Health Policy News and Views
Compiled by Benita M. Dodd
Coverage doesn’t mean care: Jonathan Ingram, Illinois Policy Institute Senior Fellow, recalls in his blog that in 2010, medical researchers at the University of California analyzed a decade of emergency room visit data provided by the National Center for Health Statistics. ” They found that Medicaid patients were seven times as likely as privately insured patients to use emergency rooms for preventable conditions. In fact, Medicaid patients were nearly three times as likely as the uninsured to use emergency rooms for preventable conditions. During that decade, the odds of using emergency rooms for preventable conditions went down by 10 to 15 percent for both privately insured and uninsured patients, but went up by more than 25 percent for Medicaid patients.
More important, Ingram notes: “The simple fact is that expanding Medicaid eligibility won’t reduce unnecessary emergency room visits. It will simply overload a system already on the brink of collapse.”
The Left’s cost-benefit analysis: Apparently, healthy young adults shouldn’t gripe about how ObamaCare premiums will be higher for them. The Center for American Progress’ argument is that, “with increased premiums come far greater benefits and security. It is misleading to compare the cost of premiums before and after the Affordable Care Act. The value of the insurance that is available to purchase post-Affordable Care Act is as distant to prereform coverage as the self-powered Flintstone mobile is to a modern hybrid vehicle. Those concerned about the prospect of young people lacking access to affordable health care coverage should focus on Medicaid expansion instead of the risk of higher premiums in the nongroup market.”
Chalk it up to ObamaCare: Professor Clint Benjamin teaches English part-time at the Community College of Allegheny County in Pennsylvania, according to a November report in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Like fast-food workers, hotel employees and other service economy workers in industries that rely heavily on part-time labor, Benjamin and many professors like him are on the losing end of the Health Insurance Tax that is at the heart of the Affordable Care Act. The college is slashing the credit hours that part-time faculty may teach and cutting the hours of the school’s other part-time staffers to get them below the 30-hour weekly minimum standard that the ACA uses to define a “full time” worker. An employee working more than 30 hours at an institution the size of a public college will become eligible for the ACA’s health insurance mandate starting in 2014. Source: Job Creators Network
Is the FDA harmful to your health? American Enterprise Institute Fellow Dr. Scott Gottlieb and Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow Peter Huber recently debated Dr. Jerry Avorn, a Harvard Medical School Professor and Dr. David R. Challoner, vice president emeritus for health affairs at the University of Florida. Before the debate, just 24 percent of the audience agreed that the Food and Drug Administration’s caution is hazardous to Americans’ health, while 32 percent disagreed and 44 percent were undecided. Gottlieb and Huber won the debate: At the end, 53 percent of the audience agreed and 38 percent disagreed. Listen to the NPR debate here: http://tinyurl.com/n3wcgvb.
Cell Stem Cell news: Researchers from the University of California at San Francisco grew functioning human thymus tissue using stem cells and growth factors. Thymus tissue plays an important role in the immune system by fostering the growth of T cells. The tissue, grown in mice, may someday offer new treatment options for human patients with type-1 diabetes, as well as other autoimmune and immunodeficiency diseases. The technique has potential applications in the transplantation of stem cells, tissue and organs, according to the study in the journal Cell Stem Cell. My reaction: There’s a journal Cell Stem Cell?! MedicalDaily.com
Signs of the times I: Ask owners of Olive Garden and Denny’s chains about the backlash after speaking up about the costs of ObamaCare. Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus writes in the Christian Science Monitor about the backlash against small-business owners in what has “the marks of a professional operation:” telephone banks and e-mail campaigns that erupt moments after a business leader speaks out, all focused on pressuring the exact people who can effectively slap the offender down. Mike Ruffer is the most recent victim after he spoke out about President Obama’s agenda. Ruffer, who owns eight Five Guys burger franchises in North Carolina, is in the same tough spot most job creators are today: stuck in the limbo of uncertainty about the future of ObamaCare. Ruffer told an audience at the Heritage Foundation in Washington that he had to cancel expansion plans and may raise burger prices. Passing the cost to customers risks pricing his products beyond perceived value, so he will have to cut his expenses: employees, investments in new locations and more. When Ruffer’s comments hit the Internet, calls and emails from ObamaCare supporters rained into executives at Five Guys headquarters – Ruffer’s bosses. Social media started to turn against the popular brand, and progressive bloggers filed the first wave of negative stories. Within hours, corporate headquarters was distancing themselves from Ruffer, stating that his views did not reflect the corporate position. And Marcus points out: CEOs say they see disturbing parallels in the IRS and Department of Justice scandals, where the administration pursued political opponents and the press.
