Five Doctors and Surgeons Tell Us What They Really Think About Medicare-for-all and the Trump Administration Continues to Change the Present Medicare System!

38631154_1656169364512716_8196802800739418112_nSome doctors support single-payer health care — even if that means a lower salary. I’m wondering more and more, about who is Cookoo, Cookoo today?? I know that Bernie, Nancy and many of our politicians are crazy or Cookoo, but educated physicians?

Remember last week when I discussed the explanation that if we adopt Medicare for All that one of the outcomes of this system would be a reduction in physician salaries. Dylan Scott reviewed the feedback regarding the Medicare for All plan as he reported from the muscle of the health industry lobby — pharma, health plans, doctors, and hospitals — some of which is gathering to stop proposed single-payer systems.

The Hill’s Peter Sullivan had the report on Friday morning. The industry’s influence can’t be underestimated: It stopped Clintoncare. And, for better or worse, it was a boon for passing Obamacare that the industry mostly supported the legislation.

The industry’s disparate interests fight over a lot of issues, but Medicare-for-all unites them. That is going to be a factor if we get to 2021 with a Democratic Congress and president, and they decide to pursue single-payer health care.

That moment really might come. A sign times are changing: A Republican health care lobbyist called me recently to ask whether all-payer rate setting would be a better alternative to single payer, by causing less disruption. (I quibbled that you would need some kind of coverage component, given the moral urgency that is animating the left on health care.)

Still, a Republican almost endorsing price controls. That is a pretty strong indicator of where our health care debate seems to be heading.

Payment cuts for health care providers, if we eliminate private insurance and move everybody to Medicare rates, are going to come up a lot in this debate.

Those cuts are an easy thing for industry lobbyists to target and for Republicans to run ads on. Cuts could be overstated, depending on how much legitimate waste single payer can actually eliminate by consolidating the administration of health care, but the projections for Medicare for All plans are going to anticipate big cuts.

That explains the industry’s lobbying position. But the reality on the ground is more complicated than that. There are absolutely health care providers who support single payer. Quite a few of them sent me emails after I asked for their thoughts last week.

Here are some of the most interesting responses. From a registered Republican working at a next-gen gene sequencing company:

Medicare is, without question, the most reliable, most predictable payer that we deal with. And for somebody like me, it would be a dream to only have to deal with them. Yes, they are pretty heavily regulated. And yes, they have pretty strict guidelines for who to cover. But unlike other payers, who make life virtually impossible for smaller providers because they’re in the for-profit game (the not paying for care game), Medicare at least adheres to a clear set of rules. Other payers put up an endless set of traps against reimbursement, contracting, and other parts of the revenue lifecycle that add substantial cost to services and thus increase the cost to the consumer. I can say with near certainty that parties in my industry would provide services at a materially lower price and with more predictable out of pocket costs if every payer was as reliable and consistent as Medicare.

As such, I’m now, despite growing up a conservative afraid of such government largesse as “Medicare for all,” convinced that a single public payer, either as rate setter or as a true single-payer, is needed. In contrast, I remain a staunch defender of private medical care, where companies such as my own and our competitors do battle to increase quality and lower patient cost.

So I guess you could count me as pro-Medicare for all, a sentence I never thought I’d write 15 years ago.

From a retired neurosurgeon, who had also thought of himself as a Republican:

I practiced neurosurgery in Texas and retired 20 years ago. I started out as a pretty solid, but non-thinking, Republican, opposing perceived intrusions of Medicare into my practice. I read Himmelstein and Woolhandler’s NEJM articles and thought they were Harvard hippie Communists. Over time, I came to see that they were right, that we really need a universal health care system, as so many of my patients weren’t getting needed care. I was a bit embarrassed making as much money as I did and would have done it for half of that.

From a radiation oncologist of more than 20 years, in Chicago and for the military:

I left full-time medicine a few years ago after getting fed up with continuously fighting insurance companies for pre-authorization and for the right to practice medicine the way I was trained within the standard published guidelines. I now work part-time seeing primarily uninsured and Medicaid patients.

A 2011 Health Affairs study found that the average US physician spends nearly $83,000 a year interacting with insurance plans. And a 2010 American Medical Association Study found the average doctor spent 20 hours a week on pre-authorization activities. This has only gotten more expensive and much worse. Under a single-payer plan, this would be much easier and far less expensive.

In addition, we know that the major cost of malpractice coverage is for the continued medical care of the patient that was harmed. A single-payer system would ensure that any such patient would be covered for the rest of their lives and as a result, malpractice coverage would also be dramatically lower.

While reimbursement under a single payer plan most likely would be less, so would the headaches and administrative hassles and costs. And I would be able to see far more patients instead of being on the phone fighting with a case manager, while my office and malpractice coverage costs would be far less.

From a Texas oncologist still early in their career:

My general view of Medicare-for-all is that it would moderately contribute to remedying our health care spending problem, but by no means fix it.

My understanding is that the biggest savings would come from getting rid of the huge administrative dead weight in our private insurance system. However, that in and of itself would not fix the fact that billing rates are through the roof here in the US. Saving a few percents on overhead would be great, but MRIs and appendectomies are still going to cost 2x-4x here than in other OECD countries.

I am definitely heterodox among physicians in believing that our salaries (mainly among specialists such as myself) ought to be significantly lower. The greater bargaining power than a single, government payer might have could potentially rein in some of that.

On the other side, from an anesthesiologist intern in Chicago, fiscally liberal but socially conservative, who has some concerns about how single payer would handle Catholic hospitals:

The one part of a more single-payer system that worries me relates to the socially conservative opinions I have. I’m sure you have seen the series FiveThirtyEight has had the past week on the effects of Catholic hospitals coming to predominate in more rural areas and even some cities. (As someone who grew up in a small town, I can say the main healthcare provider in the area is a Catholic hospital.) I don’t fear a single-payer system would result in individual providers being required to provide services they individually oppose for religious beliefs.

However, I do worry about whether or not there would be requirements for Catholic hospitals to provide services contrary to Catholic teaching, generally surrounding abortion or end of life care, in order to be eligible for billing Medicare. I do presume a Medicare-for-All system would pass on a party-line vote with only Democrat support and could see them trying to expand abortion coverage–either directly in a law or through regulation like many abortion coverage issues have been changed–at the same time since that issue has also grown much more partisan in the past decade.

Again I believe that even these physicians fail to see reality. My question is are you willing to accept Medicare for All as the new health care system including the lower reimbursements and lower salaries, and when will it stop? Will the salaries see continual reductions to make the huge debt to continue the program? And how will the newly trained physicians pay off their loans and pay for their required malpractice insurance?

The real problem here is that these experts touting the Medicare for All programs is that they don’t realize that in order to make a universal health care/ single payer health care program to work tort reform and the cost of education of health care workers has to be part of the solution. If not the new program, whatever it is, will fail or become so expensive and expand out of control.

The solution to the health care crisis is not one factor but an equation that needs to have a solution to each factor!

And Trump continues to change the present system. Consider this article in USA TODAY:

Trump administration takes aim at the Obama-era Medicare program for 10.5 million seniors

Ken Alltucker of USA TODAY published a recent article of President’s Trump’s continued attack on Obama’s modification of the Medicare program.

The Trump administration on Thursday moved to tighten controls over an Obama-era health program by making doctors and hospitals take on greater financial risk for 10.5 million Medicare patients.

Seema Verma, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services administrator who has been critical of the Affordable Care Act, said the changes are necessary because the Medicare program had “weak incentives” for health-care providers to slow spiraling costs.

Under proposed changes, hospitals and doctors would adhere to a more aggressive timetable to save money while maintaining the quality of care. Medicare, the federal health program mainly for adults who are 65 and over, projects the changes would save the federal government $2.2 billion over 10 years.

Untitled.Trump and Medicare changes

“Pathways to Success” shortens the maximum amount of time ACOs are not subject to performance-based risk to 2 years or 1 year for existing shared savings only ACOs.

“After six years of experience, we feel we know what works and what doesn’t,” Verma said. “We want to focus on delivering value for patients and taxpayers.”

Verma said, without changes, that the nation is on pace to spend $1 out of every $5 on health care by 2026, an unsustainable path that will harm families, businesses and the economy.

The Obama program, part of the Affordable Care Act, encouraged hospitals and doctors to band together as “accountable care organizations” to coordinate medical care and cut down on unnecessary tests and procedures. The idea is that if these organizations could deliver care at a lower-than-projected cost, they could collect bonus payments from the federal government.

However, CMS said that 82 percent of 561 accountable-care organizations chose a risk-free version of the program that provided little incentive to reduce spending. These organizations recouped savings if they cost Medicare less than projected, but they faced no financial penalty if they billed more than expected.

The upshot: Congressional Budget Office projections that the Obama-era program would save Medicare $5 billion through 2019 never materialized.

Under Verma’s changes, participants would be limited to two years in the risk-free version of the program. The current regulations allow these organizations to stay for 6 years.

The likely result will be hospitals and doctors dropping from the program.

CMS projects that nearly 20 percent of participants will drop out of the voluntary program due to the more aggressive timetable. However, an industry organization called the National Association of ACO’s predicts 71 percent will drop from the program.

The American Hospital Association said the proposed changes “ignores the reality” that hospitals are at a different point in transiting to this type of “value-based care.”

“The proposed rule fails to account for the fact that building a successful ACO, let alone one that is able to take on financial risk, is no small task,” the hospital group said in a statement. “It requires significant investments of time, effort, and finances.”

Verma also will require doctors and hospitals to notify Medicare patients if they are enrolled in such a program. Medicare recipients also could earn bonuses, such as gift cards, if they meet preventive care milestones, Verma said.

And now:

Well, this Fox & Friends Twitter poll on “Medicare for All” didn’t go as planned

Christopher Zara reported that in today’s edition of “Ask and Ye Shall Receive,” here’s more evidence that support for universal health care isn’t going away.

The Twitter account for Fox & Friends this week ran a poll in which it asked people if the benefits of Bernie Sanders’s “Medicare for All” plan would outweigh the costs. The poll cites an estimated cost of $32.6 trillion. Hilariously, 73% of respondents said yes, it’s still worth it—which is not exactly the answer you’d expect from fans of the Trump-friendly talk show.

Granted, this is just a Twitter poll, which means it’s not scientific and was almost certainly skewed by retweets from Twitter users looking to achieve this result.

At the same time, it’s not that far off from actual polling around the issue. In March, a Kaiser Health tracking poll revealed that 6 in 10 Americans are in favor of a national health care system in which all Americans would get health insurance from a single government plan. Other polls have put the number at less than 50% support but trending upward.

More on Medicare for All!

Yes, Medicare for All is expensive. That’s not the point but who loses?

37913774_1639263202869999_2457300851903954944_nI’m more confused as I read more and more about Medicare for All. Who is telling the truth? Diane Archer, founder and former president of the Medicare Rights Center and president of JustCareUSA.org. recently wrote that something interesting is happening in the age of Trump: 63 percent of Americans support a national health insurance plan, or Medicare for All, in which the federal government would guarantee health insurance for everyone in the country.

Mounting support for Medicare for All has left conservatives hyperventilating. Commercial insurers and their Republican allies are working overtime to convince Congress and the electorate that we simply can’t “afford” Medicare for All. A report by the Mercatus Center’s Charles Blahous, who spearheaded President George W. Bush’s attempt to privatize Social Security, is the latest entry in this fuzzy math sweepstakes.

Happily, for those of us who seek health-care security for all Americans, Blahous and his friends miss the point. Our commercial health insurance system is crazy and unsustainable, and Medicare for All is the only realistic path to reduce national health spending and improve the quality of our health-care system.

