Bernie Sanders revealed his Medicare for all plan, and Republican Senators renewed efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare with a plan (Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson (GCHJ) plan) that will leave tens of millions without health insurance. If it seems like American health care reform continues on the road to nowhere, it's because it does.
After weeks of silence, followed by news of Obamacare sabotage, health care reform policy returns to center stage. Last week,
The Sanders plan is long on moralizing (yes, health care should be a right) and short on concrete ideas to address health care costs. The plan includes all of the usual policy proposals to lower health care costs: administrative simplicity, enhanced negotiating power with prescription drug makers, federal subsidies for health care worker training, incentives for doctors to provide better care, and making rich people and employers pay more of the costs for national health care. The only thing new about the Sanders Medicare for all plan is that now it is official.
The Graham-Cassidy et al plan put out by Republican Senators Bill Cassidy (a doctor), and Lindsey Graham is a lot like other Republican health care reform proposals of late in that it looks to reduce federal funding of health care by replacing current subsidies with smaller block grants. The bill would also reduce the amount of money the federal government gives to states to fund their Medicaid programs. But mostly the bill, if passed, will unabashedly, take health care away from millions who currently have it with no pretense of offering them anything in return. There's more awfulness to read in Cassidy-Graham, but the overarching message is that Americans do not have a right to federally funded health care.
So here we are, again, with two opposing policies on American health care reform. Meanwhile, big pharmaceutical companies continue to introduce drugs approaching or surpassing the half a million-dollar cost mark. Employers persist in maintaining health plans whose costs they cannot manage. Workers' keep on watching health care premiums eat up their small wage increases. Politicians continue to move money around from one powerful health care interest group to another. And Americans continue to fall for the you-can't-put-a-value-on-your-health and the importance of American innovation cons to justify uniquely high-priced American health care.
No Shame In the Health Care Price Game
No one disputes that America has the highest medical care prices in the world. But in typical American fashion, some of us like being at the top of even this list. Defenders of high-cost American health care claim the costs are high because we as a country can afford it, and that that's the price tag for medical and drug innovation. But neither of these claims is necessarily true or right. Tens of millions of Americans cannot afford to pay for health care, and the high price of medical innovation shouldn't go unchallenged.
Last week there was a report about a new cancer drug with a $475,000 price tag. And it seems like just last year we in awe about a new Hepatitis C drugs that cost about $80,000 per patient. Also, just two weeks ago, Texas Medical Center was bragging about its $50 million worth of floodgates protecting it from Hurricane Harvey. Yes, America obviously has a lot of money to invest in medical care, but is it investing it wisely, is the greatest number of people helped by these investments and who gets to make these decisions. Continue Reading...
It’s 2015 and the Republicans have a majority in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. And I, like a lot of people, want to know what they plan to do to the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). Will they try to repeal it? Will they chip away at it by revoking components they especially do not like? Will they sit back and wait for the Supreme Court to gut the law by eliminating most of the subsidies? Will they pass their own version of Obamacare? Or, and it’s a big or, will they just leave it alone.
Well, we don’t have to wait and see what the new majority will do, they are already doing it. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner are going the chip away route. The House recently passed legislation to change the law’s 30-hour workweek threshold to 40-hours. A few other provisions of the bill the Republican leadership plan to change include elimination of the employer and individual mandates. They also want to ditch the medical device tax and the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB).
But how will the newly elected majority’s constituents react to this approach of eliminating only parts of Obamacare. Will that be enough to satisfy their multi-year thirst for absolute repeal of the law? Probably. Survey after survey has shown that while self-identified Republicans and conservatives claim to want to repeal Obamacare they do like some of its provisions. Components of the law they like include covering adult dependents on their parents’ health plan up to age 26 and preventing insurers from denying coverage due to a preexisting condition. Continue Reading...