Tag Archives: Medicare

You Probably Didn’t Hear About The Most Important Health Care News This Week

Mainstream media is a joke.  This should have been reported just as much as the alleged catastrophic Obamacare website failures…

Think Progress

On Wednesday, the new head of the White House Council of Economic Advisers released a bombshell report finding that U.S. health care spending since 2010 has increased by just 1.3 percent — the smallest cost growth over a three-year period in American history — while prices in the health care sector rose by 50-year lows, thanks in part to structural changes made by the Affordable Care Act. But most media outlets ignored that story, instead choosing to focus on ongoing glitches with the Healthcare.gov website.

According to a ThinkProgress analysis, English-language online and print media published about ten times as many pieces on the troubles with the Obamacare site than they did on the new health care spending report:

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Analysts are divided on the extent to which Obamacare has influenced the remarkable slowdown in health spending since the law was passed in 2010. Most agree that it is likely due to a combination of factors, including less health care consumption in the global financial crisis’ wake, savings from the ACA’s hospital payment reforms, increasing reliance on cheaper generic drugs, and ongoing changes in the medical industry as providers form more efficient and collaborative care models encouraged by Obamacare. It will take years before enough data is available to perform a more precise analysis of Obamacare’s effect on health spending.

Regardless, the record slowdown is one of the most important economic developments of the decade, and has huge ramifications for the fiscal viability of major programs like Medicare and Medicaid. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has already cut its projections for Medicare and Medicaid’s price tag in 2020 by $147 billion — a 10 percent reduction from previous estimates.

That’s significant because those health entitlements are the primary driver of U.S. debt. The CBO’s dire predictions about future debt are based on the assumption that health care costs will continue spiking for the foreseeable future. But now that costs are growing more modestly, the country’s long-term budgetary outlook is improving.

Meanwhile, while Healthcare.gov’s rollout has indeed been disastrous, the site is slowly improving.

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Boehner proves the wrong point…

House Speaker John Boehner attempts to sign up for healthcare on the DC Health Link in Washington, November 21, 2013.   Boehner said on his blog that he was successfully enrolled after help from the DC Health Link help line.

The Rachel Maddow Blog

Thanks to provisions in the Affordable Care Act that Republicans demanded, members of Congress will have to sign up for health care coverage through exchange marketplaces. That’s not really the point of the exchanges – they’re largely intended for the uninsured and small businesses looking to cover their employees – but GOP lawmakers had a political point to make, and this is the result.
With that in mind, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) wrote a blog post yesterday, highlighting his own personal experience when he “sat down to try and enroll in the DC exchange.”
Like many Americans, my experience was pretty frustrating. After putting in my personal information, I received an error message. I was able to work past that, but when I went to actually sign up for coverage, I got this “internal server error” screen. […]
Despite multiple attempts, I was unable to get past that point and sign up for a health plan. We’ve got a call into the help desk. Guess I’ll just have to keep trying…
As it turns out, his willingness to “keep trying” was a good idea. Boehner, who is not yet eligible for Medicare, “called the DC Health Link help line,” and a “few hours later,” the process was complete. He’d signed up for health insurance.
Oddly enough, the Republican House Speaker didn’t offer any details about his new health care plan. One would assume that if he’d experienced “sticker shock,” or been stuck choosing a plan that cost far more than his current coverage, Boehner would have mentioned it. Indeed, he would have been eager to mention it, since it would advance his larger political goals.
So why was Boehner silent on this point? Probably because he was able to save some money on an affordable plan – despite being a 64-year-old chain-smoker.
This was supposed to be a little p.r. stunt, intended to reinforce the Republican message. It’s almost certainly why the Speaker invited a photographer to document him going through the process. And while it’s a shame Boehner was one of many who ran into website trouble, I have to say his experience doesn’t sound that bad – he called a help line, signed up for insurance, and likely saved some money, all over the course of an afternoon.
Are Americans supposed to hear this and think, “Quick, repeal this monstrosity before it crushes another person’s dreams”?

 

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Filed under Affordable Care Act, John Boehner

The Face Of HealthCare.gov Speaks Out, Says She Was Victim Of ‘Cyberbullying’

Health-overhaul-keeping-score

Those who would do this to someone who simply posed for a picture is beyond comprehension.   It illustrates the depth of hatred and division this country has been experiencing for the last six years…

TPM LiveWire

The woman who was once the face of the troubled HealthCare.gov website said she’s been the victim of “cyberbullying” since the Affordable Care Act’s rollout began.

Identified only as “Adriana,” she told ABC News about the insults and jokes that have come her way since Oct. 1, when the website went live and her face greeted scores of visitors.

“They have nothing else to do but hide behind the computer. They’re cyberbullying,” she said. “”I mean, I don’t know why people should hate me because it’s just a photo. I didn’t design the website. I didn’t make it fail, so I don’t think they should have any reasons to hate me.”