Sen. Bernie Sanders’s Medicare for All proposal improves and expands the current Medicare program, replacing commercial health insurance with federally administered coverage for all Americans. The proposal eliminates premiums, deductibles, and co-pays, and includes new coverage for vision, hearing and dental care. It allows everyone to use the doctors and hospitals they know and trust, anywhere in the country, without the restrictive networks, arbitrary denials and high out-of-pocket costs that go hand in hand with commercial insurance.

Medicare for All, like Social Security, is social insurance, designed to pool and broadly distribute the costs of care across the entire population. At its core, Medicare for All gives doctors and hospitals the freedom to compete for patients without insurers getting in the way.

Blahous writes that Medicare for All is expensive. That’s correct, but it’s the wrong starting point. The current commercial health insurance system is much more expensive than Medicare for All and is unsustainable by any measure.

We spend more than $3.3 trillion a year on health care — about 18 percent of the gross domestic product. That’s twice as much per capita on health care as the average of other high-income countries. In return, we get health-care outcomes that rank dead last among our peers. Health-care costs in this country are projected to increase by 5.5 percent a year over the next eight years. You do the math: The status quo doesn’t work. Period.

Medicare for All, by contrast, provides a compelling path to keeping health-care costs in check. To begin with, Medicare for All would eliminate the administrative waste and profit margins created by the commercial insurance system with hundreds of insurers negotiating different agreements with thousands of health-care providers. Total annual savings on administrative costs under Medicare for All are estimated as high as $500 billion a year (far more than Blahous estimates in his report).

Most important, Medicare for All would empower the federal government to use the collective bargaining power of 330 million Americans to reduce the cost of health care, something that commercial insurers have been unable to do. Blahous himself estimates that the extension of current Medicare rates to all health-care services coupled with lower prescription drug prices under Medicare for All would eliminate $445 billion in annual costs in 2022.

In all, Blahous concedes that Medicare for All would reduce national health spending by $2 trillion over 10 years; even after accounting for the cost of guaranteeing everyone coverage and offering better benefits. (And again, many health economists would say Medicare for All would drive far greater savings.)

Blahous’s concern is that Medicare for All will transfer the rest of the cost of health care from the private sector to the federal government. Okay. So how will we pay for Medicare for All? The same way we pay for the defense budget and everything else: through taxes. Does that mean that ordinary Americans will pay more under Medicare for All that they pay for healthcare today? No.

Think about it. Today, the typical family of four spends more than $28,000 on health care a year. Individuals pay that cost indirectly through lower wages (which fund the employer’s share of health insurance) and directly through out-of-pocket costs. Under Medicare for All, the typical family will see higher wages and lower expenses and spend much less on health care than it does today.

To be sure, the transition to Medicare for All will disrupt the health-care marketplace. Insurers will wind down. Pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers likely will see their profits drop. Hospitals and doctors will need to work smarter and more efficiently; they will see an overall reduction in their rates, but they will save on administrative costs and their bills will all be paid.

There are always winners and losers in policy reform. Today, commercial insurers and other corporate interests in the health-care industry are the winners, and the American people are the losers. Medicare for All flips that paradigm. We can’t afford to live without it.

But at what cost to patient and caregiver?

Bernie Sanders Supporters Admit His Socialized Medicine Plan Will Ration Care

If Bernie Sanders wants to take a ‘victory lap’ for a study arguing that millions of health workers will receive the same amount of money for more work, I have four words: Good luck with that.

Christopher Jacobs noted that the move to enact single-payer health care in the United States always suffered from major math problems. This week, it revived another: Common sense.

On Monday, the Mercatus Center published an analysis of single-payer legislation like that promoted by socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). While conservatives highlighted the estimated $32.6 trillion price tag for the legislation, liberals rejoiced.

Sanders even released a video thanking Mercatus for its study, claiming that it showed how his bill would reduce overall national health expenditures by $2 trillion. In other words, Sanders claims his bill will provide more health care coverage to more Americans, and at less cost.

Riiiiiigggggggghhhhhhhhhttttt. As the old saying goes, if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Given that even single-payer supporters have now admitted that the plan will lead to rationing of health care, the public shouldn’t just walk away from Sanders’ plan—they should run.

National Versus Federal Health Spending

Sanders’ claim arises because of two different terms the Mercatus paper uses. While Mercatus emphasized the way the bill would increase federal health spending, Sanders chose to focus on the study’s estimates about national health spending.

Essentially, the $32.6 trillion figure—the amount of taxes that a single-payer bill must raise over its first decade—represents the cost of bringing the entire health-care system on to the federal government’s books. While bringing the health-care system on-budget will obviously require massive tax increases, the Mercatus paper assumes that doing so will cause overall national health spending to drop slightly.

Although it sounds large in absolute terms, the Mercatus paper assumes only a slight drop in health spending in relative terms. It estimates a total of $2.05 trillion in lower national health expenditures over a decade from single-payer. But national health expenditures would total $59.7 trillion over the same time span—meaning that, if Mercatus’ assumptions prove correct, single-payer would reduce national health expenditures by roughly 3.4 percent.

Four Favorable Assumptions Skew the Results

However, to arrive at their estimate that single-payer would reduce overall health spending, the Mercatus paper relies on four highly favorable assumptions. Removing any one of these assumptions could mean that instead of lowering health care spending, the single-payer legislation would instead raise it.

First, Mercatus adjusted projected health spending upward, to reflect that single-payer health care would cover all Americans. Because the Sanders plan would also abolish deductibles and co-payments for most procedures, study author Chuck Blahous added an additional factor reflecting induced demand by the currently insured, because patients will see the doctor more when they face no co-payments for doing so.

But the Mercatus study did not consider whether providing completely free health care to all U.S. residents will induce additional migration, adding even more costs to the system. As Hillary Clinton testified before Congress in 1993: “We do not think the comprehensive health care benefits should be extended to those who are undocumented workers and illegal aliens. We do not want to do anything to encourage more illegal immigration into this country. We know now that too many people come in for medical care, as it is.”

Second, the Mercatus study assumes that a single-payer plan can successfully use Medicare reimbursement rates. However, the non-partisan Medicare actuary has concluded that those rates already will cause half of the hospitals to have overall negative total facility margins by 2040, jeopardizing access to care for seniors.

Expanding these lower payment rates to all patients would jeopardize even more hospitals’ financial solvency. But paying doctors and hospitals market-level reimbursement rates for patients would raise the cost of a single-payer system by $5.4 trillion over ten years—more than wiping away any supposed “savings” from the bill.

Third, by its own admission, Mercatus assumes “virtually perfect success” for a single-payer system in replacing brand-name drug usage with generics. If the government cannot achieve “virtually perfect success” in increasing generic drug utilization—and a cynic might ask whether the government has achieved even imperfect success in anything—or greater government “negotiating” power has little effect in jawboning down prices, then the estimated costs of single-payer will rise.

Finally, the Mercatus paper “assumes substantial administrative cost savings,” relying on “an aggressive estimate” that replacing private insurance with one single-payer system will lower health spending. Mercatus made such an assumption even though spending on administrative costs increased by nearly $26 billion, or more than 12.3 percent, in 2014, Obamacare’s first year of full implementation.

Likewise, government programs, unlike private insurance, have less incentive to fight fraud, as only the latter face financial ruin from it. The $60 billion problem of fraud in Medicare provides more than enough reason to doubt many administrative savings from a single-payer system.

Apply the Common Sense Test

But put all the technical arguments aside for a moment. As I noted above, whether a single-payer health-care system will reduce overall health expenses rests on a relatively simple question: Will doctors and hospitals agree to provide more care to more patients for the same amount of money?

Whether single-payer will lead to less paperwork for doctors remains an open question. Given the amount of time people spend filing their taxes every year, I have my doubts that a fully government-run system would generate major improvements.

But regardless of whether providers get any paperwork relief from single-payer, the additional patients will come to their doors seeking care, and existing patients will demand more services once the government provides them for “free.” Yet doctors and hospitals won’t get paid any more for providing those additional services. The Mercatus study estimates that spending reductions due to the application of Medicare’s price controls to the entire population will all but wipe out the increase in spending from new patient demand.

If Sanders wants to take a “victory lap” for a study arguing that millions of health care workers will receive the same amount of money for doing more work, I have four words for him: Good luck with that.

Also, consider the health care workers, especially the physicians.                        Libertarian think tank: Providers would pay for Medicare for All                     Susannah Luthi reviewed libertarian take on the Medicare for All concept further and found that the Medicare for All plan backed by Sen. Bernie Sanders would put the brunt of the proposals costs on provider pay cuts.
In a white paper released Monday by the Mercatus Center of George Mason University, senior research strategist Charles Blahous claimed healthcare spending constraints laid out in the plan from the Vermont independent senator fall almost totally on providers. The plan could save the U.S. more than $2 trillion over 10 years in national health care spending but could increase the federal government’s costs to nearly $33 trillion above current levels, according to Blahous’ calculations.
Nearly all the savings for national health spending come from across-the-board Medicare rate cuts, which Blahous projects would reduce provider payments by $384 billion in the first year, and by nearly $660 billion in 2030.
This analysis will likely push single-payer advocates to hone their message on healthcare pricing to make their proposal viable, said Benedict Ippolito, a health economist with the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute.
“Provider payment cuts are doing a lot of heavy lifting here,” Ippolito said. “Changes to provider payments, whether you love them or not, have real consequences. And those real consequences extend beyond a budgetary score.”
While the U.S. healthcare system does need to grapple with the “right price to pay for healthcare,” Ippolito said, proponents of the Sanders plan and others like it need to determine what the right rate could be and how it will impact provider behavior, which determines major components of the healthcare system—investments in equipment and buildings, patient access and health outcomes.
“It’s easy to think about prices as one piece of a broader market, but the thing that’s special about prices is that it’s the key that unlocks the whole thing,” he added. “Whatever price you set will be highly consequential for the entire market. The decision you make for good or bad is extremely consequential, and you can’t get around that.”
Single-payer advocates lauded the paper’s findings that the projected provider cuts would roughly pay for universal coverage. The Mercatus analysis also estimated the health care system would save billions every year on drug spending since the Sanders Medicare for All plan allows the HHS secretary to negotiate prescription drug prices with the manufacturers—and presumably refuse to buy certain high-priced drugs.
But Blahous warned that the Sanders blueprint for coverage would likely lead to a huge spike in overall healthcare utilization, not only because more people would automatically be covered for services like dental and vision care but also because it bans any co-pays or deductibles.
“As a general rule, the greater the percentage of an individual’s health care that is paid by insurance … the more healthcare services an individual tends to buy,” Blahous wrote.
Blahous maintained that the jury is still out on whether MACRA effectively reins in provider costs, warning that the Medicare for All transition could disrupt access to health care as universal coverage goes into effect. He also noted that while some Medicaid-dependent providers would see a pay boost in the early years as their traditionally much-lower Medicaid reimbursements would rise to Medicare rates, they would start losing money soon after.
To back up his warning, Blahous cited the CMS’ Office of the Actuary’s projections that current payments would lead to negative operating margins for nearly half of hospitals by 2040. By 2019, over 80% of hospitals will lose money treating Medicare patients. A dramatic structural change to reimbursement structure could shutter many provider doors, Blahous wrote.
The paper acknowledged that phasing out employer-sponsored health care would translate into a huge increase in taxable wages, as it would free individuals, families, and employers from hefty healthcare spending. States would also no longer have to fund Medicaid, consistently their largest budget item.
“These offsetting effects should be considered when weighing the implications of requiring federal taxpayers to finance the enormous federal expenditure increases under M4A,” Blahous wrote. “These estimates should be understood as projecting the added federal cost commitments under M4A, as distinct from its net effect on the federal deficit. To the extent that the cost of M4A is financed by new payroll taxes, premium collections, or other revenue increases, the net effect on the federal budget deficit would be substantially less.”
The picture the Mercatus study paints for utilization in the healthcare system runs counter to the latest House Republican push to leverage health savings accounts to cut spending on superfluous services.
Last week, the House passed a packet of bills originally projected to cost more than $90 billion to expand the use of HSAs. In a subsequent speech before the conservative Heritage Foundation, HHS Secretary Alex Azar praised HSAs as a way to lower unnecessary spending, saying that from his own behavior when he had an HSA he was much more cautious about the number and manner of services on which he was willing to spend a limited number of dollars.
The Democratic Party at large is keeping Sanders’ Medicare for All plan at arm’s length, but its principles are gaining traction within the party. Prominent Democratic senators including Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Kamala Harris of California and New Jersey’s Cory Booker have signed onto Sanders’ bill.
In the House, progressive Washington Democrat Pramila Jayapal founded a Medicare for All caucus to try to hammer out a comprehensive, streamlined platform over the next conference. More than 60 House Democrats have joined Jayapal’s group.
But Ippolito said the new paper highlights that single-payer proponents will need to acknowledge the political fight on their hands.
“In my time of listening to these single-payer proposals, a lot of emphases is on administrative savings—they appeal to that because they don’t rile up constituencies,” he said. “But going after provider payment rates means taking on one of the most well-organized constituencies in domestic policy. When I read this, it struck me as: this really wants to pick a fight. It promises the moon, but it does set up, surely, that something’s got to give here.”                                                                                                                                Health Care Rationing Ahead                                                                                                       I’ll give the last word too, of all things, a “socialist perspective.” One blog post yesterday actually claimed the Mercatus study underestimated the potential savings under single-payer: “[The study] assumes utilization of health services will increase by 11 percent, but aggregate health service utilization is ultimately dependent on the capacity to provide services, meaning utilization could hit a hard limit below the level [it] projects” (emphasis mine).                                                                                                                                 In other words, spending will fall because so many will demand “free” health care that the government will have to ration it. To socialists who yearningly long to exercise such power over their fellow citizens, such rationing sounds like their utopian dream. But therein lies their logic problem, for any American with common sense.

