Tag Archives: American Health Care Act

A Straight, No Chaser Approach to Fixing Healthcare

The government may have “moved on” from healthcare, but we the people haven’t. This Straight, No Chaser addresses some very simple fixes for the Affordable Care Act (ACA). For starters, let’s operate under a few assumptions that may or may not be true, based on the recent efforts with the American Health Care Act (AHCA):

  1. The government has come to understand that the American public believes healthcare (or at least access to it) is a right.
  2. The government has come to understand that it must have a role in protecting the interests of the American public regarding how healthcare is delivered.

I also offer a third assumption that the American public would do well to understand about our nation’s healthcare product:

  1. Healthcare in the United States is an industry, not a system. With between $2-3 trillion in commerce being exchanged, the government is not going to bankrupt the insurance, hospital and pharmaceutical industries by putting in place a socialized medicine model (which frankly is not necessary to guarantee universal healthcare). Practically speaking, when speaking of a “uniquely American” solution, a heavy dose of capitalism will come into play for any reform efforts made.

Here are three principles and nine specific suggestions that members on both sides of the aisle (unless acting in a purely ideological manner, meaning either only socialized medicine – government-owned, operated or controlled hospitals, pharmaceutical, and healthcare providers – or no governmental involvement in the business of insurance companies providing health coverage and letting the free markets figure things out) could agree would improve the Affordable Care Act, or more importantly would improve healthcare under any system.

  • Expand the number of participants. The reason to do so is simple: the more individuals that are compelled to participate, the more risk sharing exists, allowing for overall cost reductions because of risk pooling. Options for doing this include the following.
    1. Continue the expansion of Medicaid. Kansas and North Carolina are already primed to become the 32nd and 33rd states to expand Medicaid under the ACA. Before President Trump was elected, Georgia, Idaho, Nebraska and South Dakota were considering Medicaid expansion, and now that the AHCA has been pulled, they will likely revisit consideration.
    2. Eliminate the individual mandate and replace it with a provision by which the government collects a tax in the same way social security and certain other taxes are collected, thus making the individual mandate “invisible.” Furthermore, means test the cost of insurance based on income and your choice of services, instead of by age. Individuals are going to need and use healthcare in the same way that police and public schools are used (Note this is not the same as forcing individuals into using public healthcare and removing choice). If people are going to use it, why not compel everyone to buy into the system? And while you’re at it, once you’ve means tested the cost of insurance based on income, then real consideration can be given to removing the employer mandate.

  • Increase competition. Yes, there is unnecessary waste in the system. Let’s work to bring costs down by embracing the capitalist construct of competition. Here’s a few simple ways how.
    1. Allow for competition by insurance companies across state lines. Competition everywhere will promote lower prices.
    2. Allow for purchase of pharmaceutical products from Canada and wherever quality can be assured.
    3. Provide a “public option.” If it is a bridge too far for the government to influence the costs of healthcare by setting prices directly to insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and hospitals, providing an actual government-run insurance product option in which such price-setting did occur would compete with and compel these entities to fall in line.

  • Drive utilization toward less expensive, more efficient products
    1. Provide transparency in pricing. Have you ever noticed how rare it is for you to have any idea what the cost of services is? How can that make sense? For many forms of care, there are a range of services within the standard of care. Allowing patients to act as informed consumers can serve the purpose of lowering costs without reducing quality.
    2. Allow for bundling of services: Along the same lines as promoting transparency, moving away from separate fees for every individual service, medicine and gauze used and toward charging standard fees for different categories of services can create huge opportunities for savings and efficiencies.
    3. Maintain the “essential services” the “80/20 Rule”. Simply put, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The more preventive and basic (essential) services are utilized, the better health outcomes become and the lower costs end up. The 80/20 rule (aka medical loss ratio) requires insurance companies to use 80 cents of every one of your dollars spent on your medical claims and specific activities meant to improve the quality of healthcare (if and when they don’t, you get a rebate).
    4. Rethink utilization of the emergency department and ambulance services. Millions of ambulance runs each year only represent the equivalent of taxi rides. Utilization of emergency departments occurs without any determination that other components of the healthcare system couldn’t be used, and for approximately thirty years, ERs have operated under an unfunded mandate to provide expensive varieties of the same care that could be rendered in a primary care office. This is a huge problem in that it has continually been shown that approximately 80% of ER visits could be effectively addressed by other healthcare options, and it’s also an issue because ER visits are approximately seven times the cost of using a family practitioner for the same presentation. This represents billions of dollars annually, and it’s also a major contributor to hospital costs representing the primary cause of personal bankruptcies. Just because you’re not paying upfront doesn’t mean you won’t be held responsible later. It’s time to implement some form of selective approval of ambulances and emergency room usage.