Signs of the times II: The IRS is the subject of a class action lawsuit alleging that it improperly seized more than 60 million medical records of more than 10 million Americans, according to the Courthouse News Service. A “John Doe Company” complaint alleges that 15 IRS agents seized the records, which were outside of the scope of the agents’ search warrant. “No search warrant authorized the seizure of these records; no subpoena authorized the seizure of these records; none of the 10,000,000 Americans were under any kind of known criminal or civil investigation and their medical records had no relevance whatsoever to the IRS search. IT personnel at the scene, a HIPPA [sic: recte HIPAA] facility warning on the building and the IT portion of the searched premises, and the company executives each warned the IRS agents of these privileged records. The IRS agents ignored and discarded each of these warnings, ignored their own published and public-reliant rules and governing ethical requirements, and ignored the limitations of the court’s search warrant authorization, seizing the records under threat of destroying company property. The records may also contain the medical records of every state judge and court employee in California, and members of the Screen Actors Guild and the Directors Guild, the complaint alleges. The class seeks $25,000 in compensatory damages — per violation per individual — as well as punitive damages for constitutional violations, according to the report. (Might as well get used to it.)
Yes, but … Buried in a report about the Congressional Budget Office’s revised and rosier federal budget deficit projection is this little gem: The total number of Americans who the CBO expects to be newly insured under the Affordable Care Act insurance exchanges or optional Medicaid provision dropped from 27 million to 25 million. “Those 2 million people represent a potential loss of revenue because regulatory changes will now exempt more people and businesses from the law’s penalties for individuals who don’t obtain health coverage and employers that don’t provide it,” Becker’s Hospital Review notes.
Kudos to Robert Bachman, CEO of Emory University Hospital, and Carol Burrell, President and CEO of Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville, Ga., for being named to Becker’s Hospital Review’s list of 100 Leaders of Great Hospitals in America.
Not-so-independent opinion: More than half of physicians in the United States are employed by hospitals, including about 60 percent of family physicians, according to a Medscape report. Their top four complaints? Being bossed around by less educated administrators; not being able to make decisions about staff and personnel; less authority over billing and charge codes; and being forced to use new equipment and technology or wait longer for new equipment.
Autism advantage: Software giant SAP says it will employ hundreds of people with autism globally as software testers and programmers over the next seven years. The company, which has already launched pilot projects in India and Ireland, said the move aimed to find workers “who think differently,” leading to innovation. Source: IndustryWeek.com
High-cost health care: The most expensive hospital in the nation is Bayonne (N.J.) Medical Center, according to a New York Times analysis. The for-profit, privately held hospital billed Medicare the highest amounts in the country for nearly one-quarter of the most common hospital procedures. Bayonne typically charged $99,689 for treating each case of chronic lung disease – five times as much as other hospitals and 17 times as much as Medicare paid in reimbursement.
Transparency tool: On the tails of a recent report detailing wide variances in hospital pricing not explained by geography, insurance giant UnitedHealthcare has announced it will make its myHealthcareCost Estimator tool available to nearly all of its employer-sponsored health plans to compare prices and quality for services from different providers.
Physician salary vs. hospital revenue: On average, a family practice physician sees $1 of compensation for every $10.94 of generated revenue, the widest gap of any specialty. By contrast, for every $5.17 of revenue an orthopedic surgeon brings in, he or she receives $1 in compensation. Find out the ROI for other specialties here: http://tinyurl.com/l7qg92f.
Did you know? Yelp, a popular consumer reviews Web site, was created when co-founder Jeremy Stoppelman needed to find a health care provider.
Quotes of Note
“The federal government is probably the worst entity possible to design an exchange. One of the worst mistakes the federal government makes is the tendency to try to reinvent systems the private sector has already invented. The government has been true to form under the health reform law, completely ignoring private exchanges that are up and running.” – John Goodman
“New predictions claim that 42 percent of Americans will be obese by the year 2030. They say the only way to stop it is for government to step in. Oh, yeah, that will work. When it comes to trimming the fat and tightening your belt, who knows better than the U.S. government?” – Jay Leno