More to follow next week as we get closer to the truth.

Trump’s Top Medicare Official Slams ‘Medicare for All’ and Another Cost Estimation of the Plan!

37743878_1632665590196427_5036079386281902080_nI was away on vacation and arrived home from a long flight and long shuttle ride through the beautiful mountains of Colorado, but the delay allowed me to view an article updating the cost of the Medicare for All plan, with which I will end this post.          Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivarof the Associated Press reported that the Trump administration’s Medicare chief on Wednesday slammed Sen. Bernie Sanders’ call for a national health plan, saying “Medicare for All” would undermine care for seniors and become “Medicare for None.”

The broadside from Medicare and Medicaid administrator Seema Verma came in a San Francisco speech that coincides with a focus on health care in contentious midterm congressional elections. Sanders, a Vermont independent, fired back at Trump’s Medicare chief in a statement that chastised her for trying to “throw” millions of people off their health insurance during the administration’s failed effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Verma’s made her comments toward the end of a lengthy speech before the Commonwealth Club of California, during which she delved into arcane details of Medicare payment policies.

Denouncing what she called the “drumbeat” for “government-run socialized health care,” Verma said “Medicare for All” would “only serve to hurt and divert focus from seniors.” “You are giving the government complete control over decisions pertaining to your care, or whether you receive care at all,” she added.

“In essence, Medicare for All would become Medicare for None,” she said. Verma also said she disapproved of efforts in California to set up a state-run health care system, which would require her agency’s blessing.

In his response, Sanders said, “Medicare is, by far, the most cost-effective, efficient and popular health care program in America. He added: “Medicare has worked extremely well for our nation’s seniors and will work equally well for all Americans.”

The Sanders proposal would add benefits for Medicare beneficiaries, coverage for eyeglasses, most dental care, and hearing aids. It would also eliminate deductibles and copayments that Medicare and private insurance plans currently require.

Independent analyses of the Sanders plan have focused on the enormous tax increases that would be needed to finance it, not on concern about any potential harm to seniors currently enrolled in Medicare. I will review another cost estimation at the end of this post.

But so-called “Mediscare” tactics have been an effective political tool for both parties in recent years, dating back to Republican Sarah Palin’s widely debunked “death panels” to an opposition to President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. Democrats returned the favor after Republicans won control of the House in 2010 and tried to promote a Medicare privatization plan.

Democrats clearly believe supporting “Medicare for All” will give them an edge in this year’s midterm elections. More than 60 House Democrats recently launched a “Medicare for All” caucus, trying to tap activists’ fervor for universal health care that helped propel Sanders’ unexpectedly strong challenge to Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. Just a few years ago, Sanders could not find co-sponsors for his legislation.

A survey earlier this year by the Kaiser Family Foundation and The Washington Post found that 51 percent of Americans would support a national health plan, while 43 percent opposed it. Nearly 3 out of 4 Democrats backed the idea, as did 54 percent of independents. But only 16 percent of Republicans supported the Sanders approach.

Early in his career as a political figure, President Donald Trump spoke approvingly of Canada’s single-payer health care system, roughly analogous to Sanders’ approach. But by the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump had long abandoned that view.                                                                                                                                             Bernie Sanders Medicare-for-all plan is all wrong for America          It would be senseless to replace employer-based coverage with an expensive one-size-fits-all system that couldn’t handle treatments of the future.

Sanders unveils ‘Medicare For All’ bill

Sen. Bernie Sanders is proposing legislation that would let Americans get health coverage simply by showing a new government-issued card. And they’d no longer owe out-of-pocket expenses like deductibles. (Sept. 13)

My 93-year-old father recently came home from the hospital proudly harboring a life-saving $50,000 aortic valve paid for by Medicare, though he rode home in a wheelchair that Medicare didn’t pay for. This gap in services is growing, as Medicare struggles to cover emerging technologies that are not one-size-fits-all while at the same time continuing to provide basic care. If Medicare is converted to single-payer or Medicare for all, as Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont proposes, tens of millions more patients will be added to an already faltering system, and the gap between the promise of care and actual care delivered will widen.

Single-payer is the ultimate one-size-fits-all health care promise. Consider Canada, our single-payer neighbor to the north. One of my patients was visiting Toronto several years ago when he developed worsening angina requiring a cardiac stent. He was placed on a several-week waiting line before giving up and returning home for the procedure. The waiting-your-turn problem has only gotten worse since then. In 2016, the Fraser Institute found a median 20-week wait in Canada between a generalist’s referral and the time the patient actually received a definitive test or treatment/procedure from a specialist.

Americans already face a wasteful health care system with inadequate access to care. The Commonwealth Fund ranked us last among 11 wealthy nations this summer. But unlike Canada, we will never tolerate such long waiting lines, which is one of the reasons single-payer will never work here.

Despite growing problems in access and cost, most Americans don’t want change to jeopardize what works. A 2016 Gallup Poll revealed that 65% of Americans are happy with the way the healthcare system works for them. The backbone of our system is employer-based health insurance. Some 170 million Americans rely on coverage at their job, and employers receive an incentive to offer it in the form of a tax deduction.

More than 55 million Americans are covered by Medicare at a cost to the taxpayer of around $650 billion a year. Medicaid covers more than 70 million, at a cost of $532 billion.

Medicare-for-all would be far more expensive, especially given the rising cost of healthcare technologies. Last year the Urban Institute estimated that the Sanders plan would cost a whopping $32 trillion between 2017 and 2026, a completely unworkable number.

POLICING THE USA: A look at race, justice, media

Both Medicare and Medicaid are already struggling to find doctors who still want to work with them. About 30% of doctors wouldn’t see new Medicaid patients, close to the same as the share of primary care doctors over the age of 55 who won’t see new Medicare patients. This inherent doctor shortage will only worsen if government-run health insurance is expanded.

Finally, the health insurance lobby, quite powerful in Congress, will never allow single-payer to pass, as it would significantly erode its client base. Major health insurers spend millions of dollars lobbying each year to ensure their survival. They were crucial players in the construction of the highly regulated policies of Obamacare, which provide millions of more clients paying high premiums. Single-payer represents a big threat, and insurers are far too entrenched in Congress to lose the battle.

Single-payer isn’t the answer to providing health care in an exciting future where cancer and other treatments are genetic-based and personalized. For instance, CAR-T involves removing a patient’s immune cells and genetically engineering and reinserting them to fight cancer. Single-payer will never be able to justify paying for a $500,000 technology on a patient-by-patient basis.

Food and Drug Administration commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb told me recently that the insurance model isn’t necessarily prepared to cover the latest treatments where “a one-time administration of a drug could potentially cure a disease.” He added, “I worry about access to therapies, particularly effective new therapies so it would be concerning if we had really impressive new treatments and patients couldn’t get access to them because the models weren’t right or patients were uninsured or underinsured for the medicines that they use.”

Bernie Sanders’ bloated Medicare-for-all insurance may be extensive, but it is not designed for the personalized cures of the near future. It is also definitely not the kind of national catastrophic national health insurance that Theodore Roosevelt had in mind during his 1912 “Bull Moose” presidential campaign or Richard Nixon’s comprehensive coverage plan that built on the existing employer-based system (proposed in 1974 but soon eclipsed by Watergate).

It makes a lot of sense for all patients and hospitals to be covered in the event of a sudden health catastrophe so that neither they nor the hospital that saves them goes bankrupt. But it makes little sense for single-payer to threaten an employer-based market that’s already working.

And now the newest Democrat contender joins Bernie Sanders in touting Medicare for All. In Thursday’s episode of “The Daily Show,” host Trevor Noah grilled Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ― the democratic socialist candidate who recently toppled Rep. Joe Crowley in the Democratic primary for New York’s 14th Congressional District ― on what she calls her “idealist” views.

While discussing major points of political contention like health care and education, Noah asked the 28-year-old Latina to explain democratic socialism and what that label means to her. “I don’t knock on a person’s door and is like, ‘Hey! Let me tell you about socialism!’ Like, that’s not how I campaign,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “And I also think that I don’t knock on a person’s door and say, ‘Hey, let me tell you about being a Democrat.’”

“I don’t say that. I speak to people’s needs,” she went on. “And, you know, if Fox News and if media want to continue using this word, they’re gonna use the word. I think by me saying, ‘Oh, no, I’m not this, that and the other,’ it just becomes a distraction.”

Ocasio-Cortez told Noah that democratic socialists want to talk about “wages and education” as well as “saving our planet.”

“We’re here to talk about people paying their fair share, and we’re here to talk about saving the country, frankly,” she said.

Noah then pivoted, making the argument that while many would agree with the ideas she has in mind, it’s not clear how she plans to fund the causes she’s aiming to overhaul.

“Those ideas, I think most people would agree on, especially if they don’t know the label that they are attached to, you know?” Noah said. “But then, the pragmatic side of it comes in, as you said. How do you pay for these?”

“You know, you always see people coming in with economic arguments, and they say, look, these numbers don’t really add up,” he continued. “You know, in order to get health care for everybody, this is what it would cost. That’s going to be troubling. Even if you reverse the Republican tax deal, that’s only going to make up 5 percent of what we need to pay for Medicare for all. How do you pay for education for all ― how do you pay for all of these ideas?”

Ocasio-Cortez called that an “excellent, excellent question.” She told Noah she recently sat down with a “Nobel Prize economist” to talk policy ― “I can’t believe I can say that, it’s really weird” ― and noted that the extremely wealthy, like Warren Buffett, could be paying a 15 percent tax rate. With that and a corporate tax rate of 28 percent, plus some closed loopholes, she said, there would be “$2 trillion in 10 years” to put toward transitioning the U.S. to a fully renewable-energy economy. “One of the wide estimates is that it’s going to take $3 to $4 trillion” to do that, she said.