If you read back over these three principles and nine suggestions, you may find it shocking that none of these common sense suggestions is fully in place within our healthcare system except for the “80/20 Rule” and the mandate for essential services (both of which were meant to be eliminated under the recently proposed American Health Care Act). Implementing these suggestions brings us closer to coverage for all citizens, increases competition, and promotes quality. Who cares what the plan is called?
Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new book Behind The Curtain: A Peek at Life from within the ER at jeffreysterlingbooks.com, iTunes, Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and wherever books are sold.
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook @ SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
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Straight No Chaser In The News: The Real Costs of the American Health Care Act

This blog strives to provide medical and public health information – not to serve a political agenda or display any other forms of bias. It is not a means of generating income or serving sponsors. It is with that in mind that I ask our tens of thousands of readers and supporters to consider the following five truisms you should think about deeper that the ongoing slogans would have you do. With a Congressional vote coming today, forget what you’ve heard about the American Health Care Act (AHCA) being Obamacare-light (aka Affordable Care Act, ACA). There are monumental differences between the two. This is literally your life (and how you’ll protect it) that is being placed at risk.

  • The price of healthcare is going to continue to go up no matter what. Healthcare is an industry run by corporations, not the government. As such, corporations have a responsibility to their shareholders to generate as much profit as possible. This fact will remain the same under any plan that does not include a government-run consideration such as “Medicaid for all.”
  • The rate of rise of healthcare costs went down under the Affordable Care Act. One of the major goals and accomplishments of the ACA (aka Obamacare) is although costs continued to rise, it did so at the lowest rates in generations – this was by design. Consider this: according to FactCheck.org, during President Bush’s last six years in office, the average family insurance premiums increased 58% ($4,677). During President Obama, premiums went up by 33% ($4,154). Yes, costs went up (a lot), but the rate of rise slowed – and for what it’s worth, it’s amazing that no one ever seems to get much upset at insurance companies and other for-profit entities that actually are behind the increases in cost. The ACA never was insurance. It was an insurance marketplace where insurance companies agreed to provide insurance and compete for your business. You might as well be mad at the government for the cost of fast food. It’s a distraction.

  • A common refrain is “the costs of healthcare will go down!” Well, that’s government cost due to so many people losing their insurance. The cost of healthcare to you individually would skyrocket under the proposed AHCA (American Health Care Act). There are several reasons why. First of all, 24 million of you won’t have insurance, so you’ll be paying cash. Guess what? Cash rates are way higher than the rates charged to insurance companies. Also, those of you who don’t have insurance will be using the emergency rooms a lot. Well, the cost of ER visits is approximately seven times that of a family practice visit for the same presentations, and guess what? The cost of emergency services is one of the many items no longer to be covered under the AHCA. Also, those of you with insurance costs can expect it to skyrocket for two reasons: one, the law specifically eliminates customer protections (those nasty regulations) that fix insurance companies costs. Even if you believe in the free market’s ability to control costs, this is not that model. This will be a (not close to) free-for-all. Here’s one example: the ACA imposed a 3:1 limit on age rating, which restricted insurers from charging the elderly more than what younger citizens paid within the same area. Under the AHCA proposal; the limit will increase to 5:1. This is a huge reason why the AARP and other senior advocacy groups have come out against the AHCA. An AARP commissioned study concluded that for those over age 55 with a $25K annual income, the premium increase would be approximately $3,600/person, and a 64-year-old with the same income would see an increase of $7,000/person. If you’re 64 with an income of just $15K, your premium would cost $8,400 – more than half of your income. This is logic, math and greed. Remember the individual mandate that many seem to hate creates cost averaging. The more young, healthy people compelled to be in the ACA exchanges created a bigger pool to offset the increased costs of the elderly. With no mandate, there’s less money and no risk sharing.
  • The current conversation about healthcare is a nearly trillion-dollar tax cut in disguise (by eliminating the employer mandate), but what you really should be concerned about is the notion that the underlying “new normal” in play is Healthcare Is Not a Right. Folks, 24 million Americans are estimated to lose their insurance. That means many of you will immediately be placed in a situation in which you will have to decide whether to spend your disposable income on food or healthcare (including medicine). It means in many instances, whatever is wrong with you won’t be discovered until you’re in an emergency room and it’s too late, and/or the opportunity for a full recovery won’t be nearly what it would have been with primary care or preventive efforts. As if that’s not enough, the facade of insurance will become the norm. Your “new” AHCA insurance will not cover ER visits, hospitalizations, laboratory services, prescription drugs, maternity and newborn care, pediatric services (oral and vision care), preventive and wellness services, chronic disease management, mental health and substance use disorder services, rehabilitative services and devices. Get ready for personal bankruptcies to go through the roof.

