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

 

Bad day in Washington over TrumpcareWell, 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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ACA Affordable Care Act healthcare reform Medicare Obamacare

Yes, Mr. President, Health Care Is Complicated

 

Toothpaste tubeI 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 … Continue Reading

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ACA Affordable Care Act health insurance healthcare reform Obamacare

Replacing the ACA: Selling Across State Lines

A United States map with a stethoscope across it, symbolizing national health care policy and wellness of the population

A cornerstone of every Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including the president’s plan, is to allow health insurance companies to sell their products across state lines. The Republicans claim this will increase competition and drive down costs.

Health policy experts, including the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and the Center for Insurance Policy and Research, say it will do exactly the opposite: Drive up costs and reduce choice, particularly for those with medical conditions.

State Regulations on Health Insurance

First, a bit of background. States regulate all small group and individual health insurance policies through their insurance commissioner, although the federal government sets certain minimum requirements that plans must offer, like the 10 essential benefits required under the ACA.

States can mandate that their licensed insurers add certain benefits, like infertility coverage. They also determine how much older people can be charged for premiums on the individual market and how much money insurers must have available to pay claims.

… Continue Reading

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Replacing the ACA: Will Health Savings Accounts Work?

Desktop with calculator, cash, notepad with the phrase healthcare reform, high-deductible plan, health savings accountsThe problems with high-deductible plans and health savings accounts

Note: I am beginning a series of posts examining various approaches the Republicans are touting as replacements for the ACA. Sorry, but no alternative facts here.

Several years ago (ie, pre-ACA), I needed to buy health insurance on the open market. The cost of an individual policy and the deductible was atmospheric because I had a pre-existing condition. And, of course, the policy didn’t cover costs related to my pre-existing condition.

Luckily, I had just incorporated my business. Since I had two employees (my husband and I) I could get a small business policy. Still expensive but manageable with decent coverage since employer-provided plans can’t discriminate based on pre-existing conditions.

I chose the cheapest plan, which came with a very high deductible. This plan also allowed me to create a health savings account (HSA). Money deposited into an HSA is not subject to federal taxes, grows tax-free, and is not taxed when used for qualified medical expenses (but … Continue Reading

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Winners and Losers: Assessing the Ramifications of Repealing Obamacare

 

Opposing ropes pulling on a doctor stethoscope as a symbol of the US healthcare systemAfter 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, … Continue Reading

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Dear Donald: Here’s How Health Insurance Works

handwritten lettter

Dear 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 … Continue Reading

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The Election and the ACA: Why I’m Sad, and Will Be For A Long Time

Ballot box with national flag on background - United States of America

I’ve been writing this blog on and off for about eight years. And in all that time, I’ve tried to keep it as apolitical as possible. But, at my core, I am a writer. It’s all I’ve ever done for 30 years. And when writers can’t make sense of the world, or don’t know what to do with their feelings, well, they write.

So, spoiler alert, I am devastated by Tuesday night’s results for so many reasons. For an end to women’s reproductive rights. For an end to what I thought was a decent, inclusive country. For an end to a free press. For an end to LGBT rights. For an end to the respect we once had from the rest of the world.

And for the horrific overt racism and homophobia that has been unleashed in this country in just the past few days.

But, since I earn my living as a healthcare writer, the one I’m going to focus on here has to do with the almost-certain death … 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 happy to … Continue Reading

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Affordable Care Act blog health insurance healthcare costs healthcare reform healthcare system; 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

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