“A lot of what we need to do is reprioritize what we want to accomplish as a nation,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “Really, what this is about is saying, health care is important enough for us to put first. Education is important enough for us to put first. And that is a decision that requires political and moral courage, from both parts of the aisle. Period.” This lady and I use this term carefully is a true idiot, but one can see how she might get a long list of followers.                                                                                                                                      And look what is happening in the state of Maryland.                                                            The question was what would we get if we moved to ‘Medicare for all’?                   Pete Marovich for The Post recently wrote an article for The Post Reporting that “Jealous, Hogan clash on health care” exposed the missing link in our state (and national) debate on health care: It is about cost, not care. It is about quantity, not quality. “Single-payer” is by its nature-socialized health care. Okay. But I know socialized medicine, as a common soldier in the Army and as a U.S. diplomat who used a “VIP” clinic in a socialist country. Socialized medicine? No, thank you. Would socialized medicine be different here? Is it worth taking into consideration when debating the pros and cons of a “single-payer” health system what you would get with government’s trickle-down health care? “Medicare for all” is wishful thinking. It would be “Medicaid for all.”

The article mentioned that a University of Massachusetts at Amherst study concluded that California’s single-payer proposal “could provide decent health care for all California residents while still reducing net overall costs. ” What does “decent” mean? Does England have decent health care? It certainly is not enviable. Does Canada contribute significantly to the discovery of new advances in medicine and lifesaving drugs? Or does its enviable health-care system depend upon American contributions in the field of medicine? Who would determine the value of health care in terms of it being “adequate” or “decent”? Why the government would make this judgment. Taking in cost savings, of course. By the way, how’s the Trump administration doing on health care? Cost, not care. Quantity, not quality.

And back to the latest cost estimation of Medicare for All. Brooke Singman reporting for Fox News wrote recently that The “Medicare for All” plan, which we all know was and still is being pushed by Sen. Bernie Sanders and endorsed by a host of Democratic congressional and presidential hopefuls would increase government health care spending by $32.6 trillion over 10 years, according to a new study. So I was off by a few Trillion $$. What’s a few trillion between “friends” or taxpayers??

The Vermont senator has avoided conducting his own cost analysis, and those supporting the plan have at times struggled to explain how they could pay for it. The study, released Monday by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, showed the plan would require historic tax increases. The hikes would allow the government to replace what employers and consumers currently pay for healthcare — delivering significant savings on administration and drug costs, but increased demand for care that would drive up spending, according to the report.

According to the report, the legislation’s federal health care commitments would reach approximately 10.7 of GDP by 2022, and rise to nearly 12.7 percent of GDP by 2031. But the study, conducted by senior research strategist Charles Blahous, said that those estimates were on the “conservative” side.

Sanders’ plan builds on Medicare, the insurance program for seniors. The proposal would require all U.S. residents to be covered with no copays and deductibles for medical services. The insurance industry would be regulated to play a minor role in the system.

Sanders is far from the only liberal lawmaker pushing the program. 2020 hopefuls like Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., endorsed a “Medicare for all” program last year.

Political newcomer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who beat House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., in a recent upset primary and instantly became a prominent face of the democratic socialist movement, also is promoting a “Medicare for all” platform and now she is pounding the campaign trails with Bernie Sanders pushing Medicare for All as well as other liberal programs that are going to cost the taxpayers.

“Enacting something like ‘Medicare for all’ would be a transformative change in the size of the federal government,” Blahous, who was a senior economic adviser to former President George W. Bush and a public trustee of Social Security and Medicare during the Obama administration, said.

Blahous’ study also found that “a doubling of all currently projected federal individual and corporate income tax collections would be insufficient to finance the added federal costs of the plan.”

But Sanders blasted the analysis as “grossly misleading and biased,” noting that the Mercatus Center receives funding from the conservative Koch brothers. Koch Industries CEO Charles Koch is on the center’s board.

“If every major country on earth can guarantee health care to all, and achieve better health outcomes while spending substantially less per capita than we do, it is absurd for anyone to suggest that the United States cannot do the same,” Sanders said in a statement. “This grossly misleading and biased report is the Koch brothers’ response to the growing support in our country for a ‘Medicare for all’ program.”

A spokesman for Sanders said that the senator’s office has not done a cost analysis on the new plan, however, the estimates in the latest report are within the range for other cost projections for Sanders’ 2016 plan.

Sanders’ staff found an error in an original version of the Mercatus report, which counted a long-term care program that was in the 2016 proposal but not the current one. Blahous corrected it, reducing his estimate by about $3 trillion over 10 years. Blahous says the report is his own work, not the Koch brothers’.

Also called “single-payer” over the years, “Medicare for all” reflects a long-time wish among liberals for a government-run system that covers all Americans.

The idea won broad rank-and-file support after Sanders ran on it in the 2016 Democratic presidential primaries. Looking ahead to the 2020 election, Democrats are debating whether single-payer should be a “litmus test” for national candidates.

The Mercatus analysis estimated the 10-year cost of “Medicare for all” from 2022 to 2031, after an initial phase-in. Its findings are similar to those of several independent studies of Sanders’ 2016 plan. Those studies found increases in federal spending over 10 years that ranged from $24.7 trillion to $34.7 trillion.

The Mercatus study takes issue with a key cost-saving feature of the plan — that hospitals and doctors will accept payment based on lower Medicare rates for all their patients.

The study found that the plan would reap substantial savings from lower prescription costs — $846 billion over 10 years — since the government would deal directly with drug makers. Savings from the streamlined administration would be even greater, nearly $1.6 trillion.

But other provisions of the plan are also expected to drive up spending, with coverage for nearly 30 million uninsured Americans, no copays and no deductibles and improved benefits on dental, vision and hearing.

The study estimated that doubling all federal individual and corporate income taxes would not fully cover the additional costs.

So where do we get all the additional money to pay for this program or are there other options such as what will the restrictions on coverage look like?

More to follow!!!

What Are the Pros and Cons of Bernie Sanders’ Proposed Medicare for All Single-Payer National HealthCare Plans?

 

insurance639We will now take a look at the pros and cons of having this plan in place come next year (i.e. if Bernie Sanders win the presidential race or if the Democrats get control of the Senate and House)

Single Payer Health Care Pros

Single payer health care was introduced together with several pros. Here are some of those:

  • Guaranteed Health Care

Single payer guarantees high-quality health care services regardless of who you are or what you are into. Everybody is treated equally so social and economic status is never a hindrance for you to receive this insurance. All the legal residents of the United System will get coverage. The single-payer health care system ensures that people get health care to the full extent, which is required by their health.

  • Non-Complex Billing

Submission of complex billing statements that usually requires some office personnel or any staff is eliminated. Thus, physicians and doctors can freely practice medicine at any time.

  • Recognition

Physicians who give out great health care quality can be rewarded for such good doing in providing preventive care. In some countries, most doctors and physicians can receive bonuses after giving their patients a truly remarkable health care. These vary though depending on what country you are in.

  • Reduce Cost / Lower Cost

Because this is a non-profit organization, the cost of providing health care is substantially reduced. No corporate executives are employed so there is no reason to aim for a higher profit since no bonuses or extreme salaries are to be given out to the staffs. There will be a significant reduction in the amount you pay for health insurance each year.

  • No-Limitations

No one will ever be denied on receiving these health care services because this is open to all citizens. Single payer health insurance covers everything regardless of individual differences and even though you have or pre-existing medical conditions or not.

  • No Insurance Premiums

Insurance premiums are eliminated. This means it does not exist. Thus, taxpayers can have a significant reduction in the taxes they are paying compared to those who acquire costly health insurance from private organizations.

  • Reduce Amount of Paperwork

There are lots of paperwork that doctors and nurses have to deal with under the current healthcare plan. Introduction of single-payer health care plan would reduce it to a significant extent.

  • No More Private Health Insurance (Only One Buyer Required)

The cost of medications will be significantly reduced since now there will be only one buyer which is the government.

Arguments Against Single Payer Health Care (Cons)

As a single-payer health care system expands its benefits for many people, many critics still debated the effectiveness of this system and cited many cons. Here are some of those:

  • Increased Bureaucracy

Government bureaucracy is increased because this is needed to administer the program. This is basically just like Medicare but was expanded its coverage. Anything run by the government usually takes a lot of time. A single payer system will see an increase in the queue in hospital and time required before a patient can be able to receive care. 

  • Physicians Became Government Employees/Government Controlled

The government will be the one paying your medical expenses. Thus, this looks like the physicians became government employees as they were receiving salaries from the government. This is not totally a con then, since some may also consider this as pros depending on how you view things. Single payer system will automatically turn all doctors, nurses, research universities and other health workers and medical equipment manufacturers into employees of the government.

  • Uses Socialized Medicine

The use of socialized medicine is considered evil things since this is against what America stands for. This is because it can lead one’s nation to become a communist dictatorship nation.

This comment is a bit over the top but decisions are made for the benefit of the community and not for the individual patient.

  • Socialism

Many people do not understand the real meaning of socialism and they cannot even understand that single payer is associated with this.

  • Waiting Times

One common issue exhibited by this single-payer health care system is in the waiting time one needs to get the fund processed by the government. Thus, you have the sole responsibility to evaluate public option vs single payer and single payer vs universal health care to find what is best for you.

  • Reduce Development

This system has a strong tendency to reduce creativity since there is no more financial incentive for people to carry out research and develop new medicines.

  • Increase Government Burden

The single-payer health care system will automatically increase the size and burden of government since more personnel will be required to administer the financial activities that are involved in this system.

Bernie Sanders proposal is still a long shot, the senator brought up this proposal two years ago. He knows that currently, he has no co-sponsors, however, he is determined to garner support that will see the bill passed into law if elected even that is still a long shot as many insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and other powerful lobby group are posed to stop it as implementation of this system will automatically closed down their businesses. The single payer plan system can either be good or bad and this solely depends on how you view things on your own perspective.

The next question is whether Medicare for All is the only single-payer system to be considered and whether there is a single payer system that will work.

Medicare for all is a winner for Democrats, as Ocasio-Cortez and others have shown

Erica Payne reported that Ocasio-Cortez and other Democrats have shown that ‘Medicare for all’ is a winning issue with voters. That’s the future of health care, not Obamacare.

Last month’s upset primary victory by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who beat 10-term incumbent Joe Crowley in a New York City district, was decisive proof: the Democrats’ path to victory requires exciting their base with a bold, fearless agenda that includes Medicare for all.

We have seen this strategy prove successful not just for Ocasio-Cortez, but also for Ben Jealous, who won a competitive primary for Maryland governor, and candidates like Kara Eastman, who won her primary against a former congressman in Nebraska.

The merits of Medicare for all have been touted by medical professionals, business leaders, and health care economists for a variety of reasons: it would help drive down costs, eliminate administrative waste, increase transparency, bring down rising drug costs, and ease the costly burden of health insurance from businesses and individuals.

And, beyond the benefits of the policy, it’s a winning political strategy.

It’s not enough to fix ACA

Despite Democrats’ attempts to salvage the Affordable Care Act — a crucial law for millions of Americans — sabotage by the Trump administration and Republicans has proved highly effective. They’ve cut advertising budgets aimed at getting more young people into the insurance pool, repealed the individual mandate which helped balance out healthy and sick people, announced they won’t defend protections against price gouging for people with pre-existing conditions, and just froze billions of dollars in payments meant to help insurers cover sicker policyholders.

As a result, the uninsured rate rose last year for the first time since the bill was enacted in 2010 — 12.2% of Americans are now uninsured. While the ACA has managed to slow the rate of premium increases, they are still rising faster than wages and the inflation rate.

