Tag: "Medicaid"

Louisiana Shows Coverage Does Not Equal Access

T2Readers know I disagree with using measurements of “coverage” as proxies for access to medical care. New data from the Louisiana Department of Health, which cheers the expansion of Medicaid dependency in the state, shows (unwittingly) exactly why.

Healthy Louisiana’s Dashboard shows 402,557 adults became dependent on Medicaid as a result of Obamacare’s expansion. The Department notes benefits for some sick people. For example, screening resulted in 74 people being diagnosed with breast cancer and 64 diagnosed with colon cancer.

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The Dashboard stops there, not telling us how those newly diagnosed were treated. (Medicaid patients often receive treatment later than privately insured.) However, there is another, likely bigger problem.

Medicare, Medicaid, Veterans Health At High Risk For Fraud, Waste, Abuse

InsFormSmallThe Government Accountability Office (GAO) has published its biennial update of federal programs “that it identifies as high risk due to their greater vulnerabilities to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement…”

Healthcare programs feature high on the list. Medicare, the entitlement program for seniors, and Medicaid, the joint state federal welfare program for low-income households, are longstanding members of the list; and the GAO notes that legislation will be required to fix them: “We designated Medicare as a high-risk program in 1990 due to its size, complexity, and susceptibility to mismanagement and improper payments.” “We designated Medicaid as a high-risk program in 2003 due to its size, growth, diversity of programs, and concerns about the adequacy of fiscal oversight.”

So, that would be 27 years for Medicare and 14 years for Medicaid. Seen any progress?

Health Spending & Prices to Rise Through 2025

Actuaries at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, a government agency, have just updated their estimate of future health spending:

For 2018 and beyond, both Medicare and Medicaid expenditures are projected to grow faster than in the 2016–17 period, and more rapidly than private health insurance spending, for several reasons. First, growth in the use of Medicare services is expected to increase from its recent historical lows (though still remain below longer-term averages). Second, the Medicaid population mix is projected to trend more toward somewhat older, sicker, and therefore costlier beneficiaries. Third, baby boomers will continue to age into Medicare, with some of them dropping private health insurance as a result. And finally, growth in the demand for health care for those with private coverage is projected to slow as the relative price of health care—the difference between medical prices and economywide prices—is expected to begin gradually increasing in 2018 and as income growth slows in the later years of the projection period.

Republican Medicaid Reform Would Save $110 Billion to $150 Billion in 5 Years

money-rollsArguably more important than repealing and replacing Obamacare, a longstanding Republican proposal to change how Congress finances Medicaid would reduce the burden on taxpayers by $110 billion to $150 billion over five years, according to a new analysis by consultants at Avalere.

Currently, state spending on Medicaid is out of control because Medicaid’s traditional funding formula incentivizes the political class to overspend. For every dollar a state politician spends on Medicaid, the federal government pitches in at least one dollar via the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP). This actually rewards states for making more residents dependent on Medicaid.

American Health Insurance Is Upside Down

Writing in The Week, Ryan Cooper shares a chilling story about an Obamacare Gold-level health insurance policy that let its beneficiary down when he needed it most:

Stewart is 29 years old, and was pursuing his Ph.D in American history at Texas Christian University until ill health forced him to withdraw. He lives in Ft. Worth, Texas, with his wife of six years, who is a junior high school teacher in a low-income district. They own their home. Before he came down with complications from cirrhosis caused by autoimmune hepatitis, he says he led a scrupulously healthy lifestyle — he does not drink or do any other non-medical drugs, he says, and was a devoted hiker before disaster struck. And he was insured — indeed, he had a gold plan from the ObamaCare exchanges, the second-best level of plan that you can get.

But now he faces imminent bankruptcy and possibly death.

(Ryan Cooper, “This is How American Health Care Kills People,” The Week, January 14, 2017.)

What Will TrumpCare Look Like?

