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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Amending the 2010 Health Care Reforms Checklist

Suggestions for Amending the 2010 Health Care Reforms
Now that the teeth gnashing is on-going over proposed changes to the health care reforms of 2010, this article addresses some areas for potential modifications. If any of you are under the delusion that everything will be repealed, wake-up, because the Medicare changes are essential to management of that costly federal entitlement program. I am speaking of the pay-for-performance initiatives where Medicare (Center for Medicare Services) pays more money to organizations which have fewer medical errors and re-admissions for patient procedures. I am referring to the Accountable Care Act will have a major impact on how medical care is organized, models for disease interventions, and the reporting of performance metrics(I wrote about this last fall). So, that stays, but the rest of this article addresses some of the things that could go or at least be modified.
Federal Insurance Purchasing Subsidies for Mandated Health Insurance
A few months ago I did an analysis of the federal insurance purchasing subsidies for the middle-class under the Health Care Affordability Act and it was pretty eye opening. Based on World Bank data the mean income in the United States is $47,240, which is the average income per person using 2009 Gross Nation Income data . Using this average income as a starting point, what kind of a subsidy would someone receive in 2014, when the insurance exchanges are in place and medical insurance is mandated? Families with seven or more children and incomes equal to 133% of the federal poverty rate will receive a federal subsidy equal to 97% of the insurance premiums. This seems fair to me, as that is a modest income for a huge family. However, the federal subsidies also are slated to provide assistance to folks who fall within 400% of the federal poverty level, which can be a very decent income. For example, someone who is single and earns $54,120 is eligible to receive 90.5% of their insurance premium paid for by the federal government. First of all if you are single and have that much income you ought to be able to scrape by. Secondly, this income is higher than most of the world averages and higher than the USA’s average per capita. But it gets worse, based on the 400% of Federal Poverty Level criteria people who earn up to $185,160 are eligible to receive the same federal subsidy if they have at least eight children. Now, I think by anyone’s standards someone with that income, which falls into the top 10% of all incomes in the country, is not poor. I can see giving a subsidy to a family of four with the $54,120 income or even higher, but not over $100,000!
Budget Saving Suggestion
Here is my suggestion, only provide medical insurance subsidies to people who earn up to 150% of the mean national income, which equates to $71,131 and is roughly equivalent to $73,835 for a large family in the federal poverty criteria. For people who want tax subsidies for families earning over $100,000 I say start eating beans or tuna noodle casserole, which I ate a-lot-of as a child.
Possible Places for Federal Budget Cuts
For crying out loud, it would be nice if both parties could focus on the real apocalyptic events for the country, such as the fiscal meltdown from a strong country with reserves to the largest national debt in history in eight short years. The real concern should be reducing the national debt by cutting spending so the country will have to do less begging for financing from China and other creditors. According to the non-profit Kaiser Foundation, 40% of the entire 2010 federal budget was for defense spending. To decrease that by 50%, just cut the discretionary defense spending budget which equals nearly 20% of the entire federal budget, and we can get the country back in fiscal shape in no time. The country needs to find a way to pay for its existing programs, like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security and reducing spending on other ones is required.
Of course the Medicare expenses are of concern and the changes to the program in 2010 are a start towards reworking that care model. The USA will move to a Medicare model which provides services for the treatments that are most effective and hopefully pays the physicians a decent fee. There is still much to be done on aligning clinical reimbursement in both the Medicare and Medicaid programs. The latter is very onerous, because the federal government dictates Medicaid benefits but provides grossly uneven support to the states which are charged with administering the program.
Focus on the Real Issues which have significant Cost/Benefit Ratios
It would be nice if the Democrats would quit focusing on who-is-shagging-who or what someone’s sexual orientation is, because I really don’t want them to tell me about it. As long as it isn’t a crime (certain southern states excepted) I don’t need to hear about it and this goes for anyone’s sexual persuasion, I don’t care to hear about your predilections. I prefer to focus on issues we have in common, such as education, health care, and oh, not-going-into-the-poor-house as a nation. Don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t care is where I am at in this tired issue.
Republicans, I am tired of having abortion as such a divisive issue and I question whether the paltry amount of federal money that is actually spent on abortions for Medicaid women who have been raped (one of the criteria) is the real problem. What would it take to make you folks quit yapping about this issue, a total ban on federal money? The big stink made about offering birth control options, not just abortion in the federal insurance exchanges far exceeds the estimated $1 cost-per-head factor for this provision. Although I think it is immoral to prevent poor women from seeking birth control options which are legal, I believe the rational and generous people of this country will rise to their aid through contributions to Planned Parenthood and women's health organizations. Of course I know the right wingers will still flail away state-by-state (I reported on this in a July article for an east coast distribution and in my November blog about state appeals to the health care reform mandates) attempting to demonize women who seek medical procedures for which they do not agree. We can at least aspire to have a more effective and civilized national conversation about resource allocations.
Current focus on re-defining rape is actually part of the Republican Agenda in Congress
It would be nice if the vagina control police would spend less time defining what constitutes the a rape of a female, thereby qualifying her for federal funding for an abortion under the tan-your-Hyde Amendment, and focus on delivering cost effective primary care to everyone. The discussions on whether drug or alcohol induced sex with an incapacitated female constitute rape are too prurient for this voter. To say nothing of the “men's room chats” about redefining what is considered incest in the case of sexual intercourse. In other words if your uncle coerces his thirteen-year-old-niece to have sex with him and she gets pregnant that may not be considered rape unless other physical violence was involved (barring rape or incest the girl would not be eligible for a federally paid abortion). Also, since when are thirteen year-old girls women? The marginalizing of women in America is in full force, what is next, wearing burkas?

This article was written by Roberta E. Winter, MHA, MPA a health policy analyst and independent journalist and may be reprinted with her permission.

1 comment:

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