Category: Health Alerts

Obamacare’s Individual Mandate Very Inefficient

Healthcaredotgov(A version of this Health Alert was published by Forbes.)

Next Tuesday afternoon, I am scheduled to testify before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee on Obamacare’s individual mandate that almost all Americans maintain health insurance.

This is Obamacare’s least popular feature. It was the subject of the 2012 lawsuit asserting Obamacare was unconstitutional: Never before had the federal government forced any resident to buy a good or service from a private business. The people lost that argument. Nevertheless, Republicans have pledged to eliminate the individual mandate. This commitment remains good politics. However, it is also good economics.

Advice to Trump: Leave Medicare Drug Prices to the Free Market

President-elect Donald Trump has bashed drug prices on numerous occasions. During his campaign, he championed the idea of having the government directly negotiate the price of Medicare drugs for Part D drug plans. Trump seemingly dropped the idea later in his campaign only to resurrect it again mid-January. Many Democrats also believe the government could secure a lower price for the drugs Medicare reimburses on seniors’ behalf. However, Republicans have long opposed the idea of government meddling in private markets and codified a non-interference clause in the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003.

Veterans Deserve Better Health Care

man-in-wheelchair(A version of this Health Alert was syndicated by the Tribune News Service.)

President-elect Trump has nominated David Shulkin, MD, to be the next Secretary of Veterans Affairs. In 2015, Doctor Shulkin was nominated by President Obama to be Under Secretary of Health in the VA (the position he currently holds). It is an interesting choice, not only because Mr. Trump is calling on an Obama appointee to take the top job in the VA, but also because it recognizes veterans’ health care is the major pain point in the department.

Congress Should Take Steps to Make Drugs More Affordable

gencompAs Republicans squabble about how to repeal & replace Obamacare, lost in the debate is the way most Americans actually access our health care system. In any given year, most people don’t ride in the back of an ambulance heading to the ER. Nor do they convalesce in a hospital bed. Most of the medical care Americans receive is not even provided in doctors’ offices. The most common way Americans access our health care system is by taking a pill.

Questions On Medicare For Dr. Tom Price, Our Next Health Secretary

220px-Tom_Price(A version of this Health Alert was published by Forbes.)

It looks like Tom Price, MD, Donald Trump’s nominee for U.S Secretary of Health & Human Services will get his first Senate confirmation hearing on January 18. According to Morning Consult, Democratic Senators are planning to focus on Price’s support for turning Medicare into a system of “premium support.”

Fair enough: It will be a relief from all the arguments and counter-arguments about whether “repealing and replacing” Obamacare means “repeal and delay,” “repeal and de-regulate,” or “delay and delay” (as advocated by some who fear Republican politicians will repeal Obamacare immediately and never get around to a replacement bill.)

Obamacare Repeal Has Begun For Small Firms

Businessman Sitting at His Desk(A version of this Health Alert was published by Forbes.)

My previous Health Alert suggested the 21st Century Cures Act, which President Obama signed on December 13 demonstrated Republicans can lead on health reform. Promoted as a pro-innovation bill, the new law will improve the Food and Drug Administration’s regulatory processes; as well as fund Vice-President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot, the National Institutes of Health, and steps to reduce the opioid epidemic.

However, the final version of the bill also included an important payment reform, which takes a small but significant bite out of Obamacare. Tacked onto the end of the bill, section 18001of the 21st Century Cures Act expands the use of Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs) by small businesses. This is a win for small businesses which were harmed by Obamacare. Indeed, given the overwhelming bipartisan support for the 21st Century Cures Act, section 18001 could be defined as Democrat politicians’ first real step towards conceding Obamacare needs to be repealed and replaced.

The Health Care Costs Quandary: What Can Be Done About It?

yuI recently attended a roundtable discussion that included Human Resource (HR) executives, chief financial officers (CFOs), benefits brokers, consultants and providers who discussed ways self-insured employer plans can lower their health care costs. The meeting was hosted by a state-of-the-art hospital that is part of a small chain of medical facilities, including emergency rooms, imagine, clinics, orthopedic hospitals.

Obama Just Partially Repealed Obamacare, Proving Republicans Can Succeed

Upton(A version of this Health Alert was published by Forbes.)

Since the election, there has been a lot of sturm und drang around what the alternative to Obamacare will look like. It looks like we can be highly confident the Republican-majority Congress will repeal Obamacare very quickly starting in January. However, there is some question about what exactly will be repealed.

Last year’s repeal bill, H.R. 3762, repealed Obamacare’s spending and taxes, but not its over regulation of health insurance. Further, Republican politicians have promised not only to repeal Obamacare, but replace it with a better payment system than existed previously. People’s primary concern about the previous system was that people in the individual market could be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions or charged higher premiums as a result of underwriting.

Politically, it would not be possible for Republicans to walk back from this commitment. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s November tracking poll:

Among those who want to see the ACA repealed, 38 percent (meaning 10 percent of the public overall) change their opinion after hearing the argument made by proponents that repealing the ACA would mean that insurance companies would be able to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.

Trump voters react similarly, with a larger share changing their opinion after hearing that repealing the ACA would mean that insurance companies would be able to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions (27 percent) than changing their opinion after hearing that more than 20 million Americans could lose their coverage (8 percent).

The economics of health insurance make this very difficult to achieve without some sort of mandate or penalty for not maintaining coverage, which is politically unpopular – and especially toxic to Republicans. This poses a challenge; and we all know Republican politicians have promised to solve this for six years without result. Fortunately, we also have recent evidence that Republicans can lead and succeed on complex health reform legislation.

Repealing Obamacare Demands Deliberate & Thoughtful Process

index1The next Congress is likely to repeal Obamacare by “reconciliation,” a parliamentary maneuver that allows a simple majority in the U.S. Senate to pass a bill. With fewer than 60 Republican Senators in the next Congress, reconciliation is the only way to move quickly to solve the problems Obamacare created. Otherwise, we could expect Democratic Senators to filibuster a repeal bill.

However, not every jot and tittle of Obamacare can be repealed through reconciliation, which sets up a challenging couple of years (at least) for those who wish to repeal Obamacare and replace it with patient-centered health care.

Read this entire Health Alert in The Hill.

Obamacare IS Socialized Medicine!

Caduceus with First-aid KitHave you ever stopped and considered why the government wants you to have health insurance? The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was supposedly designed to make health care affordable for millions of individuals who could otherwise not afford health coverage or would choose not to enroll due to costs. Worse yet, the ACA was designed to make medical care “affordable” for many individuals by foisting the costs on others who are not at risk of health problems. Obamacare was premised on the idea that benefits one person would never expect to use should be subsidized for others who may need them. That is the very definition of socialized medicine!