Five people waiting in waiting roomPresident-elect Donald Trump made repealing Obamacare the cornerstone of his campaign. Now that he has won, his future administration is faced with the daunting task of unraveling nearly seven years of Obamacare.  It will not be easy. The most pressing goal should be to replace all the costly provisions in Obamacare with the consumer-friendly health plans most Americans prefer. In the process, reformers must change the way medical care is financed so that consumers have control over their health care dollars as well as the means to pay for medical care over their lifetimes.

Should Medicaid Pay Family Members to Care for Disabled Patients?

care-home_2063592bWe now take a break from discussion of the Trump transition (to which we will surely return), to bring up a very delicate subject: How to ensure severely disabled patients do not become victims.

What politician could ignore the pleas of families caring for disabled members, asking for some help with the burden they carry? Unfortunately, government funding this type of personal care cannot deter significant unintended consequences.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has designated 16 programs as “high error” which means money goes offside due to fraud, waste, and abuse. Medicaid, the joint state-federal program that subsidizes medical services for low-income people, ranks highly on the list. $29.1 billion, or almost ten percent of the $297.7 billion federal contribution is considered by the U.S. government to be paid “improperly.”

The Department of Justice under President Obama has had significant success tracking down and charging those who bill Medicaid and Medicare falsely. However, there is an even worse type of abuse happening in Medicaid: Actual physical abuse of the most vulnerable patients in the system. This often goes hand-in-hand with financial fraud in the area of personal-care services.

Medicaid Expansion Also Expands ER Use

A new report in the New England Journal of Medicine found that Medicaid expansion in Oregon actually increased use of the emergency room (ER) by people newly covered by Medicaid. Policy experts had expected ER use to fall as people gained coverage and could have a usual source of care, such as a primary care physician.  Within the first 15 months after gaining coverage, ER use spiked by about 40%, and remained high for subsequent years. It did not appear the people using the emergency room were necessarily substituting ER visits for primary care physicians (PCP) visits. Rather, PCP visits and ER visits appeared to be complementary.

Mercatus senior research fellow Brian Blase covers the implications in much more detail at Forbes. Blase points out that the value of Medicaid benefits is less than the cost, enrollees are misusing their benefits (ER visits when primary care would suffice). ER overuse makes it harder for those truly in need of emergency care to be seen in a timely manner. It is also arguably why the cost of  Medicaid expansion is far above initial projections.

 

More Than One In Five Americans “Churn” Through Health Coverage Within A Year

Census2The U.S. Census Bureau has just released the Current Population Report’s Health Insurance Coverage in The United States, 2015. This report sits alongside the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health Interview Survey as a critical source of understanding changes in health insurance in recent years.

The report discusses coverage during the three years from 2013 through 2015, so it does not reveal the large increase in employer-based coverage since the great recession. During this shorter period, there was an insignificant gain in employer-based coverage, and a large increase in persons dependent on Medicaid, the joint state-federal welfare program that provides health benefits to low-income residents. The number of people dependent on Medicaid for at least part of the year increased from 55 million in 2013 to 62 million in 2015. (Almost the entire increase took place in 2014, Obamacare’s first year of implementation.)

Arkansas’ “Private” Medicaid Expansion Improved Access to Care (At A Very High Price)

doctor-mom-and-sonArkansas has a love-hate relationship with Obamacare. The previous (Democratic) governor, Mike Beebe, made a deal to accept Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion but with an interesting twist. Obamacare significantly increased the number of Americans who could become dependent on Medicaid by increasing the income cut-off for eligibility. Many governors rejected the federal funds offered to expand this welfare dependency.

Governor Beebe took the money, but instead of using it to expand Medicaid for the newly eligible, he used it to subsidize beneficiaries’ purchase of private plans in Obamacare’s health insurance exchange. His successor, Republican Asa Hutchinson, and the Republican-majority legislature, decided to continue the program.

According to new research published by the University of Pennsylvania, this “private option” yielded dramatically improved access to care. In a “secret shopper” survey, callers identifying themselves as dependents on traditional Medicaid were able to make appointments with primary-care physicians in 55.5 percent of attempts. Medicaid dependents enrolled in exchange plans got appointments 83.2 percent of the time.