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Monday, August 30, 2010

Will California be the first State With Exchanges?

California Lawmakers Approve Legislation To Create Health Insurance Exchange.

The Wall Street Journal (8/26, Mathews, subscription required) reports that California lawmakers have passed legislation which allows the creation of a health insurance exchange, or a marketplace, through which millions of residents can purchase coverage. If Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) signs the legislation, as he is expected to, California would be the first state to implement the exchanges which are required by the healthcare law to be operational by 2014. The Journal says that increasing health premium costs spurred the lawmakers to take this action, and notes that, according to experts, about 8.3 million Californians could use this exchange, making it the largest one created by a state.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Individual Health Plans: Rates and Increases

California Senate Approves Bill To Limit Insurance Premium Hikes To Once Yearly.

The AP (8/24) reports, California health insurance providers "would be prohibited from raising their rates more than once a year under" a bill (AB 2042) the state Senate approved yesterday in a 21-13 vote. The bill, which now moves to the Assembly, would "apply to individual healthcare policies, not group plans." Supporters say that the bill would "provide Californians with greater predictability when it comes to their health insurance." Opponents, who include "some of the state's largest health insurers," say breaking up fee increases "throughout the year reduces the financial burden on consumers." If approved, the legislation "would take effect in January."

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

White House Claims About Medicare-"Illusory"?

The Oklahoman (8/11), commenting on Medicare trustees' annual report last week, editorializes that White House "claims" that the report proves "healthcare reform will save money and make Medicare stronger" are "illusory." The paper says that Medicare's chief actuary, Richard Foster, "who deals with the real world," as opposed to the "one inside Washington's Beltway," wrote that "near term, Obamacare relies on 'unsustainable' reductions in reimbursements to healthcare providers." Long-term, "basic assumptions collapse because reductions in price rates for most service categories probably won't be 'viable.'"
ChiTribune: Medicare Projections Are A "Fiscal Fantasyland." The Chicago Tribune (8/11) editorializes that Medicare's "trustees released a new report last week that said...Medicare had 12 more years to live. That is, the Medicare hospital trust fund would run out of money in 2029 instead of 2017," and "Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner declared that 'the outlook for Medicare has improved substantially because of program changes' made by the new law." But, the Tribune calls the projections a "fiscal fantasyland," and says that the "trustees are required by law to appraise Medicare based on certain assumptions." Meanwhile, Medicare's chief actuary, Richard Foster, has said that "those assumptions...'do not represent a reasonable expectation for actual program operations in either the short range...or the long range."

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Premiums Will Go Up with Healthcare Reform!

You can't expect anyone to offer anything for FREE, SOMEONE PAYS FOR IT! Here's report from SFC:

The San Francisco Chronicle (8/9, Colliver) reports, "Employers and consumers sorting through their health insurance options may see a bump in their rates next year to account for the potential impact of some of the early elements of the federal health overhaul law, according to some health experts." The provisions which will take effect this year include ones that "require health plans to cover adult children until age 26, extend coverage to children with pre-existing conditions, end maximum lifetime spending limits, and end the practice of retroactively canceling a member's coverage for any reason other than fraud." Still, "health policy watchers say it's tough to know whether these reforms will have much impact on costs, which routinely outpace increases in wages and inflation."

Monday, August 9, 2010

Medicare Solvency Report Found Too Optimistic

Kaiser Health News /The Fiscal Times (8/6, Andrews) noted that in a new report, Medicare "trustees predicted that the new healthcare law could generate so much better productivity that the Medicare trust fund would stay solvent until 2029 -- 12 years longer than predicted just one year ago," yet the "new estimates offer few clues about where that new efficiency will come from. They are simply based on the fact that the new healthcare law requires that Medicare payments to hospitals and doctors will be adjusted to reflect higher productivity." In fact, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius acknowledged, "The report shows that we have work left to do. ... To achieve the gains projected in this report, we must continue to work hard with our partners across the country to implement the reforms in the Affordable Care Act effectively and on time."
Similarly, CQ HealthBeat (8/7, Reichard, subscription required) reported, "If Thursday's report by the Medicare board of trustees on the program's financial outlook seemed too optimistic, a presentation Friday by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Chief Actuary Richard Foster offered what may be a more realistic assessment." Notably, the "trustees said Thursday that about $575 billion over 10 years in Medicare savings generated by the healthcare overhaul would improve its financial outlook and help extend the solvency of the Medicare hospital trust fund from 2017 to 2029." Yet, "Foster told a forum sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) that none of the experts with whom he has consulted think that the modest yearly payment increases the law provides for hospitals and other providers are realistic."