The picture was ultimately pulled from the front page, which Adriana called a “relief.”

“They took the picture down. I wanted the picture down, and they wanted the picture down. I don’t think anybody wanted to focus on the picture,” she said.

But a Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson told ABC that the photo was not removed because Adriana requested it.

Married for more than six years with a 21-month old, Adriana reached out to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services to inquire about having photos of her family taken in exchange for permitting their use on the website. She was notified in the summer that her photo be used on the front page.

Calling herself “pure Colombian,” Adriana said she’s lived in the United States for more than six years and is applying for citizenship. Her husband is an American citizen.

 

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Ten days into ‘Obamacare’

This is very good information…

The Maddow Blog

It’s been 10 days since Americans could start signing up for health care coverage through the Affordable Care Act’s exchange marketplaces, and as you’ve probably heard, there have been some technical troubles. And while I don’t doubt it’s been incredibly frustrating for those who’ve struggled with online glitches, let’s not forget that we’ve seen troubles like this before.

Twelve days after Medicare Part D became the law of the land in 2006, the system was “plagued by problems” and “many of the most vulnerable elderly and disabled patients” were unable to get medicine. Several states were forced to pay for temporary supplies of medicine for Medicare patients because the Bush/Cheney administration was falling short on a systemic level.

The same year, Mitt Romney’s health care reforms in Massachusetts — which later served as the blueprint for the Affordable Care Act — started out with all kinds of problems. Stephanie Mencimer reported this week that in the early months, the state system saw “lost paperwork, computer glitches, confusion over who was eligible for what, and not enough staff to handle the workload.” It led to consumers waiting “several months after submitting an application to finally get coverage.”

In other words, “Obamacare” in good company. In time, the kinks plaguing Medicare and Romneycare got worked out and the public was quite pleased with the results, and chances are pretty good that the Affordable Care Act will follow a similar trajectory. Impatience, whether it’s politically motivated or not, is understandable, but judging a new and complex system after 10 days has never been an especially good idea.

What’s more, let’s also not forget that the negative experiences are not universal.

Robyn J. Skrebes of Minneapolis said she was able to sign up for health insurance in about two hours on Monday using the Web site of the state-run insurance exchange in Minnesota, known as MNsure. Ms. Skrebes, who is 32 and uninsured, said she had selected a policy costing $179 a month, before tax credit subsidies, and also had obtained Medicaid coverage for her 2-year-old daughter, Emma.

“I am thrilled,” Ms. Skrebes said, referring to her policy. “It’s affordable, good coverage. And the Web site of the Minnesota exchange was pretty simple to use, pretty straightforward. The language was really clear.”

Why was her experience so much easier? It wasn’t just luck.

The original plan for the Affordable Care Act to rely on state-based exchanges — rather than have one big federal marketplace, Obamacare intended for states to set up their own exchanges, invite insurers to compete, and trouble-shoot as necessary.

Many states did exactly that, but a variety Republican governors balked — to set up a marketplace for consumers, they said, would be cooperate with a law they don’t like. It meant a sweeping federally run exchange for everyone in those states.

It’s created disparate experiences based on where Americans live.

In Washington State, the state-run exchange had a rocky start on Oct. 1, but managed to turn things around quickly by adjusting certain parameters on its Web site to alleviate bottlenecks. By Monday, more than 9,400 people had signed up for coverage. The Washington Health Benefit Exchange does not require users to create an account before browsing plans.

“The site is up and running smoothly,” said Michael Marchand, a spokesman for the Washington exchange. “We’re seeing a lot of use, a lot of people coming to the Web site. If anything, I think it’s increasing.”

Other states reporting a steady stream of enrollments in recent days include California, Connecticut, Kentucky and Rhode Island.

Some states are having more success than others — as Sarah Kliff explained, ease of use and online registrations matter. But I can’t help but wonder how much easier the last 10 days would have been if more Republican governors weren’t intent on keeping their constituents from signing up for the health care benefits they’re entitled to?

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Thursday Blog Roundup – 10/10/2013

Meet the 10 most dangerous terrorists

Announcing Fed Nomination, Obama Praises Yellen

T-Mobile getting rid of international data, texting fees 

Oliver Willis: Inevitable: Fox News Hires Dr. Ben Carson

Paul Ryan adds Medicare and Medicaid to the ransom note

Obama chats up prominent figures from conservative media

John Boehner’s Claims On The Medical Device Tax Explored

Ted Cruz Conducts Own Poll To Show Things Aren’t So Bad For GOP

For Boehner, surrender may be only way out of shutdown and debt-ceiling mess

Obama invites all House Republicans to White House meeting, nearly all decline

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Boehner And McConnell: Our Way Or We Break Medicare

Boehner And McConnell: Our Way Or We Break Medicare

Boehner And McConnell: Our Way Or We Break Medicare

Despicable bullies come to mind when I see how members of Congress will stop at nothing to get their way…

TPM

Your big Obamacare story of the day is that John Boehner and Mitch McConnell won’t recommend commissioners to the Independent Payment Advisory Board — a panel designed to contain Medicare spending — as the law asks them to.