To win, Democrats need to do more than just point fingers at Republicans and claim they’re destroying the ACA. Candidates need to take it one step further: Make Medicare for all a central part of their platform.

This message draws a clear line in the sand: Republicans want to strip you of your health insurance, while Democrats want to offer low-cost, universal coverage. It’s an endorsement of universal health care that doesn’t waffle and isn’t complicated.

Unlike the Affordable Care Act, Medicare for all is not difficult to understand and sells itself on its merits. It appeals to patients drowning in medical debt, doctors and medical professionals buried in paperwork, workers who are shouldering more of their premium costs, and business owners who year after year are forced to devote more resources to keeping their employees insured.

It excites a group that Democrats desperately need to get to the polls — younger voters, who strongly support it. And it shows that a candidate is willing to take on special interests on behalf of their constituents.

Medicare for all is a better insurance system

Voters want to hear a positive message about health care: recent polling data revealed that preserving health care is the top voting issue for Americans.  Democrats can be the party offering a bold and viable solution.

They need to tell voters how they’re going to make things better, how they’re going to defend health care as a basic right, and how they’re going to create a new system that better serves the needs of patients, workers, small and mid-sized businesses, and the economy. They need to really differentiate themselves from the Republicans and show that they speak for people first, not the insurance and pharmaceutical industries.

Medicare for All is more than just the right thing to do, and it’s more than just good policy. It’s good politics.

Choking on the Cost of ‘Medicare for All’

My wife was confused when watching the Maryland primaries, especially the Democrat’s Governor race. Mr. Jealous wants to solve the healthcare crisis by adopting Medicare For All in Maryland. Really? Does he and all those others realize that Medicare is a Federal program and states just can’t change a federal program? Also, do they realize how much it really costs?

Sally Pipes and Erica Payne reported that last month, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, an outspoken socialist, beat 10-term Congressman Joe Crowley, the fourth-highest-ranking House Democrat, in the primary election for New York’s 14th congressional district.

Ocasio-Cortez is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America and a former organizer for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. She’s also a vocal advocate of “Medicare for All” — a government takeover of America’s healthcare system. Support for single-payer health care is now a requirement for securing many Democrats’ votes.

But candidates who advocate single-payer on the campaign trail are increasingly balking once they actually get their hands on the levers of power. That’s because single-payer is cost-prohibitive. Even the most dyed-in-the-wool leftists admit as much after they take office and have to figure out how to pay for their campaign promises.

Single-payer’s champions generally paint a lovely picture of healthcare utopia. Patients go to see the doctor of their choice whenever they like, get treatment, and leave the clinic without paying a cent. No copays, no deductibles, no cost-sharing, and no referrals — health care is “free” at the point of service.

In reality, health care doesn’t magically become free; people just pay for it outside the doctor’s office, in the form of higher taxes.

Many Democrats have walked back their enthusiasm for single-payer after getting a look at the just how much public money they’d have to come up with.

Last month in North Carolina, Democratic State Representative Verla Insko moved to kill her own pro-single-payer bill. An assessment from the state legislature’s Fiscal Research Division pegged the cost of single-payer at $70 billion, $42 billion of which would have to come from the state. That latter figure is almost twice the state budget.

Sanders’ last ‘Medicare for all’ plan cost nearly $1.4 trillion

Tami Luhby put things in perspective in her article last year. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is not giving up on his desire to extend Medicare to all Americans. He is set to unveil legislation on Wednesday that would likely jettison private health insurance and create a government-run program.

Bernie Sanders has long pushed for the United States to adopt a single-payer system, similar to those found in Canada and Europe. The most recent iteration came in amid his unexpectedly strong bid for the Democratic presidential nomination last year. But that proposal came with an eye-popping price tag and a slew of new taxes.

Though Sanders has yet to reveal the details of his current plan, it will be unveiled with at least a half-dozen Democratic senators, including some potential 2020 presidential hopefuls, as cosponsors. Here’s what he outlined during the 2016 campaign:

Under the ‘Medicare for all’ initiative, Americans would have comprehensive coverage, which would include doctors’ visits, hospital stays, preventative care, mental health services and prescription drugs. It would also pay for vision, dental, long-term care, and hospice needs. All doctors would be in the network.

What’s more, patients would no longer have to pay private insurance premiums, deductibles or co-pays.

How much would all this cost? Nearly $1.4 trillion a year. Gulp!! That is per year. Remember what our National debt is already. How do we pay for it??

To pay for it, all Americans and employers would see a tax hike. Sanders called for a new 2.2% income tax on all Americans and a 6.2% levy on employers. He would also increase taxes on the wealthy.

But, he argues, people would save money since they would no longer have to pay monthly premiums or deductibles. A family of four earning $50,000 would save more than $5,800 each year.

“As a patient, all you need to do is go to the doctor and show your insurance card,” his campaign proposal said.

Businesses, meanwhile, would save more than $9,400 annually since they would no longer have to pick up their share of workers’ health insurance premiums.

Sanders’ plan relies on more than $6 trillion in savings over the next decade — largely stemming from lowering the rates paid to doctors, hospitals, and drug manufacturers. He maintains that simplifying the payment structure and eliminating private insurers will make it easier for providers to absorb the cuts.

The senator has yet to provide details on just how the nation would shift to ‘Medicare for all’ and how the program would actually work. Among the unanswered questions are whether providers would accept steep cuts in payments and how medical costs would be contained if more people have access to health care.

‘Medicare for all’ faces some steep hurdles, but the idea is gaining traction among the public. Some 53% of Americans support a national health care plan, according to a June poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation. That’s up from 50% last year and from 40% between 1998 and 2000.

Is there a difference in a Medicare for All and other Single Payer systems? And can a Medicare for All health care system work and have Republican backing? More to come.

 

Bernie Sanders’s new Medicare-for-all plan, Let’s Try to Explain It!

13087623_880614638734863_3163237933041741124_nVox.com reporter Sarah Kliff noted last year that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) released a proposal to transition the United States to a single-payer health care system, one where a single government-run plan provides insurance coverage to all Americans.

The Sanders plan envisions a future in which all Americans have health coverage and pay nothing out of pocket when they visit the doctor. His plan, the Medicare for All Act, describes a benefits package that is more generous than what other single-payer countries, like Canada, currently offer their residents.

The Sanders plan goes into great detail about the type of coverage Americans would receive. But it provides no information on how it would finance such a generous health care system. Americans’ taxes would have to change to pay for this kind of proposal. But it’s impossible to tell who would pay significantly more for their coverage and who would pay less, and by how much. This is a crucial part of any health care plan, and in the Sanders proposal, it is notably absent.

So while the plan would certainly move the American uninsured rate from around 8.8 percent to nearly zero, in theory, it’s impossible to tell what it would take to get there and what the bigger economic picture would look like if we did.

Let’s take a look!

The Sanders bill includes an exceptionally generous benefit package

Sanders’s single-payer proposal would create a universal Medicare program that covers all American residents in one government-run health plan.

It would bar employers from offering separate plans that compete with this new, government-run option. It would sunset Medicare and Medicaid, transitioning their enrollees into the new universal plan. It would, however, allow two existing health systems to continue to operate as they do now: the Veterans Affairs health system and the Indian Health Services.

Those who do qualify for the new universal Medicare plan would get four years to transition into the new coverage. In the interim, they would have the option to buy into Medicare or another publicly run option that does not currently exist.

Eventually, though, they would all end up in the same plan, which includes an especially robust set of benefits. It would cover hospital visits, primary care, medical devices, lab services, maternity care, and prescription drugs as well as vision and dental benefits.

The plan is significantly more generous than the single-payer plans run by America’s peer countries. The Canadian health care system, for example, does not cover vision or dental care, prescription drugs, rehabilitative services, or home health services. Instead, two-thirds of Canadians take out private insurance policies to cover these benefits. The Netherlands has a similar set of benefits (it also excludes dental and vision care), as does Australia.

What’s more, the Sanders plan does not subject consumers to any out-of-pocket spending on health aside from prescriptions drugs. This means there would be no charge when you go to the doctor, no copayments when you visit the emergency room. All those services would be covered fully by the universal Medicare plan.

This too is out of line with international single-payer systems, which often require some payment for seeking most services. Taiwan’s single-payer system charges patients when they visit the doctor or the hospital (although it includes an exemption for low-income patients). In Australia, people pay 15 percent of the cost of their visit with any specialty doctor.

The Sanders plan is more generous than the plans Americans currently receive at work too. Most employer-sponsored plans last year had a deductible of more than $1,000. It is more generous than the current Medicare program, which covers Americans over 65 and has seniors pay 20 percent of their doctor visit costs even after they meet their deductibles.

Medicare, employer coverage, and these other countries show that nearly every insurance scheme we’re familiar with covers a smaller set of benefits with more out-of-pocket spending on the part of citizens. Private insurance plans often spring up to fill these gaps (in Canada, for example, vision and dental insurance is often sponsored by employers, much like in the United States).

The reason they went this way is clear: It’s cheaper to run a health plan with fewer benefits. The plan Sanders proposes has no analog among the single-payer systems that currently exist. By covering a more comprehensive set of benefits and asking no cost sharing of enrollees, it is likely to cost the government significantly more than programs other countries have adopted.

Would Sanders’s health plan lower American health spending? It’s hard to tell.

One of Sanders’s main arguments in favor of his health care bill is that American health spending is out of control and single-payer would rein it in.

There are certain policies in the Sanders plan that would reduce American health care spending. For one, moving all Americans on to one health plan would reduce the administrative waste in our health care system in the long run.

American doctors spend lots of money dealing with insurers because there are thousands of them, each negotiating their own rate with every hospital and doctor. An appendectomy, for example, can cost anywhere from $1,529 to $186,955, depending on how good of a deal an insurer can get from a hospital.

That doesn’t happen in a single-payer system like the one Sanders proposes. Instead of dealing with dozens of insurers that set hundreds of prices, doctors only need to send bills to the federal government.

One 2003 article in the New England Journal of Medicine estimates that the United States spends twice as much on administrative costs as Canada. A 2011 study in the journal Health Affairs estimates American doctors spend four times as much dealing with insurance companies compared with Canada.

A single-payer health plan would have the authority to set one price for each service; an appendectomy, for example, would no longer vary so wildly from one hospital to another. Instead, the Sanders plan envisions using current Medicare rates as the new standard price for medical services in the United States.

Medicare typically has lower prices than those charged by private insurance plans that cover Americans under 65. This suggests that switching to the Medicare fee schedule would be another policy change that would tug health spending downward.

But there are forces in the Sanders plan that encourages higher health spending too. Its robust benefits package with no cost sharing would likely lead to more doctor visits and hospital trips. As the classic RAND Health Insurance Experiment found, patients respond to lower cost sharing in health care by seeking more treatment. Some of that treatment is necessary, but other services provided are not.

And the Sanders bill would actually raise the prices currently paid by Medicaid, which covers about 50 million low-income Americans. Medicaid traditionally pays lower prices than Medicare and private insurance. If these patients were absorbed into the universal Medicare plan, their doctors would be paid more each time they were seen.

We haven’t seen a Congressional Budget Office score of the Sanders plan yet — and it’s hard to know how these countervailing forces (some pushing health spending up and others forcing it down) would interact with one another to change overall health costs.

The big question Sanders doesn’t answer: how do you pay for it?

The Sanders plan goes into great detail on what kind of coverage a universal plan ought to offer. But it does not do any work explaining how to pay for such a generous benefits package.

A Sanders spokesperson said over email the office would release a set of financing options later Wednesday afternoon.