  • There appears to be no airspace being given to the other fundamental healthcare option. As mentioned in the beginning, the narrative presuming that healthcare is not a right. The US stands alone among the civilized world in not providing universal health care. Once upon a time, the current President actually insisted that everyone needed to be covered. Where is the conversation regarding providing insurance or coverage for all in the same way police protection, education (for now) and a safety net for (some of) the most vulnerable? The goal of distraction is invariably to move away from the more important consideration.

As a reminder (or in case you didn’t know), here’s the 11th hour reason there aren’t enough votes within the Republican caucus to carry the vote at this time. President Trump’s final offered deal – a concession to replace the ACA’s mandate that insurance plans provide even a minimal level of “essential” benefits – was deemed not good enough, because the more conservative members (the “Freedom Caucus”) wanted a complete repeal of all ACA regulations, including such things as mandatory coverage for preexisting conditions and the ability to stay on one’s parents’ insurance until age 26. For the record, recent negotiations in an effort to gain passage in the House of Delegates have revised financial projections (by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office) such that if passed, the AHCA is now expected to reduce the deficit by $150 billion over 10 years, a decrease from the $337 billion initially projected, while still forecasting a loss of insurance by 24 million people over a decade.
I really wonder if the population knowingly has empowered the Congress to completely obliterate its interests over whatever the perceived shortcomings of the Affordable Care Act are. I especially wonder if those in power actually believe they will get away with such a consequential redistribution of money to the rich and a complete destruction of the remnants of what passes for a healthcare system in this country.
Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new book Behind The Curtain: A Peek at Life from within the ER at jeffreysterlingbooks.com, iTunes, Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and wherever books are sold.
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
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Straight, No Chaser In The News: The Real Meaning of the American Health Care Act and of Replacing the Affordable Care Act

Here’s the thing. It’s only one view that America bends toward an arc of diversity, inclusion and justice. There is another view – felt to be every bit as compelling to those who just happen to be represented by those who won the last election and control the various branches of government. In this view, personal responsibility and individual freedoms are the compelling freedoms of America, and redistribution of wealth toward the less fortunate is labelled an “entitlement” instead of part of what binds a nation together.

These competing interests have long played out in healthcare. It explains the reason that America has long been the sole major industrialized nation in the entire world that doesn’t provide universal health care and, by a large amount, demonstrates disparities in healthcare largely attributable to one’s financial status.
To say that America is a democracy is to say there are roughly equal parts liberal and conservative forces that can influence policy if and when given the opportunity. However, America is a capitalist nation without a counterbalancing force toward socialism. Historically, part of the social construct of nations with its citizens has been to, at a minimum, provide certain protections equated with socialism, including health, education, welfare and police protection. It is of interest to note that, in our capitalist society, there have always been efforts to further the capitalist experience and privatize these fundamentals. In the example of healthcare, these forces have outweighed the calls from those seeking universal healthcare or consideration of healthcare as a right.