This isn’t a huge surprise given how, er, eager Republicans have been to smooth Obamacare implementation in general. But it’s more revealing, and just as ironic, as their other efforts to break or hinder the law before it takes full effect.

It’s not just that Boehner and McConnell hate Obamacare and it’s not just that they’re hypocrites about spending. What they’re saying with their actions is that if they can’t convert Medicare from a single-payer into a private insurance system, they’d rather the whole thing collapse under its own weight. President Obama’s and Paul Ryan’s Medicare plans both envision budget caps for Medicare — the difference is that Ryan wants to let private insurers enforce it while Obama leaves the task to providers, with IPAB as a backstop. The parties are actually in about the same place fiscally with respect to Medicare, but unless reaching a more sustainable trajectory means privatizing the program, Republicans will try to keep it unsustainable.

Unfortunately for them, the story’s not that simple. The GOP can’t straightforwardly nullify or hobble IPAB by withholding or blocking nominees, the way it can and does with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the National Labor Relations Board. The IPAB can seemingly function with fewer than 15 confirmed members, and even if Senate Republicans filibuster all nominees, the ACA includes a backstop that basically allows the Health and Human Services Secretary to act as a one-woman payment board. So just as states’ rights-loving governors are ceding their sovereignty to the federal government instead of setting up insurance exchanges of their own, Boehner and McConnell are effectively handing power to the executive branch in lieu of doing what the law asks them and maintaining influence over the policy.

Now that may not be a power that the Obama administration wants to exercise. And its not one that’ll necessarily remain in Democratic hands forever. So it’s not a perfect alternative to IPAB. But it’s also not a win-win for Boehner and McConnell. The GOP base might appreciate it, but it’s probably counter to their substantive interests.

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Filed under Budget Cuts, Medicare, Obamacare

VIDEO: The Devastating Impact From Sequestration As Told By Local News

In case you haven’t heard how the sequester has impacted other areas of the country…

Think Progress

The automatic spending cuts that went into effect at the start of March are spread out over a host of domestic programs and are having a real impact on communities across the country. Sequestration is cutting jobsshutting down essential services, and hurting state economies.

While the consequences of the reductions are not leading the national evening news, local broadcasts have actively chronicled their brutal impact. ThinkProgress has the video report:

All told, sequestration is predicted to reduce GDP growth from 2.6 percent to 2 percent for 2013, and eliminate some 700,000 jobs by the end of 2014. Social Security, Medicaid, some anti-poverty programs, military pay, and the ongoing costs of the wars are exempted. But Medicare’s provider payments, the military’s overall budget, and non-defense discretionary spending are all getting hit.

The last area of spending is being cut five percent, even though it was already scheduled to reach its lowest level in fifty years before sequestration took effect. It’s the main area of spending Republicans have targeted in their budgets. But there’s only so much efficiency to be found in any given program. At this point, even a five percent spending reduction harms services and programs most Americans would consider essential.

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An Affordable Care Act report card, three years in

Obama’s signature on Affordable Care Act

This is great news…

Daily Kos

The Sunday New York Time’s editorial page celebrated the third anniversary of the Affordable Care Act by detailing some of its achievements, even ahead of its full implementation next year. That includes:

  • Some 6.6 million people ages 19 through 25 who have been able to stay on their parents’ insurance plans and more than than 3 million young adults getting health insurance.
  • 17 million getting some kind of free preventive service, like flu shots, and 34 million Medicare recipients getting free preventive services in 2012;
  • 17 million children with pre-existing conditions being protected against being uninsured;
  • More than 107,000 adults with pre-existing conditions finally having insurance under the federally run insurance program;
  • 21 million received care from expanded community health centers, 3 million more than previously served;
  • $1.1 billion in rebates, an average of $151 per family paid by insurers that failed to meet the benchmark of 80 to 85 percent of premium revenues on medical claims or quality improvements;
  • Since 2010, more than 6.3 million older or disabled people have saved more than $6.3 billion on prescription drugs;

Beyond that, as the editorial notes, the annual growth of health care expenses has declined sharply, both in private care and Medicare. But the focus on quality of care seems to be working. “The percentage of Medicare patients requiring readmission to the hospital within 30 days of discharge dropped from an average of 19 percent over the past five years to 17.8 percent in the last half of 2012.” That’s largely because Medicare can impose penalties now for poor performance, but can also pay incentives for quality care.