“There’s nobody who has all of the answers,” Sanders told my colleague Jeff Stein when asked about the financing of his health plan. “Nobody has all the answers. What I can say is we are going to be listing a number of revenue-raising proposals, which will generate more than enough money to pay for what we want to do.”

Eventually, though, somebody will need to have those answers — and they’re not easy to find.

Financing the health care system that Sanders envisions is an immense challenge. About half of the countries that attempt to build single-payer systems fail. That’s Harvard health economist William Hsiao’s estimate after working with about 10 governments in the past two decades. Whether he is in Taiwan, Cyprus, or Vermont, the process is roughly the same: Meet with legislators, draw up a plan, write legislation. Only half of those bills actually become law. The part where it collapses is, inevitably, when the country has to pay for it.

This is what happened when Sanders’s home state of Vermont attempted to create a single-payer plan in 2014. Much like Sanders, local legislators outlined a clear vision of the type of health plan they’d want to extend to all Vermonters. Their plan was arguably less ambitious; it did require patients to pay money when they went to the doctor.

Read this carefully, but Vermont’s single-payer dream fell apart when the state figured out how much it would need to raise taxes to finance its new system. Vermont abandoned the government-run plan after finding it would need to increase payroll taxes by 11.5 percent and income tax by 9 percent.

It’s true — in Vermont and in the United States — that these increased taxes don’t necessarily mean overall health spending is rising. It’s entirely possible that health spending will go down as taxes go up, with Americans no longer spending billions on premiums for employer-sponsored coverage.

Single-payer systems change who pays for health care, often shifting more of the burden onto wealthier individuals to create a more progressive system. The proposed 9 percent income tax in Vermont, for example, would be far more expensive for the $100,000 worker than the $30,000 earner.

But who pays how much more is a key question this Sanders bill doesn’t answer. Until there is a version that does, we can’t know whether the health system the Vermont senator envisions could actually become reality.

Why ‘Medicare for All’ Is a Misleading Term for Single-Payer Health Care

Ed Kilgore stated that one of the much-discussed merits of a single-payer health-care system is its simplicity as compared to a complex public-private hybrid like Obamacare. Proponents often like to call single-payer “Medicare for all,” building on the familiarity and popularity of the country’s chief retirement-health-care program.

But before getting serious about enacting single-payer legislation nationally or in the states, proponents of “Medicare for all” should make it clear not to take the slogan too literally. Including all Americans in the Medicare program as it exists today probably would not work, and might not even be all that popular in practice.

For one thing, Medicare is by design an “acute care” program. It does not cover long-term hospital stays or nursing-home care and excludes some routine care (e.g., dental and vision care). Presumably, a single-payer program designed to replace all or most private insurance would be more comprehensive than Medicare.

Perhaps more importantly, from a political point of view, Medicare is neither free nor easy for beneficiaries.

Medicare Parts A (which covers medically necessary hospital services), B (which covers doctors’ fees and some hospital outpatient services), and D (prescription drug benefits) all have sizable deductibles and co-payments. That is why most seniors who can afford it buy supplemental insurance to cover such “cost-sharing measures” (poorer or disabled seniors who also qualify for Medicaid get fuller coverage through that program). Parts B and D also charge monthly premiums, which most seniors pay through automatic deductions from their Social Security checks. Extending this to people who don’t qualify for Medicaid, don’t want to pay for a “Medigap” policy, or don’t receive Social Security benefits would require a very different structure. As is, “Medicare for all” would certainly conflict with the general argument that single-payer health care gets rid of all those nasty out-of-pocket expenses.

The more you look at it, the more “Medicare for all” is, well, misleading. And it is politically perilous to mislead people about sweeping new health-care programs, as Congress learned in 1988 with the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act of 1988, a major bipartisan initiative that had to be repealed the next year when seniors figured out it duplicated the Medigap coverage many already had instead of addressing long-term-care needs.

The scant resemblance of most single-payer proposals to the actual Medicare program is just one problem proponents have in making themselves clear. They also need to agree on what single payer itself means, other than something sorta kinda like Medicare except when it’s not. Would single payer literally outlaw private insurance, allow it on the margins, or indeed deploy private insurance companies within a framework of government-guaranteed care (as happens now with Medicare Advantage plans or Medicaid managed-care systems)? The many available variations have all sorts of pros and cons. But pretending it’s all very simple obscures these options.

Maybe it’s time for single-payer advocates to place less emphasis on alleged simplicity, and more on health care as a right that Americans should enjoy universally and equally. It might avoid some hard feelings down the road.

But this concept has confused me and I have attempted to resolve the question of whether health care for all is a right or a privilege? I will spend more on this topic in the future but next week let us spend more time further discussing this concept of a health care strategy such as the Medicare for All proposal.

Question-what is the cost and who will pay for it?

First Boys Rescued From Thailand Cave as Rest of Youth Soccer Team Awaits Safety. But What About the Thai Health Care System?

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Karen Mizoguchi of People magazine reported this morning that rescue operations have begun for the 12 boys and their coach trapped at the Thailand cave for more than two weeks.

On Sunday, after at least eight hours since a team of divers started rescue efforts, at least four boys have emerged from the cave, as reported by multiple news outlets. The Thai Navy SEAL official Facebook page also confirmed four players were evacuated.

In addition, two ambulances were seen leaving the site with one boy believed to be in each. A team of 13 international cave diving experts and five Thai Navy SEALs entered the cave with the mission of accompanying each boy one by one through the flooded tunnels, that claimed the life of a former Thai Navy SEAL diver on Friday.

“Two kids are out. They are currently at the field hospital near the cave,” Tossathep Boonthong, chief of Chiang Rai’s health department and part of the rescue team, told Reuters. “We are giving them a physical examination. They have not been moved to Chiang Rai hospital yet.”

The bobbleheads then when on to taut the wonder of the Thai healthcare and how wonderful it is and that it is free universal health care.

Well, even as I have only one or two more edits on my original post for the week on Bernie Sanders and his Medicare for All policy, I thought that I would look at the Thai health care system. Is it as great as the commentators have been suggesting?

So, what is the health care system in Thailand all about?

Wikipedia states that Thailand has had “a long and successful history of health development,” according to the World Health Organization. Life expectancy is averaged at seventy years and a system providing universal health care for Thai nationals has been established since 2002.

Health and medical care are overseen by the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH), along with several other non-ministerial government agencies, with total national expenditures on health amounting to 4.3 percent of GDP in 2009.

Non-communicable diseases form the major burden of morbidity and mortality, while infectious diseases including malaria and tuberculosis, as well as traffic accidents, are also important public health issues.

Infrastructure                                                                                                                               Most services in Thailand are delivered by the public sector, which by 2010, included 1,002 hospitals and 9,765 health stations. Universal health care is provided through three programs: the civil service welfare system for civil servants and their families, Social Security for private employees, and the universal coverage scheme that is theoretically available to all other Thai nationals. Some private hospitals are participants in the programs, but most are financed by patient self-payment and private insurance. According to the World Bank, under Thailand’s health schemes, 99.5 percent of the population have health protection coverage.

The MOPH oversees national health policy and also operates most government health facilities. The National Health Security Office (NHSO) allocates funding through the universal coverage program. Other health-related government agencies include the Health System Research Institute (HSRI), Thai Health Promotion Foundation (“ThaiHealth”), National Health Commission Office (NHCO), and the Emergency Medical Institute of Thailand (EMIT). Although there have been national policies for decentralization, there has been resistance in implementing such changes and the MOPH still directly controls most aspects of health care.

Thailand introduced universal coverage reforms in 2001, one of only a handful of lower-middle income countries to do so. Means-tested health care for low-income households was replaced by a new and more comprehensive insurance scheme, originally known as the 30 baht project, in line with the small co-payment charged for treatment. People joining the scheme receive a gold card, which allows them to access services in their health district and, if necessary, to be referred for specialist treatment elsewhere.

The bulk of health financing comes from public revenues, with funding allocated to contracting units for primary care annually on a population basis. According to the WHO, 65 percent of Thailand’s healthcare expenditure in 2004 came from the government, while 35 percent was from private sources. Thailand achieved universal coverage with relatively low levels of spending on health, but it faces significant challenges: rising costs, inequalities, and duplication of resources.

Although the reforms have received a good deal of criticism, they have proved popular with poorer Thais, especially in rural areas, and they survived the change of government after the 2006 military coup. Then, the Public Health Minister, Mongkol Na Songkhla, abolished the 30 baht co-payment and made the scheme free. It is not yet clear whether the scheme will be modified further under the military government that came to power in May 2014.

In 2009, annual spending on health care amounted to 345 international dollars per person in purchasing power parity (PPP). Total expenditures represented about 4.3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). Of this amount, 75.8 percent came from public sources and 24.2 percent from private sources. Physician density was 2.98 per 10,000 population in 2004, with 22 hospital beds per 100,000 population in 2002

Data for utilization of health services in 2008 include 81 percent contraceptive prevalence, 80 percent antenatal care coverage with at least four visits, 99 percent of births attended by skilled health personnel, 98 percent measles immunization coverage among one-year-olds, and 82 percent success in the treatment of smear-positive tuberculosis. Improved drinking-water sources were available to 98 percent of the population, and 96 percent were using improved sanitation facilities (2008).

Most hospitals in Thailand are operated by the Ministry of Public Health. Private hospitals are regulated by the Medical Registration Division. Other government units and public organizations also operate hospitals, including the military, universities, local governments, and the Red Cross.

Government Health Services                                                                                                            In Thailand, government-funded health care is funded by the Department of Medical Services at the Ministry of Public Health. The Ministry is in charge of public health services, government hospitals, and medical services. Public health facilities in Thailand offer good medical services, but government hospitals are often crowded, which means waiting times can be long. In addition, facilities in public hospitals may not be as good as those in private hospitals in Thailand. Treatment is completely free for Thai citizens holding a Universal Coverage Health card, except on Saturdays, when a charge is made. The National Health Security Office issues this Universal Coverage Health card. Normal charges apply for non-Thais, but these charges will be less than in a private hospital.

Private Medical Sector                                                                                                            Thailand is one of the leading medical tourism destinations in Asia. Most of the private hospitals in Thailand have excellent medical facilities and staff.

Non-Profit Health Organizations                                                                                                      A variety of agencies exist in Thailand to help disadvantaged people. These agencies include the Red Cross, World Vision, and Médecins Sans Frontières.

Doctors in Thailand                                                                                                                        Most of the doctors in Thailand are specialists. For this reason, it may be difficult for you to find a reliable general practitioner to treat you for minor medical issues. At a general hospital, a doctor who is a specialist in a certain field will most likely examine you. It may be difficult for this specialist to deal with a number of smaller medical conditions that you might have. The best idea for you might be to seek an internist as your first resort.

Please note that there are still major hospitals in Thailand that employ family doctors or medical practitioners. In addition, most doctors in Thailand do not have one specific place of work. Thai surgeons and physicians are employed at different hospitals that can be spread all over the city. Some of these doctors also have private clinics. For this reason, doctors in Thailand are likely to go from hospital to hospital to do their rounds. Some issues arise from this. For example, if you have just had surgery and a problem arises, your surgeon may have already left for another hospital and may have to deal with your situation over the phone.

Emergency Transport Facilities                                                                                       Emergency transport facilities in Thailand are unfortunately somewhat lacking. Although large hospitals in Thailand do have mobile intensive care units, you will rarely see an ambulance racing through the streets of Bangkok. Traffic accidents are attended to by volunteer organizations. The main obstacle in terms of emergency transport is the traffic in Bangkok; cars do not generally move out of the way for an ambulance.

Thailand has had a universal health-care coverage scheme since 2002. Apiradee Treerutkuarkul examines how renal-replacement therapy for the chronic end-stage renal disease is straining the scheme’s resources.

