Checking Up On Health: June 11, 2013

Health Policy News and Views
Compiled by Benita M. Dodd

BenitaDodd2013It’s just not growing on you: Most voters continue to view ObamaCare unfavorably, according to the latest Rasmussen Reports survey. Two out of three expect it to increase the federal budget deficit, six out of 10 expect it to increase health care costs and half expect it to hurt the quality of care. The survey finds that 39 percent of likely U.S. voters hold at least a somewhat favorable opinion of the health care law, while 53 percent view it unfavorably. This includes 16 percent with a very favorable opinion and 38 percent with a very unfavorable one.

Not affordable: An editorial in Investor’s Business Daily points out that the left continues to claim,” as Paul Krugman did not too long ago, that the law ‘will become more popular once ObamaCare goes into effect.’ But its numbers are virtually certain to fall once millions of Americans learn firsthand that all those promises Democrats made – about how it would lower costs and let everyone keep their health plans and doctors – were bogus,” the editorial predicts.

Good news, bad news: Temporary staffing jobs hit a record 2.68 million in May as employers look to lighten the burden of ObamaCare’s regulations and fines for failing to provide full-time workers health coverage. Temp employment grew by 25,600, eclipsing the previous high seen in April 2000. In the past four months, the temp industry has added 99,000 jobs. Temp firms allow employers to stay below that 50-worker threshold and free from ObamaCare’s regulations. Firms above that level who don’t provide health coverage will face a $2,000 per-worker fine (minus 30 workers), so the 50th employee could mean a $40,000 fine under ObamaCare. Employers that do offer health coverage also can face fines, if that coverage doesn’t meet the law’s “affordability” and minimum value tests. In that case, employers will face a $3,000 penalty for each full-time worker who taps ObamaCare subsidies. The temp industry also offers these firms a route to minimize expenses. Consider an employer who needs to hire a full-time worker for a six-month project. If the firm hired this worker directly, it would have to provide health coverage within 90 days of hiring, under ObamaCare rules. Source: Investors.com

No doctors: Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the 20,000-doctor shortage is set to quintuple, Sally Pipes of the Pacific Research Institute writes in Forbes magazine. She also notes that doctors don’t want to deal with Medicaid patients. Medicaid pays about 60 percent as much as private insurance. For many doctors, the costs of treating someone on Medicaid are higher than what the government will pay them. These underpayments have grown worse over time, as cash-strapped states have tried to rein in spending on Medicaid.

Youth has its disadvantages: Four out of five people younger than 30 will face higher premiums than without the Affordable Care Act even with the subsidies many can receive, according to Grace-Marie Turner of the Galen Institute. “The law requires young people to pay more for their health coverage so older people can pay less. A study published this year by the American Academy of Actuaries’ Contingencies magazine found that because of this provision, ‘premiums for younger, healthier individuals could increase by more than 40 percent.’ Young men will pay even more than young women. A former director of the Congressional Budget Office, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, conducted a survey that showed fewer than half of young people will sign up for insurance if premiums rise by 30 percent.”

Devastation: John Goodman does an excellent job of dismantling The New York Times’ claims of devastation to low-income patients in states that don’t embrace Medicaid expansion: “Let’s begin with [Paul] Krugman’s claim that the failure of the states to expand Medicaid will cause 19,000 deaths a year. This number comes from an extrapolation by RAND Corporation researchers of a study by Katherine Baicker and her colleagues finding association, but not causation, between Medicaid enrollment and reduced mortality. What Krugman doesn’t tell his readers is that Baicker was the lead author of a more recent and much more careful study of the issue involving the Oregon Medicaid experiment. That study found no effect of Medicaid (versus uninsurance) on health! Further, the Oregon study is consistent with most of the serious literature on this subject, including a very famous study by the RAND Corporation itself.” Source: Forbes.com

In Brief

A little help: Balch & Bingham LLP has launched the Affordable Care Act Review, a blog authored by members of the firm’s Affordable Care Act Strategists. The ACA Review, located at www.acareview.com, serves as a resource to provide timely information, practical commentary and analysis to the business community.

The federal government has paid $14.6 billion to 295,205 eligible professionals and hospitals as part of the Medicare and Medicaid electronic health record (HER) incentive programs since its inception in 2011, according to a monthly update. This year through April, 1,877 were paid through the program, which gives incentive payments to those that demonstrate “meaningful use of certified EHR technology.” Eligible professionals can receive up to $44,000 over five years. Georgia ranked 10th in the nation for funds received: $392 million. Source: Becker’s Hospital Review

Do you know the difference between Sudden Cardiac Arrest and a heart attack? The Health & Safety Institute (HSI) has published an infographic on Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) and the only way to save a victim’s life, which is prompt CPR and use of an automated external defibrillator (AED). SCA always is fatal without prompt intervention. It also explains that an SCA victim only can survive without CPR and defibrillation for about 10 minutes. Source: EHS Today

Quotes of Note

“If we consider new models, using technology to rethink and redesign health care, costs need not continue to rise. In fact, they could drop, becoming affordable to even the poorest. We need to do for health care what microlending is doing for banking: revolutionize an industry stuck in old ways.” – Muhammad Yunus

“I reckon being ill as one of the great pleasures of life, provided one is not too ill and is not obliged to work till one is better.” – Samuel Butler

“Just because I have a fitness app on my phone doesn’t make me an athlete.” – Dr. Harry Greenspun

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