Despite claims by the Obama administration that the Affordable Care Act will reduce health insurance companies’ spending on overhead, thereby channeling a greater share of consumers’ premium dollars into actual patient care, insurers’ financial filings show the law had no impact on the percentage of insurer expenditures on such things as administration, marketing and profits. That’s the chief finding of a team of researchers, including two prominent physicians on the faculties of the City University of New York’s School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School, in an article published Wednesday in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Health Services. The ACA sets limits on insurers’ overhead, mandating an MLR of at least 80 percent in small-group markets and 85 percent in the large group market. However, the Obama administration changed the traditional yardstick by which the MLR is measured.
In 2010 the giant health insurance company WellPoint created an algorithm that searched its database, located breast cancer patients, and targeted them for cancellation of their policies. A few years earlier Michael Moore’s stunning documentary, “Sicko,” showed an unending list of illnesses that had been used by insurers to refuse to sell people policies, to charge them much more, or to deny payment for “pre-existing conditions.” The public became acutely aware of these harmful, widespread practices and sharply condemned them. So it was not by chance that this insistent popular support resulted in inclusion of a ban on these practices in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that was passed in 2010. The government website explains. “Your insurance company can’t turn you down or charge you more because of your pre-existing health or medical condition like asthma, back pain, diabetes, or cancer. Once you have insurance, they can’t refuse to cover treatment for your pre-existing condition.”
Regardless of how the court rules, the unfortunate reality is that the ACA won’t be able achieve universal coverage. It won’t make care affordable or protect people from medical bankruptcy. Nor will it be able to control costs. The ACA is fundamentally flawed in these respects because, by design, it perpetuates the central role of the private insurance industry and other corporate and for-profit interests (e.g. Big Pharma) in U.S. health care. In contrast, a single-payer system – an improved Medicare for All – would achieve truly universal care, affordability, and effective cost control. It would be simple to administer, saving approximately $400 billion annually by slashing the administrative bloat in our private-insurance-based system. That money would be redirected to clinical care. Copays and deductibles would be eliminated.
According to the plan, low- and middle-income families would pay much less in health care costs if Green Mountain Care was implemented. A family with an income of $50,000 per year, for example, would pay 40% less for health care costs on average under Green Mountain Care. The plan proposes taxing wealthier people’s unearned investment income in order to give a bigger break to low- and middle-income families. It also proposes implementing a graduated payroll tax that requires large employers and businesses with highly unequal salary structures to pay more than smaller and more wage-equitable businesses. The payroll tax takes into account the difference between the top 1% of wages and the bottom half of wages in each company, and lowers the tax rate for companies with more equitable wage structures.
The ability to access quality health care services for the majority of the black population has been largely due to federal government policies and initiatives designed to address long-standing, systemic barriers to medical care for African Americans. As part of the White House’s Black History Month panel co-hosted by the Association for the Study for African American Life and History (ASALH) this past Wednesday, I had an opportunity to elaborate on this history by discussing the significance of the Affordable Care Act and rejection of the Medicaid expansion by southern states within the context of the ongoing struggle for health equity in the U.S. While my research examines the interaction of racial politics with efforts to pass large-scale health reform from the New Deal to the ongoing opposition to the ACA, focusing on this year’s 50th anniversary of the passage of Medicare and Medicaid offered an opportunity to shine light on how important these programs have been in reducing the discrimination and institutional racism that were once hallmarks of American health care.
Over 100 students occupied Day Hall for at least four hours Monday, clashing with administrators as they packed offices and opposed the new $350 annual health fee. Throughout the hours-long Day Hall occupation, students and administrators found themselves in numerous heated confrontations over University policy. The protest — named “#FightTheFee” and organized by the Save the Pass coalition, which previously held protests in support of free first-year Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit bus passes — started slowly in Willard Straight Hall at noon. Before the protest began, several administrators were already at the site. Denise Cassaro, associate director for student leadership, engagement and campus activities, was the event manager for the protest and said she wanted to ensure the “safety” of all students at the protest.
A national physicians group today hailed the reintroduction of a federal bill that would upgrade the Medicare program and swiftly expand it to cover the entire population. The “Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act,” H.R. 676, introduced last night by Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., with 44 other House members, would replace today’s welter of private health insurance companies with a single, streamlined public agency that would pay all medical claims, much like Medicare works for seniors today. Proponents say a Medicare-for-all system, also known as a single-payer system, would vastly simplify how the nation pays for care, improve patient health, restore free choice of physician, eliminate copays and deductibles, and yield substantial savings for individuals, families and the national economy.