In 1998 21-year-old Thunyalak Boonsumlit fell ill so her worried parents took her to hospital. “I thought I had food poisoning,” she recalls. The doctor, however, told her she had acute kidney disease and would die without immediate treatment. There was more bad news: although her parents were insured by Thailand’s Civil Servant Medical Benefit Scheme, this scheme only covers dependents up to the age of 20. Boonsumlit was treated for a month and sent home.

In 2002 Thailand reformed its public health financing system. This extended the scope of coverage to 18 million people who were uninsured and to a further 29 million who were previously covered by less-comprehensive schemes.

It was the realization of a project that had been a quarter of a century in the making, starting with the creation of a social welfare scheme for the poor in 1975. The new scheme offered comprehensive health care that included not just basics, such as free prescription drugs, outpatient care, hospitalization and disease prevention, but more expensive medical services, such as radiotherapy, surgery and critical care for accidents and emergencies. But it did not cover renal-replacement therapy due to budget constraints. Boonsumlit and thousands of fellow sufferers were on their own.

“There was a concern that renal-replacement therapy could burden the system. Major health risks leading to kidney diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension, were still not well controlled,” says Dr. Prateep Dhanakijcharoen, deputy secretary general of the National Health Security Office, which oversees the Universal Coverage Scheme. And renal replacement therapy is expensive. The cost of hemodialysis is about 400,000 baht (US$ 12,100) per year. This is four times higher than the 100,000 baht (US$ 3,000) per quality-adjusted life year threshold set by the National Health Security Office’s benefits package subcommittee for drugs and treatments. This threshold was adopted as a national benchmark.

Dhanakijcharoen believes that the Universal Coverage Scheme plan should have included kidney disease from the outset, a view shared by Dr. Viroj Tangcharoensathien, director of the International Health Policy Programme at the Ministry of Public Health. It was a simple matter of fairness: “There are three health-care schemes in Thailand,” he says. “Only the Universal Coverage Scheme did not include renal-replacement therapy.”

In 2005 Boonsumlit became ill again and was diagnosed with end-stage renal disease. For a year her parents had to pay 400,000 baht (US$ 12,100) to cover her dialysis. This time she was told that if a suitable donor could be found, a kidney transplant was the best option. The procedure cost 300,000 baht (US$ 9,000). Boonsumlit’s mother donated a kidney, and once again she and her husband paid all the bills, including the cost of post-transplant medication required to prevent the rejection of a new kidney.

But there was increasing community pressure for change. People like Subil Noksakul, who had spent his life savings on medical treatment over a period of 19 years, were tired of being treated like pariahs. “I once managed to save 7 million baht. But all my savings are now all gone,” he says. Like everyone else, he found it unacceptable that the Civil Servant Medical Benefit Scheme and the Social Security Scheme, which rely on public funds, both offered treatment for kidney disease while the Universal Coverage Scheme did not.

In 2006 Noksakul founded the Thai Kidney Club, which raised kidney patients’ awareness of their rights and put pressure on the National Health Security Office to provide treatment. Finally, in January 2008, the then public health minister, Mongkol Na Songkhla, bowed to public pressure and included renal-replacement therapy in the scheme. For Boonsumlit, Noksakul and thousands of other kidney patients, it was a watershed moment.

Unsurprisingly, since 2008, demand for treatment has spiraled. According to Dhanakijcharoen, 2.5 billion baht (US$ 76 million) of the total annual National Health Security Office budget of 120 billion baht (US$ 3.62 billion) has been allocated to renal-replacement therapy with 8,000 patients receiving haemodialysis and 4000 receiving peritoneal dialysis: to meet the full need, this treatment would require a huge increase in funding.

“The cost of renal replacement therapy is still less than 2% of the total budget,” he says, but warns the cost could blow out should Thailand fail to focus on prevention and reduce new cases.

The Ministry of Public Health’s Tangcharoensathien paints an even starker picture: “Without alternatives, renal-replacement therapy, when fully scaled up to target end-stage kidney patients, could consume more than 12% of the Universal Coverage Scheme annual budget, and push it to the verge of financial crisis,” he says.

The National Health Security Office is trying to reduce some costs by encouraging patients to perform their own peritoneal dialysis at home. This is dialysis in which patients filter their own blood by periodically injecting fluid into the abdominal cavity, which is later drained. Tangcharoensathien believes nurses can play a crucial role in training patients and family members to use equipment that is provided free of charge under universal coverage. Meanwhile, those patients who continue with the more expensive hemodialysis must now pay one-third of the total cost of treatment.

It is debatable whether home-treatment would have a big impact on costs, given the increased risk of infection and subsequent expenses associated with peritoneal dialysis, which costs up to 240,000 baht (US$ 7,300) annually. However, it would save rural patients the twice-weekly fares to visit a hemodialysis center in a provincial city, which poor patients cannot afford. The National Health Security Office aims to reduce the cost of peritoneal dialysis to about 200,000 baht (US$ 6000) per year.

More promising perhaps is the government’s broader campaign to improve the nation’s renal health. Screening for diabetes and hypertension, as part of a 2.5 billion baht (US$ 76 million project) is due to start this year. According to the National Health Security Office’s Dhanakijcharoen, the project will cover 5500 communities and municipalities nationwide. “Although the current health-promotion fund is still insufficient, it is a good start for prevention and early detection of diabetes and hypertension among local residents,” Dhanakijcharoen says, adding that encouraging healthier lifestyles will also help to reduce the cost of chronic disease and the burden it places on the health budget.

Tangcharoensathien concurs: “If the government allocated more budget to run the scheme, the National Health Security Office would be able to invest more in reducing health risks, and people would not end up with kidney disease in the first place.”

Both men are eager to see the latest universal coverage initiative succeed. They are proud of what has been achieved on total health expenditure equivalent to 4% of gross domestic product (GDP) – compared to the world median of 6.2% of GDP and 4.5% for lower-middle income countries. Dhanakijcharoen says, “We would like to let the world know that it’s not necessary to launch a universal health-care system only when the money is there; what is important is to work steadily on it. But dedication is a must.”

The Question is what Thailand can teach the world about universal healthcare

The Asian nation proves that a well-researched system with dedicated leadership can improve health, affordably. In 10 years, its plan reduced infant mortality, decreased worker sick days and lightened families’ financial burdens

While countries all over the world are moving toward universal healthcare, for many it remains just a goal. But a handful of them have rolled out universal health coverage schemes, and there’s plenty to learn from these nations. Consider Thailand, where leaders successfully implemented sweeping healthcare reform without breaking the bank.

In 2000, about one-quarter of people in Thailand were uninsured, and many other people had policies that granted incomplete protection. As a result, the country was in a healthcare crisis. More than 17,000 children younger than five died that year, about two-thirds of them from easily preventable infectious diseases. And about 20% of the poorest Thai homes fell into poverty from out-of-pocket healthcare spending.

In 2001, Thailand introduced the Universal Coverage Scheme (UCS). It’s described as “one of the most ambitious healthcare reforms ever undertaken in a developing country” in the book Millions Saved: New The Center for Global Development reviewed the Thai healthcare system and found Cases of Proven Success in Global Health. The UCS, which spread to all provinces the following year, provides outpatient, inpatient and emergency care, available to all according to need. By 2011, the program covered 48 million Thais or 98% of the population.

Several things worked in favor of Thailand’s UCS, including a sustained support system and a broad reach. Reformers from the 2001 general election’s winning political party, Thai Rak Thai, held leadership positions, and they were able to help back the program. As described by Dr. Suwit Wibulpolprasert, the program’s policy director and Thailand’s deputy secretary of the ministry of health at the time, the UCS had to go wide quickly. “The challenge was to implement it fast,” he says. “It couldn’t be done over 10 years because there was huge political pressure.”

Thailand’s UCS was implemented in every province by January 2002, but this level of comprehensive care had taken decades to develop. Since the 1970s, free medical care had been available to some people in poverty, but the country had a range of health insurance schemes that left many without coverage. Developing infrastructure – hospitals, clinics, and trained staff – to support universal coverage took years.

According to Dr. Sara Bennett, associate professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, quality is the most challenging aspect of universal healthcare in developing countries. Government-funded healthcare is often free, but it can be geographically inaccessible, limited to a few facilities and administered by poorly trained staff. In addition, what works in urban areas might not be suited to rural contexts and vice versa.

When Thailand established solid health infrastructure, universal healthcare “totally changed the relationship between patients and doctors”, Wibulpolprasert says. Before, patients paid a fee to their doctors when they visited the hospital. After 2001, the government paid hospitals, including salaries for staff, and financially incentivized medical professionals to serve unpopular rural areas.

The lessons in Thailand: a well-researched system with a dedicated leadership can improve health, and in an affordable way. As of 2011, the country’s health scheme cost just $80 per person annually, primarily funded by general income tax; it effectively reduced infant mortality, decreased worker sick days and lightened families’ financial burden for healthcare.

Meanwhile, in the US, securing agreement from political leadership is one of the most contentious issues over universal healthcare. The Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act, also known as Obamacare, was signed into law in 2010, yet is still embroiled in political controversy. However, the plan is paying off: more people than ever are insured and out-of-pocket spending has dramatically declined among those insured.

Around the world, many low- and middle-income countries are also moving toward universal care. “They are covering more people, who are paying less out of pocket and have access to a broader array of services,” Bennett says. “Many countries are making significant strides towards this, including the poorest.”

Paying for universal health care remains a challenge. In South Korea, for instance, care is funded by compulsory health insurance from all citizens and covers about 97% of the population. However, the country’s health system is in growing deficit.

Listen carefully, in Thailand, affordability is not currently an issue, though the cost of the program as a proportion of general income tax is rising yearly. The cost and payment for the system have to be considered in our country of the U.S.A. if we want a universal health care system of any type! Still, the UCS continues to have wide support from the country’s government, health workers, and the wider population.

“The challenge is to make it more efficient, to get more for less money, particularly with the introduction of new technology and new drugs,” Wibulpolprasert says.

According to Carolyn Hart, Washington office director at health consultancy John Snow Inc, a multisectoral approach is a key to global healthcare. “We are looking at the need to develop channels at all price points including free, subsidized and pay as you go, which could be insurance,” she says.

“How can [countries] afford not to invest in the health of their people?” she adds. “Poor health holds you back so badly.”

We just have to decide to make the right decisions and what the correct design of our health care system and how we are going to pay for it. There are many differences here as there are in many of the countries that have a universal health care system and we have to examine which we can adapt to create a successful, caring and sustainable system.

Onward to discuss Bernie’s proposal and luck and prayers to the divers and Thai children and their coach.

Is Statewide Single-Payer Feasible, or Is It Just ‘California Dreamin’?

15826113_1072477266215265_6530794931196981565_nLast week we were treated to the future with the Democrats having the new candidate and even worse, a socialist getting involved in the future of our country and especially health care, immigration, and even more. Be careful! After her victory in Tuesday’s primary election, a lot of political commentators scrambled to figure out how a young socialist like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez managed to unseat 10-year incumbent Joe Crowley. While there are some obvious explanations, like her campaign was strong and her ideas are good, the upset has also inspired dismissiveness and hand-wringing, with Nancy Pelosi brushing off the win as just “one district” and op-eds proclaiming that “Democrats can kiss swing voters goodbye with the progressive ballot.”

But Ocasio-Cortez is aware of those critiques—in fact, she had them in mind throughout her campaign.

This may be as good an electoral policy as the Democrats have had in a long time. For decades the Democratic playbook has been to try to peel off moderate Republican voters rather than energize a working class and left-wing base, and while that could, debatably, be a sound strategy in purple districts, it doesn’t make sense in a reliably blue territory. On top of that, the insistence on always playing to the middle while the Republican Party swings further into full-blown authoritarianism has produced a huge imagination deficit among the Democrats. There have been precious few big ideas coming out of the Democratic Party, particularly ideas that voters care about, and in that vacuum, the central policies of Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign, like Medicare for all and abolishing ICE, are concrete and exciting.

