Health Care and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Health Care and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad DayWell, they did it. They came up with the worst possible “replacement” for the Affordable Care Act.

The horrific plan that the House Republicans passed on Thursday threatens not only the health insurance of 24 million people, but those of us lucky enough to have employer-provided health insurance, anyone covered under Medicaid, and anyone who ever dreamed of leaving the security of an employer to start their own business or otherwise follow their dream.

Not only did they throw the baby out with the bathwater, but they buried her 10 feet deep in a remote spot in the Amazon.

In passing this appalling bill, the House Republicans: Confirmed, in no uncertain terms, that access to affordable, quality health care is a privilege, not a right. And it appears that the privilege is primarily available to rich white men. Clarified that they could care less about the people who put them in office, given the fact that fewer than 20% of Americans supported the earlier, less onerous version of the American Health Care Act (AHCA). … Continue Reading

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Wave Goodbye to Your Health Insurance

Wave Goodbye to Your Health InsuranceThis is the third in a series of posts examining various components of the Republican replacement plans for the Affordable Care Act (ACA). 

Republicans Plan to Shred the Affordable Care Act

It’s here. The Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act. Bottom line assessment? If you like the health insurance you have today you can say goodbye to it tomorrow, particularly if that insurance comes thanks to expanded Medicaid programs or a federal subsidy.

Here are the just a few of the highlights of the two proposed bills:

1. Scraps the individual mandate; adds a penalty.

Currently, all Americans are required to have some kind of health insurance or pay a penalty. This ensures that healthy people buy into the system to help offset the costs of sick people, a requirement if you also mandate that insurers cover those with pre-existing conditions without jacking up the price of the insurance.

Under the new plan, you don’t have to have insurance. But if you don’t, and then you try to buy it, the insurer can charge you a 30 … Continue Reading

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Winners and Losers: Assessing the Ramifications of Repealing Obamacare

Winners and Losers: Assessing the Ramifications of Repealing ObamacareAfter voting at least 60 times over the past six years to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ie, Obamacare) only to see their efforts stymied in the Senate, the Republican House is fairly foaming at the mouth at their golden opportunity to reach Nirvana now that they also control the Senate.

Indeed, the Senate passed a budget resolution on January 4 to begin the process, instructing the House to have a repeal bill ready by January 27. You can read how this might work in this excellent article in The New York Times.

There’s just one problem: Despite the six years they’ve spent trying to kill the ACA, the Republicans still have no replacement.

So here’s just a sneak peek at what might happen if they follow through on their threats.

10 Things We Will Lose if We Lose the Affordable Care Act Insurance for more than 20 million Americans. Guaranteed coverage without higher premiums for those with pre-existing conditions. This would affect the 52 million Americans, about a third of all adults, with pre-existing conditions. (There is talk of keeping … Continue Reading

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Dear Donald: Here’s How Health Insurance Works

Dear Donald: Here's How Health Insurance WorksDear Donald (I can call you Donald, right?):

I really appreciate that you think there are certain parts of “Obamacare” worth keeping. Like continuing to be able to cover adult children up to age 26 on your health insurance (I’ve got one of those on our health insurance right now) and ensuring that health insurers can’t discriminate or charge higher premiums based on preexisting conditions.

There’s just one teeny, tiny problem. There is no way to keep the preexisting condition part without also keeping the mandate that everyone has some kind of health insurance.

It might be a little complicated for you, so I’ve done my best to bring it down to a first-grade reading level.

An Analogy for How Health Insurance Works

1) Insurance, any insurance, is based on a risk model. The more people in the risk pool, the less impact the truly risky have on the pool.