During a series of YouTube interviews Thursday, President Obama demonstrated a remarkably laissez-faire attitude toward marijuana legalization experiments in the states. And he signaled strongly that the Obama administration wouldn’t be taking to the hustings to try to beat back legalization efforts, as previous administrations had been wont to do. Indeed. Legalization bills are already popping up in state legislatures around the country, and while it’s unlikely—though not impossible—that any of them will pass this year, 2016 looks to be the break-out year for freeing the weed. One state is going to be the first to legalize it through the legislature, and next year seems reasonable. And the presidential election year is also likely to see successful legalization initiatives in several more.
Proving that its long-planned assault on a women’s right to control their own bodies was too contentious even for some of its own members, the Republican majority in the House on Wednesday night withdrew plans to debate a bill that would have banned nearly all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Citing dissent among some female GOP lawmakers and others who acknowledged that the bill would have turned off women voters. The failure of the bill was characterized by some as a political “embarrassment” for the party which for first time in more than eight years now controls both chambers of Congress. Dana Milbank, at the Washington Post, described the attempt to pass the extreme law as a classic case of “bait and switch,” in which the party tried to ram through a policy it knows is unpopular with a majority of voters, especially women.
Sen. Charles Grassley said nonprofit hospitals could be breaking the law when they sue poor patients over unpaid bills and issued a stern warning to one Missouri hospital that he hopes reverberates nationwide. Citing a ProPublica and NPR report, Grassley, R-Iowa, sent a letter Friday to Heartland Regional Medical Center, a nonprofit hospital in St. Joseph, Missouri, that has seized the wages of thousands of lower income workers who were unable to pay their medical bills. Under federal law, tax-exempt hospitals are supposed to provide care to those who can’t afford it, but the requirements are fairly vague.
Following the President’s State of the Union on January 20, the Green Party US invited several speakers to present a People’s State of the Union. Rather than the charade, manipulative stories and lies told in the President’s SOTU, these speakers hosted by Green Party Presidential Candidate in 2012 Dr. Jill Stein spoke of the realities that people in the US face with falling wages, rising poverty, environmental and racial injustice and more. The people spoke about real solutions to the crises we are facing – solutions that will not be embraced by our corrupt and plutocratic government but that must be demanded and created by an organized and mobilized populace. The theme of the President’s SOTU was inequality. And while some of the solutions he presented sound great, Dr. Stein noted that he waited six years, until he had a Republican Congress that would block them before he proposed them. She urged people not to succumb to his rhetoric.
More than five years after the single-payer system was scrapped from ObamaCare policy debates, just over 50 percent of people say they still support the idea, including one-quarter of Republicans, according to a new poll. The single-payer option – also known as Medicare for all – would create a new, government-run insurance program to replace private coverage. The system, once backed by President Obama, became one of the biggest casualties of the divisive healthcare debates of 2009. The idea remains extremely popular among Democrats, with nearly 80 percent in support, according to the poll, which was shared first with The Hill by the Progressive Change Institute.
So Harper has accomplished his deeper agenda: to destroy our sense that we can do things collectively as a nation… besides fight wars, patrol the Arctic, punish criminals and watch hockey. Take public health care, typically at the top of the list of public programs that Canadians deeply value. All seems pretty quiet on the health care front, currently presided over by Rona Ambrose, who previously held other portfolios of little interest to the Harper Conservatives, like the environment, labour and women. We don’t see much in the way of fireworks over health care these days — no big blow-outs with the premiers, no loud accusations that Stockwell Day and his Reform Party would bring in two-tier medicine.
It’s a complete farce. On the surface, individuals have all these choices, but I can’t really predict what will be best, and the patient can’t either. That’s one of the problems with the fact that all this is privatized. The people who actually have the useful information aren’t in the room. Some patients are frustrated at me, which I understand because I’m the nearest target. Some patients don’t think it’s my fault, but they’re like, “This is what everyone’s talking about?” Some patients are just disgusted at that moment. Some people I talk to about my job have heard about navigators on the news, and if they’re Democrats who buy into the message that this is a first step towards an improved system, they say, “Oh, that’s so great.”
For the past few years, American health insurance companies have been hard at work studying a loophole in the Affordable Care Act—a.k.a. Obamacare—that allows corporations to evade the law’s effort to keep people from going broke when paying for basic medical services. Insurers like UnitedHealthcare have created insurance packages known as “skinny plans” that give employers the ability to peddle strikingly shoddy health insurance to their workers. Existing in a regulatory gap that only applies to large businesses, these insurance plans do not cover basic health necessities like hospitalization or emergency-room care but still allow employers to avoid the largest automatic fine under Obamacare, which, beginning this month, requires large businesses to provide insurance to all full-time employees.