Friday, August 6, 2010

Administration Reports Reform Good for Medicare-many have strong Doubts!

Several reports on a news conference about how the healthcare reform law will improve Medicare's long-term finances, including articles from the AP and USA Today, offer a distinctly skeptical view of the Administration's projections. None of the network newscasts mentioned the press conference, which featured Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
USA Today (8/6, Wolf), in an article titled, "Medicare Savings Projections In Dispute," says, "Republican critics and even the program's chief actuary say the new prognosis is too rosy. ... 'If you steal over a half-trillion dollars from Medicare to fund another unsustainable entitlement, Medicare won't be better off,' said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)." Richard Foster, chief actuary for CMS, said, "The financial projections shown in this report for Medicare do not represent a reasonable expectation for actual program operations. ... The recession adds a significant further element of uncertainty to the trust fund projections."
The AP (8/6, Ohlemacher, Alonso-Zaldivar) titles its article, "Medicare Fund Will Last Extra 12 Years – Maybe," and says the "annual backers of the new healthcare law evidence of a positive impact on government entitlement programs, but it also undercuts the findings with a host of caveats." The AP says that Foster's statement "amounted to a dissenting opinion."
The Wall Street Journal (8/6, McKinnon, subscription required), in an article titled, "Bullish Medicare Projection Doubted," quotes Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) as saying, "Instead of focusing on the future dates when the trust funds become insolvent-thus deluding itself that the problem is years away -- the Democratic Congress needs to understand that from a cash flow standpoint, the crisis is upon our doorstep."
The New York Times (8/6, Calmes) is not as skeptical of the Administration's findings as other outlets. The Times reports, "Medicare's hospital insurance trust fund should remain solvent until 2029," and "the long-term, 75-year shortfall for the hospital fund also is reduced, as are the projected costs of the separate Medicare Supplementary Insurance program. But both parts of the Medicare system will require additional reforms to be financially sustainable, the trustees say." Bloomberg News (8/6, Armstrong) and Reuters (8/6, Felsenthal, Somerville) also cover the story.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Opponents of Reform Turning to The Courts

White House Likens Lawsuits To Challenges To Civil Rights, Voting Rights Acts. The Hill's Michael O'Brien (8/3), in a blog entry, notes that Stephanie Cutter, "an assistant to President Obama who was brought on board at the White House in part to help sell the signature domestic initiative, dismissed" the ruling. Writing on the White House's official blog, Cutter said, "Having failed in the legislative arena, opponents of reform are now turning to the courts in an attempt to overturn the work of the democratically elected branches of government. This is nothing new. ... We saw this with the Social Security Act, the Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act -- constitutional challenges were brought to all three of these monumental pieces of legislation, and all of those challenges failed. So too will the challenge to health reform."
In an editorial, the Wall Street Journal (8/3, subscription required) argues that the healthcare law is unconstitutional, and derides Cutter's statement as an attempt to intimidate opponents.

Why do Healthcare cost continue to rise?

Did you know: Technology is a key driver of health spending?
No doubt, modern medicine is amazing and helps save lives. As better tests and more expensive equipment and pharmaceuticals emerge and become proven treatment options for many, we can expect to see an increase in the use of these services. As a key driver in health spending, technological advances are accounting for an estimated one-half to two-thirds of spending growth, according to Sarah Goodell and Paul Ginsburg in their publication High and Rising Health Care Costs: Demystifying U.S. Health Care Spending.