Think of it this way. If you put five drops of red food coloring in a swimming pool, there’s no change in color. If you put five drops of red … Continue Reading

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A Letter to a Friend (or, I’m Sorry I Lost My Temper Last Night”)

Sibling RivalrySo I did something last night that I’m not proud of. I got into an argument – complete with raised voices – with a friend. Over health care and the Affordable Care Act (ACA), of course. (Note that he continually called it “Obamacare” in a somewhat sneering tone, which, as those of you who read my blog regularly or know me, know I consider a derogatory term for a very important piece of legislation).

I felt terrible after we left and tossed and turned all night coming up with things I wished I said (not to mention wishing I hadn’t lost my temper).

So I decided to write my friend a letter via this blog.

Dear Friend:

I am really sorry about last night’s discussion, er, argument. I should have remained calmer (I’m blaming it on the martini you made me, which, by the way, was very, very good). So here is a cooler version of responses to some of the points you made.

The government should not be paying for health insurance.

Well, I notice that you are quite … Continue Reading

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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

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The CT Scan Cost HOW Much??

So a couple of months ago I saw my doctor about this chronic pain in my lower right abdomen. I’d had it for about a year, sometimes barely noticeable, sometimes more noticeable, and, being a medical writer, I was certain it was ovarian cancer (don’t ask my why, but I’m convinced that this is the cancer lying in wait for me, even though I have no risk factors. Medical writers are only second to med students in terms of hypochondria).

Anyway, my doctor thought it was probably gynecologic and told me to see my gyn. But he also suggested a CT scan to rule out a kidney infection or stone. Sure, I said, and off I went to radiology.

Long story short, we still don’t know why I have this sometimes pain, but it’s not that bad and I’ll just live with it (until it turns out to be something serious and it kills me [see, I told you medical writers were hypochondriacs]).

But the pain got much worse last week when I received a bill from the radiology center for $778.62. Turns out that’s what I owe after my insurance company paid it’s part of the charge. Here’s how … Continue Reading

Affordable Care Act cost health insurance healthcare costs healthcare reform healthcare system; Obamacare payment

Reigning in the Cost of Health Insurance, or, Why We Can’t Have Granite Countertops on a Laminate Budget

This blog comes to you courtesy of a nasty exchange on Facebook. It started with a posting about the fact that an insurance plan offered through the state exchange did not include the regional children’s hospital in its network.

This is happening around the country as insurers limit provider networks in order to keep premiums within  prescribed limits, whether those limits are mandated by the Affordable Care Act or by the employer paying for the health insurance. And it’s no secret that specialty hospitals like children’s hospitals and teaching hospitals have far higher costs than community hospitals. Reasons include the cost of training medical residents and fellows, the high percentage of Medicaid patients they see as well as the high percentage of uncompensated care they provide, and their mission to do research as well as provide patient care. They do receive additional federal and state funding to compensate — at least partly — for those expenditures, but in this day of shrinking budgets it doesn’t cover it all.

On the other hand, insurers offering policies on the exchanges must keep premiums within a certain limit based on actuarial data in their region. In addition, employers are looking for ways to … Continue Reading

Affordable Care Act cost health insurance healthcare costs healthcare reform high-deductible health plan Obamacare — Fail!

Yes, it’s a mess. No, I’m not talking about 17-year-old’s bedroom (the mounds of laundry on the floor and 15 empty Gatorade bottles on his desk are fodder for another blog) but, of course,, the web site that is the gateway to individual insurance for millions of Americans but which, unfortunately, is working about as well as Congress.

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a pretty big advocate of healthcare reform and, despite its many flaws, the Affordable Care Act. Which is why I feel like curling up in a fetal ball in the recesses of the teenager’s (scary) closet and not coming out until an entire day goes by without a story on NPR about

Unfortunately, I still have to earn a living so the closet is not an option.

So I will face the critics and admit it. Yes, the Obama administration screwed this up in the most humiliating, embarrassing way. Then I will tell them what I tell my kids: Now what?

We can point fingers and whine and moan about how bad things are, or we can focus our energy on fixing the problem. Obviously, since this is the federal government, many heads will … Continue Reading

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