiums; the lower-than-anticipated medical inflation predicted for the coming year, the result of which is due, at least in part, to the ACA.

Then came the ruling from a federal circuit court that the government could not provide subsidies for people to buy health insurance in states that did not set up their own exchanges. The ruling comes from a couple of sentences in the huge bill (about 900 pages) that states that the subsidies are available for people who sign up through state exchanges. Of course, that was when we thought the states would all set up their own exchanges (since the feds were paying for it).

How naïve were we?

Today, just 16 states and the District of Columbia run their own exchanges, with residents of the remaining 34 states buying insurance through the federal exchange. That means that about 5 million people who bought health insurance on the federal exchange and received subsidies may find themselves back where they started – … Continue Reading

ACA Affordable Care Act Obamacare

Help! I’ve Lost My Insurance and I Can’t Get Up!

indexThe serendipity of the universe never ceases to amaze me. A couple of days ago I gave the keynote speech on healthcare reform at the Texas Medical Association’s CME Association’s annual meeting in Austin. A physician in the audience brought up an issue that was trumpeted in the press when the health care exchanges rolled out for open enrollment; namely, that people had lost their insurance and couldn’t see their doctors. I knew that a very small minority of people had actually “lost” their insurance, and that, in most cases, that insurance provided pretty bad coverage at fairly high prices. But I didn’t want to get into it with him, so I just agreed that yes, the Affordable Care Act certainly has flaws, then moved on to the next question.

If only I’d checked the news before my talk. I could have told him about a Kaiser Family Foundation survey of non-group enrollees (ie, they don’t have employer-provided insurance and bought their own insurance, most on the Exchanges). Among the findings:

About  two-thirds of those with non-group coverage are now in ACA-compliant plans, while three in 10 have coverage they purchased before … Continue Reading

ACA Affordable Care Act health insurance health insurance exchanges healthcare costs healthcare reform healthcare system; Obamacare Obamacare