And on top of that, Ocasio-Cortez’s success has shown that her policies are popular. So popular that mainstream Democrats are quickly getting on board with things like abolishing ICE: this past week both Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand have publicly endorsed the position. It shouldn’t have taken a blowout election for establishment Democrats to come out against agencies literally throwing kids in cages, but it’s a big step forward from the previously most mainstream solution of throwing kids in cages along with their parents.

Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign is evidence that big solutions aren’t just fantasies. As long as Democrats are too afraid or just unwilling to take stands on the deepening crises happening on fronts across the country, they have little hope of regaining real political power and even less of actually accomplishing anything.

Rich Pedroncelli wrote that California’s leading progressives are currently debating — amicably, for the moment — when the right time will arrive to destroy the state’s healthcare system.

The frontrunner in the race for the governor’s mansion, current Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, has long championed single-payer health care. But he recently softened his support. “[Single-payer] is not an act that would occur by the signature of the next governor,” he recently said. “There’s a lot of mythology about that.”

His most progressive allies — including the California Nurses Association, which has led the charge for single-payer — appear to be in more of a hurry. “To get there, state leaders must have the political will,” said Stephanie Roberson, a legislative advocate for the Association.

This debate — over when to implement single-payer — misses the point. Any single-payer system would be a disaster for California taxpayers and patients, whether it’s established tomorrow or in ten years.

California’s most recent dalliance with single-payer originated last June when the State Senate passed SB 562, the Healthy California Act. The bill would consolidate all public insurance programs — including Medicare and Medi-Cal — into a single state-run health plan. That plan would also gobble up uninsured Californians, those who buy insurance through Covered California, and the millions who currently have coverage through work.

Like most single-payer schemes, the proposed system would effectively outlaw private insurance. Public officials would determine which drugs, procedures, and services the one-size-fits-all system covers. Care would be free at the point of service. Californians would pay no premiums, deductibles, or co-pays, and referrals to specialists would not be necessary.

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon ultimately rejected SB 562 as “woefully incomplete,” since it included no funding mechanism. But to pacify progressives, he formed a special commission, grandly titled the “Assembly Select Committee on Health Care Delivery Systems and Universal Coverage,” to further study single-payer.

The Committee heard more than 30 hours of testimony before releasing a report authored by an independent healthcare consultant and professors from the University of California, San Francisco, and the University of California, San Diego. That report essentially concluded that implementing single-payer would be impossible in the short term.

Among the reasons? It’d cost about $400 billion. That’s more than double California’s entire annual budget.

In theory, the state could cover about half that total by poaching federal funding from existing public insurance programs, such as Medicare and Medi-Cal. But as the report points out, that would require a federal waiver — one the Trump administration almost certainly wouldn’t grant.

Even if Democrats retake the White House in 2020 and grant California a waiver, the state would still have to come up with $200 billion to fund the single-payer system. Senate leaders have floated a 15 percent payroll tax.

A study conducted by the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, economist Robert Pollin on behalf of the California Nurses Association claims that the state would only need to raise an additional $106 billion in revenue.

And even if those wildly optimistic projections are correct, California would still have to raise taxes significantly. The nurses’ study suggests an additional 2.3 percent sales tax — on top of the existing 7.25 percent levy — and an equivalent tax on business revenue.

Such enormous tax increases would drive businesses out of California. As the tax base continually shrinks, lawmakers would be forced to raise tax rates higher and higher to offset the lost revenue.

On the other side of the equation, single-payer advocates’ rosy revenue projections are predicated upon wresting significant savings out of the healthcare status quo. Practically, that means paying doctors and hospitals less — rates likely tied to Medicare or Medi-Cal, which are much lower than those paid by private insurers.

Many doctors would respond to such pay cuts by retiring early or moving to other states. Meanwhile, the best and brightest medical students would think twice about coming to California to practice. These twin outcomes would exacerbate the Golden State’s existing shortage of physicians, particularly in high-need areas.

Publicly funded health care for all sure sounds good. But the math behind single-payer doesn’t add up. And all the political will in the world can’t overcome that fact.

Canadians are one in a million — while waiting for medical treatment

Sally Pipes wrote that Canada’s single-payer healthcare system forced over 1 million patients to wait for necessary medical treatments last year. That’s an all-time record.

Those long wait times were more than just a nuisance; they cost patients $1.9 billion in lost wages, according to a new report by the Fraser Institute, a Vancouver-based think-tank.

Lengthy treatment delays are the norm in Canada and other single-payer nations, which ration care to keep costs down. Yet more and more Democratic leaders are pushing for a single-payer system — and more and more voters are clamoring for one.

Indeed, three in four Americans now support a national health plan — and a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll finds that health care is the most important issue for voters in the coming election.

The leading proponent of transitioning the United States to a single-payer system is Sen. Bernie Sanders, Vermont’s firebrand independent. If Sanders and his allies succeed, Americans will face the same delays and low-quality care as their neighbors to the north.

By his own admission, Sen. Sanders’ “Medicare for All” bill is modeled on Canada’s healthcare system. On a fact-finding trip to Canada last fall, Sanders praised the country for “guaranteeing health care to all people,” noting that “there is so much to be learned” from the Canadian system.

The only thing Canadian patients are “guaranteed” is a spot on a waitlist. As the Fraser report notes, in 2017, more than 173,000 patients waited for an ophthalmology procedure. Another 91,000 lined up for some form of general surgery, while more than 40,000 waited for a urology procedure.

All told, nearly 3 percent of Canada’s population was waiting for some kind of medical care at the end of last year.

Those delays were excruciatingly long. After receiving a referral from a general practitioner, the typical patient waited more than 21 weeks to receive treatment from a specialist. That was the longest average waiting period on record — and more than double the median wait in 1993.

Rural patients faced even longer delays. For instance, the average Canadian in need of orthopedic surgery waited almost 24 weeks for treatment — but the typical patient in rural Nova Scotia waited nearly 39 weeks for the same procedure.

One Ontario woman, Judy Congdon, learned that she needed a hip replacement in 2016, according to the Toronto Sun. Doctors initially scheduled the procedure for September 2017 — almost a year later. The surgery never happened on schedule. The hospital ran over budget, forcing physicians to postpone the operation for another year.

In the United States, suffering for a year or more before receiving a joint replacement is unheard of. In Canada, it’s normal.

Canadians lose a lot of money waiting for their “free” socialized medicine. On average, patients forfeit over $1,800 in lost wages. And that’s only counting the working hours they miss due to pain and immobility.

The Fraser Institute researchers also calculated the value of all the waking hours that patients lost because they couldn’t fully function. The toll was staggering — almost $5,600 per patient, totaling $5.8 billion nationally. And those calculations ignore the value of uncompensated care provided by family members, who often take time off work or quit their jobs to help ill loved ones.

Canada isn’t an anomaly. Every nation that offers government-funded, universal coverage features long wait times. When the government makes health care “free,” consumers’ demand for medical services surges. Patients have no incentive to limit their doctor visits or choose more cost-efficient providers.

To prevent expenses from ballooning, the government sets strict budget caps that only enable hospitals to hire a limited number of staff and purchase a meager amount of equipment. Demand inevitably outstrips supply. Shortages result.

Just look at the United Kingdom’s government enterprise, the National Health Service, which turns 70 this July. Today, British hospitals are so overcrowded that doctors regularly treat patients in hallways. The agency recently canceled tens of thousands of surgeries, including urgent cancer procedures, because of severe resource shortages. And this winter, nearly 17,000 patients waited in the backs of their ambulances — many for an hour or more — before hospital staff could clear space for them in the emergency room.

Most Americans would look at these conditions in horror. Yet Sen. Sanders and his fellow travelers continue to treat the healthcare systems in Canada and the UK as paragons to which America should aspire.

Sen. Sanders’s “Medicare for All” proposal would effectively ban private insurance and force all Americans into a single, government-funded healthcare plan. According to Sen. Sanders, this new insurance scheme would cover everything from regular check-ups to prescription drugs and specialty care, no referral needed — all at no charge to patients.

Americans shouldn’t fall for these rosy promises. As Canadians know all too well, when the government foots the bill for healthcare, patients are the ones who pay the biggest price.

Most Californians support single-payer unless they have to pay for it

Maybe Californians really are tired of paying so much in taxes. But Sal Rodriquez found that according to a recent survey from the Public Policy Institute of California, 53 percent of likely voters support the idea of a single-payer health care system in California, but support falls to just 41 percent if single-payer would require new taxes, which it will.

About two-thirds of Democrats support the idea of a single-payer system even if it means higher taxes – because to be a Democrat in California is apparently to firmly believe that the inept government in Sacramento deserves more of everyone’s hard-earned money.

Only 11 percent of (very confused) Republicans 31 percent of independents share that view.

According to the survey, the Bay Area is the only region in the state where a majority of likely voters support a single-payer system even if it means higher taxes, but even then it’s just 55 percent of them. Majorities of likely voters in the Central Valley and Orange/San Diego Counties outright oppose a single-payer plan, and almost half (47 percent) of Inland Empire likely voters also oppose the idea.

It should be absolutely clear that a single-payer plan will necessarily entail higher taxes and there’s no way around it.

A California Senate Rules Committee analysis of SB562, a single-payer bill which remarkably passed the state Senate despite not actually offering an actual plan, noted that “about $200 billion in additional tax revenues would be needed to pay for the remainder of the total program cost.”

For context, total estimated general fund revenues for 2018-19 for state government is just over $140 billion.

So, yeah, single-payer will require enormous tax hikes. Considering that most Californians already believe they pay more in taxes than they should and that the state can barely manage everything it does now, single-payer is a fanciful idea that shouldn’t be seriously contemplated at this time.

Bernie Sanders: Starbucks CEO ‘dead wrong’ on government-run health care

Kimberly Leonard of the Washington Examiner reported that outgoing Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has been criticized by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., over his comments on a healthcare system fully funded by the government.  (Reuters)

Liberal Sen. Bernie Sanders says outgoing Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is “dead wrong” for saying that moving to a health care system fully funded by the government isn’t realistic.

The Vermont independent, who has been pressing for the U.S. to move toward socialized medicine, was asked to respond to comments Schultz made about the plan in another interview.

Schultz recently announced that he would be leaving Starbucks and said he was considering “public service.” He said on CNBC he was concerned about the way “so many voices within the Democratic Party are going so far to the left.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders said Medicare-for-all is a “cost-effective” program.  (AP)

“And I ask myself, how are we going to pay for all these things? In terms of things like single-payer or people espousing the fact that the government is going to give everyone a job, I don’t think that’s realistic,” he said.

CNN’s Chris Cuomo asked Sanders about the possibility of Schultz running as “the Left’s Trump” who may go up against the current president in 2020.

Sanders said he didn’t know Schultz but his comment was “dead wrong.”

“You have a guy who thinks that the United States apparently should remain the only major country on earth not to guarantee health care to all people,” Sanders said. “The truth of the matter is that I think study after study has indicated that Medicare for All is a much more cost-effective approach toward health care than our current, dysfunctional health care system, which is far and away the most expensive system per capita than any system on Earth.”

I think the Bernie is a nut socialist but he may be correct in this situation. However, Medicare for All is also questionable and I can’t believe these candidates suggesting that they as governors can change a federal law or system. And also remember what free borders for illegal immigrants mean to a health care system. Who is going to pay for all those illegal immigrants needing health care? Be careful what you wish for!!

And finally on to the discussion of Medicare for All!!