Not a bad track record for the first three years, before the meat of the reforms kick in. What’s particularly important—and so far ignored by policy-makers—is the real slowdown in the growth of health care costs. It suggests that Medicare isn’t a hair-on-fire emergency right now, and that any changes to it should be dealt with outside of deficit grand-bargaining. It’s not an immediate crisis.

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Bill Maher & Alexandra Pelosi: Republicans Want Spending Cuts But Can’t Name One. (VIDEO)

aarom1

Check out some of Alexandra Pelosi’s similar videos here, here and here

Liberals Unite

What we need here is the government’s help.” New Jersey Republican.

In her latest short on Real Time with Bill Maher, Alexandra Pelosi illustrates that Republicans are simply not informed. She asks them what spending cuts the government should be making after they insist cuts should be made.

Pelosi asks them about specific cuts, such as education, Medicare, Sandy relief, healthcare, veteran benefits, unemployment benefits and the list goes on. The answer to each suggested cut is “no.”

Can you guess what they want to cut? The answer they give is not surprising. They cling to an ideology. They do so against their own best interest—against your best interest.

Wake up Republicans!!! If you think for five minutes about what you want and what you think you want, you will not be so quick to scream and assume Democrats just want handouts. We don’t have to be so divided. We actually want the same things in life. When will you understand this? When it’s too late?

My question to Republicans is, why do you want to insist on something you can’t even answer yourself?

I fear Maher is accurate when he says “the people are morons, they don’t know what to tell the politicians…, they don’t know anything.”

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On Obamacare’s Third Anniversary, Here Are Three Ways The Reform Law Has Helped Real Americans

I’m totally mystified by the opposition to Obamacare

Think Progress

[Today] marks the three year anniversary of President Obama signing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the most sweeping overhaul of the U.S. health care system since the enactment of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965. While some the law’s most significant provisions won’t go into full effect until next year, many of its important reforms have already taken hold — and have already changed the lives of real Americans for the better. Here are just a few ways that the Affordable Care Act has bolstered the health and financial security of Americans from all around the country:

1. Diabetic Arthur from California finally has health coverage after being uninsured for five years.

Refusing coverage and treatments for sick Americans due to their “pre-existing medical conditions” has always ranked among the insurance industry’s most reviled practices. For decades, Americans have recounted horror stories about battling insurance companies while loved ones suffered — like 4-month-old Alex Lange, who was turned away by an insurer for being born “obese.” Thanks to Obamacare, that’s no longer legal, as the consumer protection for Americans with pre-existing conditions has already gone into effect for children. It won’t be extended to all Americans until 2014 — but that doesn’t mean Obamacare hasn’t already changed the lives of adults with pre-existing conditions, too.

Through its state-based transitional Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) — a bridge program for American adults with pre-existing conditions that will cover them until the law is fully implemented — Americans like 56-year-old Arthur Yu have already been gaining coverage that was once unavailable to them. After losing his job in 2008 and running through his COBRA benefits, Yu remained uninsured for a full five years due to his diabetes and high cholesterol. “If something major happened to me, my savings would get wiped out,” he said. But after Obamacare’s passage, he was able to enroll in California’s PCIP program in 2012, giving him enormous financial — and medical — peace of mind.

2. Connie from Arizona got a $79 rebate from her insurance company in the mail.

On Thursday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that Obamacare has helped seniors save over $6 billion on their prescription drug costs by closing the so-called Medicare “donut hole” — and that’s not the only way that the law is already saving Americans money.

Because of Obamacare’s “80/20 rule” requiring insurers to spend at least 80 percent of the premiums they charge customers on actual medical care rather than overhead or profits, millions of Americans have received rebate checks — totaling $1.5 billion in 2011 alone — from their insurance companies in the mail. Arizona resident Connie Kadansky spoke to CNN about her personal experience with this measure after getting a $79 rebate from her insurer last summer, saying, “It was a surprise. My insurance agent tells me that my insurance is going to skyrocket. He hates Obamacare. I read the letter and I said to myself, ‘So what’s wrong with this? This is good.’”

3. Chronically ill Jen from Illinois doesn’t have to worry about losing access to her dad’s health insurance.

One of the reform law’s most popular aspects is allowing young Americans to stay on their parents’ health plan until they’re 26. In a time of economic uncertainty, that can mean the difference between life and death, and there are bountiful stories of how this Obamacare provision has personally touched real people. Last October, teenager Jen Rubino wrote a piecefor the Huffington Post in which she recounted her struggles with a rare chronic illness, and the constant worry that she would lose access to her father’s health insurance once she got older. But as Jen put it, “everything changed when President Obama signed the Affordable Health Care Act.”

In fact, over the last several years, the percentage of uninsured young adults in America dropped by record numbers, down to 27.9 percent of young people in 2011 from 33.9 percent in 2010 — meaning that 1.6 million young Americans gained coverage in just the first year of Obamacare’s implementation.

 

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