Tag Archives: health reform

It’s a Start

In the past I've written extensively about how frustrating our health care and health insurance systems are in the good ol' US of A.  As I see it one of the biggest obstacles to true health care reform in this country is the lack of transparency in the system, or in laymen's terms, the fact that you generally have no idea how bad you're screwed until well after you've received whatever treatment or service for which you visited the doctor.

That's why I was very interested in this piece at the Triad Business Journal's blog:

Passed last week in the waning days of this year's legislative session, the "Health Care Cost Reduction and Transparency Act of 2013" (House Bill 834) will create an online database of what hospitals are paid, on average, for the 100 treatments they perform most frequently. They'll also be reporting their costs for the 20 most common surgical procedures and 20 most common imaging procedures.

Take a case of pneumonia. N.C. consumers will now be able to go online and compare a variety of prices for that treatment. The database will tell them what Medicare pays for the treatment of pneumonia, what Medicaid pays and the average of what the five largest insurers in the state would pay the hospital.

Additionally, the database will offer up what the charge will be for a person with no insurance, and what the average price that the uninsured are able to negotiate with the hospital to pay.

That's a lot more info than is now available to N.C. consumers, though a clearer picture of what health care costs are in the state is still emerging.

This is what NC's attorney general had to say:

N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper, who had advocated for several of the provisions included in the final transparency law,praised its passage.

“We recommend that consumers shop around for a good deal, but our health care system doesn’t make that easy to do,” Cooper said. “Giving consumers straightforward information on what medical services cost and what they owe will help them make better decisions about their health care.”

He's got that right, especially when you're talking about preventive or non-urgent care. Obviously if you're in an emergency situation the last thing you're going to think about is whether or not the hospital nearest to you is the cheapest, but when a consumer has time to think having accurate information is the most valuable tool at his disposal. 

What I hope we see in the very near future is an app on our phones that will be linked to a database of ALL medical procedures from all health systems. And while I'm dreaming I'd love to see our state have more viable health insurance options than the duopoly we currently "enjoy" in North Carolina.

This Can’t Happen

Congress' attempt at health care reform is a big issue right now, and if you watch the news about what our Congresscritters are up to you can surmise that hardly anyone will be happy with the results.  On the other hand most people seem to be holding their breath and hoping that, if nothing else, the changes to the system will at least be an improvement on the status quo.

Whatever the result we need to make sure that situations like this will never arise. From the story:

The financially strapped Jackson Health System has stopped paying for dialysis treatments for 175 poor patients with failing kidneys — a decision that experts say could be deadly.

“It is no game,'' says Emelina García Cordoví, 67, whose treatments at a South Miami-Dade center were cut off Dec. 31. “We are talking of the lives of persons who depend exclusively on their dialysis.''

Jackson, Miami-Dade's government health system intended to be a safety net for the poor and uninsured, said it expects to save $4.2 million by stopping payments for outpatient dialysis treatment for the 175 patients. Of those, other avenues for care have been found for all but 41, says spokesman Robert Alonso. About a third of those are undocumented immigrants, who are not eligible for government programs.

One of Those Health Reform Arguments

One of the arguments I hear about health reform proposals is that it will inevitably lead to socialized medicine and eventually the only people who will get "good" doctors will be those who can afford to pay cash for access to them.  Well I hate to tell you but we've had a "have vs. have not" health system in place here in the US of A for quite a while and I'm pretty sure it's only going to get worse with or without reform.  Check out this piece from a Greensboro blogger (h/t to Ed Cone for the lead):

I recently received a form letter saying that Dr. James Kindl, my physician for the past two decades, is joining MDVIP, "a national network of physicians who focus on personalized preventative healthcare." His letter goes on to say "In order to provide enhanced proactive care, I will be reducing the size of my practice to no more than 600 patients who may join on a first-come, first-served basis."

What his letter doesn't say, and what doesn't become apparent until one goes to his new website and actually tries to sign up for his new practice, is that this members-only service has an annual fee of $1,500, and that this fee only pays for membership; all the usual charges will still apply, billed to your insurance company.

Right now if you don't have health insurance your "safety net" is the emergency room and they must treat you if you show up.  Unfortunately if you have any assets at all the provider will take them in return for services rendered and you'll end up without much to enjoy with your (hopefully) good health.  Of course there are the free clinics but those offer inconsistent care at best.  That's what I mean when I say that we are a nation of haves and have nots with regards to health care. I'm flummoxed by the arguments against reform that say we need to resist "socialized medicine" so we can keep seeing our doctors without interminable waits for service and we can continue to have access to cutting edge medical equipment.

As for the anti-reformers' warning that my taxes will go up with any kind of public option, well I have a hard time believing that the tax burden can be any worse that what my health insurer does to me each year.  Right now my health care burden is about 15% of my gross income and it is only that low because my family has been extraordinarily healthy the last couple of years (knock on wood) and since our premiums tend to rise at a higher annual rate than inflation or my wages then I'm fairly certain that my health care burden will be approaching 20% of my income within a couple of years.

I'm not necessarily arguing for the reforms currently being proposed by Congress, but I'm pleading for the powers that be to do something because we're drowning out here in the real world.  And don't get me started about the impact on small business because we could be here all day.