It is in this vein that I view the current conversation on health care. One must appreciate the United States does not have a healthcare system. We have a healthcare industry that represents 1/6th (17%) of the U.S. economy (comparatively, the next largest country spends approximately 11% of it’s gross domestic product on healthcare). Appreciate this point. Of all the corporate “too bigs to fail,” the healthcare industry is especially legitimate. To shrink the healthcare industry by compelling a truly socialist healthcare system (meaning assets are owned and run by the government, complete with cost controls) would drive so many industries out of business, it would crash the economy beyond recognition. Right about now, for those of you who’d state that “healthcare for all” is the “right thing to do,” I should remind you that capitalism has no moral check. It’s governing principle is the so-called “invisible hand,” describing a force in a society in which everyone is pursuing their own individual gains, and in which the sum total of these efforts will generate desired end results across the board.
And so with healthcare, the purely capitalist approach would be to deliver care in total to the markets and the entrepreneurs chasing profits. Theoretically, competition would drive down costs and increase services in order to better attract customers. In this example healthcare outcomes are an offshoot of the industry, not the primary concern of a system.

Let’s look at five defining features of the American Health Care Act. I’ll list some facts first, then provide a bit of commentary.

  1. There will no longer be either a requirement or an entitlement to have health insurance. Of course this means there will no longer be a government-sanctioned entitlement to healthcare for all. If you believe in “personal responsibility,” you applaud this consideration. If you believe in a “social safety net,” not so much. Additionally, many of the taxes in place to fund the ACA would be eliminated.
  2. There will no longer be an employer mandate to provide health insurance. The employer mandate, which required companies with 50 or more full-time workers to offer insurance or pay a tax, will be going away. For many, the first impulse is to ask how employers could be so heartless. For others, the first question involves why employers have to provide insurance anyway. It was established a century ago as a competitive measure by companies, and later it became a requirement with the success of American unions. It just happens to be the case that the same levels of competition for employees and needs to provide benefits no longer exist, and employers are anxious to enjoy greater profits where possible.
  3. The Medicaid expansion created with the Affordable Care Act (aka ACA, Obamacare) will be phased out by 2020. For states having accepted the expansion, this will affect low-income families, pregnant woman, children, the disabled, and those over age 65 with incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty level (about $16,643). In this context, phased out means there will be no new enrollment and anyone allowing a lapse in coverage for more than one month will not be allowed to enroll.
  4. If you have commercial insurance, the so-called essential health benefits established under the ACA will remain. These include maternity care, mental health care and prescription drugs. Beginning 2020, state Medicaid plans would not have to meet this requirement. Additionally, young adults under age 26 will still be able to remain on their parents’ plans and insurance companies will not be able to deny insurance to those with preexisting insurance, given these individuals have preexisting insurance. However, under certain conditions, insurance companies will be allowed to charge up to 30% higher premiums for one year to such individuals.
  5. Financial assistance to help purchase insurance will change significantly from the ACA. The new plan would shift tax credit to those purchasing insurance away from income-based considerations to age-based considerations, even though insurance companies will be allowed to charge the elderly up to five times more for coverage than younger Americans. The net effect of this will be a lot less use of the system. Your insurance card will have a lot less value dollar for dollar compared to what you’ve had historically.

If you are in a rush to declare this bill a failure, it’s because you are of the mindset (in step with the rest of the world) that health care is a right, and insurance is necessary to provide healthcare. Of course, the point is that’s not the objective of those seeking to eliminate the ACA; in fact, the plan retains many, if not most of the programmatic elements of the ACA. It’s not just the ACA that these politicians are looking to eliminate. It’s the idea that healthcare is a right. It’s any notion that the government should financially support an entitlement. It’s the notion that the free market wouldn’t best regulate services and costs. It’s the notion that employers should be forced to provide benefits in this manner. So when the Congressional Budget Office tells you that between 6-10 million less people will be insured than currently are, and there won’t be cost savings to the citizenry, remember: that never was the objective. Remember this, which is perhaps closer to the true motivation of those perpetually inclined to distract you while pursuing truer interests in a stealth manner: the 400 highest-earning households in the country would get an average tax break of $7 million per year under the proposed American Health Care Act.
In the meantime, here’s what is expected to complete “access to care” for all of the newly uninsured.

Feel free to ask your Sterling Medical Advice expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s book Behind The Curtain: A Peek at Life from within the ER at jeffreysterlingbooks.com, iTunes, Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and wherever books are sold.
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
Copyright © 2017 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress