Category Archives: British Health Care

Obamacare, Trump and a lawsuit: How industry is reacting, Mental Health and Back to Court!

Picture1.Trump and obamacare the wasps nestSorry for the delay with this week’s post but with all my travels through Europe the Internet connection was not secure enough to send this edition. So, here it is with a bit more regarding Obamacare and President Trump. However, it was interesting again to hear from some of my travel associates how they were satisfied with their type of socialized medicine, but that there were many shortcomings including long wait to see their doctors and with the care that they received. One additional point was made that the dental care had become unreliable since the dentists finally decided not to participate in the national dental plan in England due to the poor payment schedule and the government regulations. My wife and I were warned to be careful as a nation for what we really want the government to control. Also, the Brits told us that there wasn’t enough money to cover the needs of health care for all in their country.

Susannah Luthi’s piece on Obamacare and Trump deserves mention as we go on to discuss alternatives. The Trump administration’s decision to support eliminating the entire Affordable Care Act has riled lawmakers and industry alike as they navigate the line between politics and the potential practical impact of the lawsuit.

The Justice Department’s politically volatile move last week to agree with a Texas judge’s ruling against the law sparked a political firestorm not likely to end soon in the ramp-up to 2020 elections. It has already inspired calls for a GOP replacement plan.

But as the case wends its way through the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and potentially the U.S. Supreme Court after that, healthcare business goes on as usual across the country and likely will continue to do so as legal experts are skeptical the lawsuit will succeed.

“From my perspective, anything that would happen to the law is at best a year away,” said Dave Schreiner, CEO of Katherine Shaw Bethea Hospital, an 80-bed rural facility in Dixon, Ill. He is also the chair of the American Hospital Association’s Section for Small or Rural Hospitals. “It’s hard from a strategy perspective to react to anything like that.”

Last week, just after the Justice Department made its statement, Schreiner held a three-year strategic planning retreat with his board of directors.

“The ACA was not part of that discussion,” he said.

Instead, the organization’s discussion delved into the Trump administration’s regulations that touch industry’s day-to-day operations — such as last year’s regulation to cut Medicare Part B reimbursement to 340B hospitals and setting some Medicare site-neutral payment rates.

“Those have the opportunity to impact us very urgently and negatively,” Schreiner told Modern Healthcare, noting the 340B drug discount program in particular.

But in Washington, the industry trade groups on the front-lines of policy battles say there is plenty of reason to worry or at least keep their guard up.

“The important thing for the industry is to keep in mind the old saw about, ‘Don’t listen to what they say, watch what they do,'” said Chip Kahn, president, and CEO of the Federation of American Hospitals. “And that being the case, this position is a reminder that the administration ultimately supports policies that are likely to mean less coverage rather than more. And we need to prepare ourselves for that to continue.”

Ceci Connolly, president, and CEO of the Alliance of Community Health Plans which represents not-for-profit insurers, is also taking the administration’s position extremely seriously. On Monday her group filed an amicus brief in the lawsuit on Monday, supporting the ACA and the Democratic state attorneys general who will defend it.

America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the American Medical Association and the American Hospital Association also filed amicus briefs on Monday.

“If you look at small nonprofits, we don’t have a lot of extra dollars to spend on filing court briefs, so I think this indicates how seriously we are taking this threat — that we have taken this step to articulate, we hope very clearly, to the court that this would be incredibly detrimental on so many levels,” Connolly said.

She called the president’s move a “complete game-changer, with no replacement plan.”

Axios over the weekend reported that President Donald Trump doesn’t expect the lawsuit to succeed and made the move out of political considerations. Joseph Antos of the American Enterprise Institute characterized the lawsuit move as a “particularly awkward play” aimed at Trump’s political base and the administration’s approach as a “short track to nowhere.”

Last week, Trump over Twitter and in Congress declared the Republican party the “party of healthcare,” and promised a new and better plan, although Republicans failed to pass a replacement in 2017 when they controlled both chambers of Congress.

The gap between political rhetoric around the lawsuit and what’s likely to happen next makes for a confusing landscape for GOP lawmakers to navigate.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a moderate, urged Attorney General William Barr in a letter Monday to reject the administration’s stance on the Obamacare lawsuit.

“This surprising decision goes well beyond the position taken by the department last June, and puts at risk not only critical consumer provisions such as those protecting individuals suffering from pre-existing conditions but also other important provisions of that law,” Collins wrote to Barr.

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of Republican leadership in the Senate, last week emphasized that the lawsuit’s fate depends on the 5th Circuit rather than the president.

“From my point of view, I don’t want to presuppose what the courts are going to do,” he said. “Certainly, the Court of Appeals has the entire record that is not dependent on the government’s arguing its past position.”

On the regulatory side, the administration is pushing for industry-specific policies on healthcare, including site-neutral payment policies and 340B cuts, as well as policies hospitals favor like rolling back Medicare red tape.

Not all of the rules are partisan: the site-neutral payments, in particular, have bipartisan support from policy analysts.

On the insurance front, the White House has homed in on expanding association health plans and short-term, limited duration plans.

But industry representatives in Washington, who watch those regulations for their impact on profits, characterize the president’s stance on the lawsuit as part of the regulatory picture.

“When you couple (the lawsuit) with other efforts on association health plans and short-term plans, you begin to have a higher degree of concern,” Connolly said.

Kahn also argued that the administration’s regulations are in line with its strategy on the lawsuit.

“I think when you look at the different issues (around the regulations), I don’t think my concern about this lawsuit necessarily overshadows my concern about any of those other matters,” he said. “There’s a strategic reason why the president chose to take this position on the lawsuit, and it reflects a policy that HHS carries out every day, in its attitude toward coverage provisions of the ACA.”

Attacking the ACA Is an Attack on Mental Health: The Sequel

The threat is even more real

This article is adapted from a blog post on Sept. 20, 2018, when the author anticipated the consequences of a possible federal court ruling declaring the unconstitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.

Micheal Friedman had reported that the Affordable Care Act(a.k.a. Obamacare) was ruled unconstitutional by a federal court in Texas in December. That ruling has been appealed, and now the Justice Department has asked that the ruling is upheld. If that happens, millions of people will lose health coverage, including coverage for mental health and substance abuse treatment.

Amazing! At a time when everyone agrees that access to treatment is critical to fighting the opioid epidemic and that mental health services fall woefully short of meeting America’s need; a court ruling could deprive tens of millions of people of coverage for mental health and substance abuse services.

The Affordable Care Act increased access for these services for those tens of millions by increasing coverage generally, by mandating that the health coverage purchased through the federal and state health exchanges include coverage for mental health and substance abuse treatment, and by requiring coverage of pre-existing conditions — including mental disorders. It also required parity — i.e., that payment for behavioral health services be on a par with physical health services, making such services more affordable.

Before the Affordable Care Act, many health insurance plans for small groups or individuals and occasionally for large groups did not cover the behavioral cost at all or only at a great additional cost. The amount of coverage was also usually very limited. Typically, there were caps on numbers of covered outpatient visits and of inpatient days per year. Co-pays were typically 50% rather than 20%. Annual and lifetime caps were common, which might not be a problem for occasional acute disorders but left people with chronic conditions without coverage very quickly.

Mental and substance use disorders were also among the pre-existing conditions for which coverage could be and often was denied.

Federal legislation prior to the Affordable Care Act addressed some of the problems related to lack of parity, but not all. And parity was only required if a health plan included behavioral health coverage, not if the health plan covered only physical health conditions — a widely used option open to the purchasers of health plans.

And, prior to the ACA, no one — not large employers or small employers or individuals — was legally obliged to buy health insurance at all.

The ACA addressed all of these problems. Employers — except very small employers — were required to provide coverage for their employees (some with subsidies). Medicaid eligibility was extended to more working poor people. Individuals who did not have coverage through work, Medicare, Medicaid, the State Child Health Insurance Program, or the VA were required to purchase coverage (some with subsidies). And the small group and individual plans purchased through the federal or state health exchanges were required to include coverage for mental health and substance abuse disorders.

The original expectation was that changes under the ACA would provide behavioral health coverage for as many as 62 million people. The decision of several states not to extend Medicaid to larger populations and a subsequent decision not to penalize people who did not purchase insurance resulted in some shortfall. Nevertheless, there are still tens of millions of people with behavioral health coverage today who did not have it prior to the ACA.

Of course, not all will lose coverage if the ACA falls. Some employers who previously did not provide behavioral health coverage may decide to do so. Some individuals could continue to buy plans with such coverage — if such plans are affordable.

But that is unlikely. If people who do not believe they need coverage for mental health or substance abuse services opts for cheaper plans without behavioral health coverage — or no plans — the cost of plans with such coverage will rise because the people who buy them are likely to use them. The insurance industry refers to this as “adverse selection.”

If our nation really wants to have a health insurance system that will help to address the opioid epidemic and the vast underserviced of people with mental disorders, it must make sure that behavioral health coverage is affordable. It must also require coverage of people with pre-existing conditions. And it must enforce parity requirements.

To do this, the Affordable Care Act must stay in place unless or until a viable alternative is created. Swatting it down suddenly by court decree will have devastating consequences for millions.

 

Trump’s battle with ‘Obamacare’ moves back to the courts

Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar noted that after losing in Congress, President Donald Trump is counting on the courts to kill off “Obamacare” as I started off this post. But some cases are going against him, and time is not on his side as he tries to score a big win for his re-election campaign.

Two federal judges in Washington, D.C., this past week blocked parts of Trump’s health care agenda: work requirements for some low-income people on Medicaid, and new small business health plans that don’t have to provide full benefits required by the Affordable Care Act.

But in the biggest case, a federal judge in Texas ruled last December that the ACA is unconstitutional and should be struck down in its entirety. That ruling is now on appeal. At the urging of the White House, the Justice Department said this past week it will support the Texas judge’s position and argue that all of “Obamacare” must go.

A problem for Trump is that the litigation could take months to resolve — or longer — and there’s no guarantee he’ll get the outcomes he wants before the 2020 election.

“Was this a good week for the Trump administration? No,” said economist Gail Wilensky, who headed up Medicare under former Republican President George H.W. Bush. “But this is the beginning of a series of judicial challenges.”

It’s early innings in the court cases, and “the clock is going to run out,” said Timothy Jost, a retired law professor who has followed the Obama health law since its inception.

“By the time these cases get through the courts there simply isn’t going to be time for the administration to straighten out any messes that get created, much less get a comprehensive plan through Congress,” added Jost, who supports the ACA.

In the Texas case, Trump could lose by winning.

If former President Barack Obama’s health law is struck down entirely, Congress would face an impossible task: pass a comprehensive health overhaul to replace it that both Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Trump can agree to. The failed attempt to repeal “Obamacare” in 2017 proved to be toxic for congressional Republicans in last year’s midterm elections and they are in no mood to repeat it.

“The ACA now is nine years old and it would be incredibly disruptive to uproot the whole thing,” said Thomas Barker, an attorney with the law firm Foley Hoag, who served as a top lawyer at the federal Health and Human Services department under former Republican President George W. Bush. “It seems to me that you can resolve this issue more narrowly than by striking down the ACA.”

Trump seems unfazed by the potential risks.

“Right now, it’s losing in court,” he asserted Friday, referring to the Texas case against “Obamacare.”

The case “probably ends up in the Supreme Court,” Trump continued. “But we’re doing something that is going to be much less expensive than Obamacare for the people … and we’re going to have (protections for) pre-existing conditions and will have a much lower deductible. So, and I’ve been saying that, the Republicans are going to end up being the party of health care.”

There’s no sign that his administration has a comprehensive health care plan, and there doesn’t seem to be a consensus among Republicans in Congress.

A common thread in the various health care cases is that they involve lower-court rulings for now, and there’s no telling how they may ultimately be decided. Here’s a status check on major lawsuits:

— “Obamacare” Repeal

U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor in Fort Worth, Texas, ruled that when Congress repealed the ACA’s fines for being uninsured, it knocked the constitutional foundation out from under the entire law. His ruling is being appealed by attorneys general from Democratic-led states to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

The challenge to the ACA was filed by officials from Texas and other GOP-led states. It’s now fully supported by the Trump administration, which earlier had argued that only the law’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions and its limits on how much insurers could charge older, sicker customers were constitutionally tainted. All sides expect the case to go to the Supreme Court, which has twice before upheld the ACA.

— Medicaid Work Requirements

U.S. District Court Judge James E. Boasberg in Washington, D.C., last week blocked Medicaid work requirements in Kentucky and Arkansas approved by the Trump administration. The judge questioned whether the requirements were compatible with Medicaid’s central purpose of providing “medical assistance” to low-income people. He found that administration officials failed to account for coverage losses and other potential harm, and sent the Health and Human Services Department back to the drawing board.

The Trump administration says it will continue to approve state requests for work requirements, but has not indicated if it will appeal.

— Small Business Health Plans

U.S. District Court Judge John D. Bates last week struck down the administration’s health plans for small business and sole proprietors, which allowed less generous benefits than required by the ACA. Bates found that administration regulations creating the plans were “clearly an end-run” around the Obama health law and also ran afoul of other federal laws governing employee benefits.

The administration said it disagrees but hasn’t formally announced an appeal.

Also facing challenges in courts around the country are an administration regulation that bars federally funded family planning clinics from referring women for abortions and a rule that allows employers with religious and moral objections to opt out of offering free birth control to women workers as a preventive care service.

I thought that I laid out fixes for the Affordable Care Act in my last three posts so now let us look at “alternative solutions”.

Survey Shows that Worries about Healthcare​ Will Follow Voters into the Voting Booth, Waiting for Healthcare in Canada and Some Progress Finally!!

41715310_1709429559186696_758100051737182208_nIf anyone doubts the significance of our discussion regarding how important health care discussion is in the voters’ minds. Look at this survey! Oh, those greedy angry politicians and the mid-term elections!! The question is what are our politicians interested in?

I had an interesting conversation with a strategist for the Democratic party and she agreed with me that even if the Republicans in the House and the Senate came up with a solution to health care and or immigration that fulfilled their wants and needs, they wouldn’t approve or vote in favor of any bills until after the mid-term election to which they expected to declare their majority position.

Jenny Dean reviewed a survey, which showed that of the 37 percent of voters nationwide who planned to vote for President Donald Trump in the 2020 election, more than a third of Republicans and 37 percent of Independents said in a survey conducted by the Texas Medical Center that they would change their mind if his policies led to an increase in the uninsured. When the majority of voters across the country head to the voting booth in November and again in 2020, the politics of health care will not be far from their thoughts.

That’s the finding of the fourth annual Texas Medical Center’s national consumer survey, released Wednesday, which gauges attitudes on health issues, ranging from support of President Donald Trump’s policies to whether foods laden with fat and sugar should cost more.

“The Nation’s Pulse,” the survey questioned 5,038 people across 50 states, including 1,018 people in Texas. Respondents were both Democrats and Republicans but also included those who identified as Independent. Nearly two-thirds, or 61 percent, said they would be likely to only vote for candidates who promise to make fixing health care a priority. Additionally, the majority of voters said it was important that candidates share their views on such hot-button issues as the expansion of Medicaid. Those views held both in states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and in the 17 states, including Texas that did not.

Survey responses at a glance

Likelihood to only vote for a candidate who wants health care fixed:

Democrats: 68 percent

Republicans: 60 percent

Independent: 53 percent

Plan to vote for Donald Trump in 2020:

U.S (all parties).: 37 percent

Texas (all parties): 38 percent

2020 Trump voters who would change their mind if the uninsured rate rises:

Republicans: 35 percent

Independents: 37 percent

Democrats: 60 percent

Texans who support Medicaid expansion:

60 percent

Texans who support Medicare for all:

55 percent

Support lowering legal blood alcohol limit while driving to 0.0 percent:

U.S.: 46 percent

Texas: 48 percent

Think foods that lead to obesity should cost more:

U.S. 51 percent

Texas: 56 percent

Source: Texas Medical Center Health Policy Institute

Across all political parties, 60 percent of Texans favored a Medicaid expansion, according to the survey. This comes despite years of steadfast opposition from state leaders. It also closely mirrors a similar survey in June by Houston-based Episcopal Health Foundation and the Kaiser Family Foundation that found 64 percent of Texans wanted a Medicaid expansion.

But perhaps most striking was that “Medicare for All” health coverage — once politically unthinkable in Texas —found surprising favorability with 55 percent in the state saying they would support it. That compares with 59 percent nationwide, the survey found.

“With health care so expensive and increasingly unaffordable, the respondents told us that it is important to try to fix it,” said Dr. Arthur “Tim” Garson, director of the Texas Medical Center Health Policy Institute, which led the study.

While the bitter health care debate of a year ago has slipped mostly out of the headlines, it apparently has not slipped from people’s minds, political operatives from both parties said Tuesday.

Neither Glenn Smith, an Austin-based progressive consultant nor Jamie Bennett, vice president at Potomac Strategy Group, a right-leaning political consulting firm, were especially surprised when told of the survey results.

“I think (health care) is the most critical domestic issue that we face today,” said Smith, adding that worries about affordability and access are “ever-present” in people’s lives.

“Health care is a very important issue for our elected leaders to solve,” agreed Bennett in an email, “It makes up the majority of the federal budget and affects every American at some point in their lifetime. I think health care will continue to be a central issue in the mid-terms and 2020 presidential election — especially given the inaction from the federal level.”

Looking ahead to 2020, the survey zeroed in on Trump supporters. Of the 37 percent of voters nationwide who planned to vote for the president, more than a third of Republicans and 37 percent of Independents said they would change their mind if his policies led to an increase in the uninsured.

Such potential defection did not surprise Smith. “That is one of the things that could knock significant numbers from his base,” he said. Garson cautioned, though, the presidential race is still two years away. “You don’t know until Election Day what people will do,” he said,

There were differences, however, in how party affiliation affected priorities. While reducing costs was considered the highest priority across the board, Democrats listed universal coverage as next, while Republicans and Independents said affordability was the second highest priority.

In other issues, the survey found nearly half of Americans, including those in Texas, supported lowering the legal blood alcohol limit while driving to 0.0. It is currently .08 in Texas. Also, an overwhelming majority in all states wanted the age of buying tobacco products raised to 21, and more than half said that foods that lead to obesity should cost more.

The policymakers and politicians continue to point to the Canadian health care system as one that we should use as the model for our system here in the U.S.A. ’Canadians are one in a million — while waiting for medical treatment

Sally Pipes points out 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 health care, patients are the ones who pay the biggest price.

Sanders 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.

“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.”

But there was progress made as evidenced in that the Senate finally Passes Historic Health Spending Bill and the Package includes funding for cancer, opioids, and maternal mortality

Shannon Firth a Washington Correspondent, for the MedPage, wrote that a spending bill that boosts funding for medical research while also taking aim at the opioid epidemic and maternal mortality passed the Senate on Thursday in a vote of 85-7.

The $857-billion “minibus” package bundled funding for Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as well as for the Defense, Labor, and Education departments.

Senators Mike Lee (R-Utah), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and James Risch (R-Idaho) voted against the bill.

Attention now turns to the House of Representatives, which has not yet acted on a bill to fund HHS. Congress faces a Sept. 30 deadline to enact a funding package to avoid a shutdown of the affected departments.

What’s in It?

The legislation provides $2 billion in additional funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), including $425 million for Alzheimer’s research and $190 million for cancer research. It also maintains current levels of CDC spending for cancer screening and early detection programs, as well as for the agency’s Office of Smoking and Health.

Also woven into the package: $3.7 billion for behavioral and mental health programs targeting opioid addiction — an increase of $145 million over the FY2018 budget — including $1.5 billion in State Opioid Response Grants from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; $200 million to increase prevention and treatment services in Community Health Centers; and $120 million to address the epidemic’s impact in rural areas through support for rural health centers. The bill also dedicates $50 million to programs aimed at tackling maternal mortality.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) lauded the investment in ending maternal mortality in a press statement.

“It is completely inexcusable that mothers are more likely to die in childbirth in our country than any other country in the developed world, and long past time we treated this issue like the crisis it is,” she said.

New Push for Research

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), speaking on the Senate floor Thursday, blasted the short shrift given to NIH from 2003 to 2015.

Should this bill become law, the agency will see a nearly 30% increase in its reserves — from $30 billion to $39 billion, he added.

Already, heightened funding since 2015 has driven efforts to develop new vaccines, rebuild a human heart using a patient’s own cells, and identify new nonaddictive painkillers — “the holy grail of dealing with the opioid crisis” — said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee, during a committee hearing on Thursday.

In addition, NIH Director Francis Collins, MD, Ph.D., said at the hearing that the new monies will let the agency award 1,100 new grants to first-time investigators through the Next Generation Researchers Initiative — the largest number to date.

On the Senate floor, Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) stressed the importance of NIH funding to curb the costs of health care, especially of Alzheimer’s disease.

“If we do not find the cure for Alzheimer’s by the time we reach the year 2050, the budget at Medicare and Medicaid for taking care of Alzheimer’s patients will be equal to the defense budget of our country,” he said.

“Obviously, that is non-sustainable,” Markey noted.

U.S. taxpayers currently spend $277 billion on patients with Alzheimer’s disease. By 2050, that figure is projected to grow to $1.1 trillion, Blunt noted.

Also Wrapped In… 

The minibus package also included the following:

  • $1 million for HHS to develop regulations stipulating that drug companies include the price of the drug in any direct-to-consumer advertisements — an idea supported by HHS Secretary Alex Azar
  • Full funding for the Childhood Cancer STAR Act which involves collecting medical specimens and other data from children with the hardest to treat cancers, and supports research on the challenges pediatric cancer survivors encounter within “minority or medically underserved populations”
  • The requirement that the HHS Secretary provide an update on rulemaking related to information-blocking, as mandated in the 21st Century Cures Act
  • Funds “Trevor’s Law,” which seeks to enhance collaboration among federal, state, and local agencies and the public in investigating possible cancer clusters
  • Mandates that CDC report on the Coal Workers Health Surveillance Program, which targets black lung disease among coal miners

An amendment from Paul aimed at defunding Planned Parenthood failed in a vote of 45-48.

Docs, Wonks Weigh In

Stakeholders in medicine applauded the Senate’s work.

“[T]his bill will enable the nation’s medical schools and teaching hospitals, which perform over half of NIH-funded extramural research, to continue to expand our knowledge, discover new cures and treatments, and deliver on the promise of hope for patients nationwide,” said Darrell Kirch, MD, president and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges, in a press statement.

These new NIH monies will also help support “well-paying jobs across the country, strengthen the economy … and make America more competitive in science and technology,” Kirch said; he urged the House to pass a similar measure as quickly as possible.

The American Heart Association also applauded the Senate’s bipartisan achievement.

“Sustained funding for the NIH is critical to ensuring the nation’s standing as a global leader in research. Even more importantly, it opens an abundance of possibilities in pioneering research that could help us conquer cardiovascular disease, the no. 1 killer in America and around the world,” said Ivor Benjamin, MD, president of the AHA.

Members of the right-leaning Heritage Foundation, however, were disappointed.

“The bill fails to make any program reforms or policy recommendations to address Obamacare. Congress still needs to provide relief to the millions suffering under Obamacare’s reduced choices and higher costs,” said a Heritage report issued Wednesday.

The departments to be funded by the minibus package account for more than 60% of discretionary federal spending for 2019, so there was some positive movement on the health care system despite our political dysfunction. Where do we go next?

 

A Journalist’s Family escaped Socialism and now the Democrats think that they should move the party in its direction; So Let’s Look Closer at the British Experience.

 

 

40790419_1699020056894313_3889611529598795776_nAfter reviewing last week’s craziness I am convinced that our politicians along with the media are truly dysfunctional and really lack civility. Look at the demonstrators who were interviewed during the next potential Supreme Court Judge’s “interrogation”. Most didn’t even know what they were demonstrating against or even what their signs meant. What a crazy world we live in!!

As the “New Democrats” declare their need to change us all and make our system based on socialism I found this interesting article.

Giancarlo Sopo wrote an Opinion contributor who stated that Cuba’s socialist revolution was supposed to work for workers — like his grandparents who lived in Miami during Fulgencio Batista’s dictatorship this interesting article. In January 1959, just two weeks after Fidel Castro seized power, they returned to the island to care for his grandmother’s ailing mother. For the next 20 years, they remained prisoners in their own country. Democratic socialism is a lot like the system his family fled, except its proponents promise to be nicer when seizing your business.

As Cuba’s political and economic situation worsened, his grandfather told a friend he wanted to return to the United States. Someone overheard the conversation and reported him to the authorities. For this, the Castro regime threw him in jail. He was later stripped of his job and salary as an accountant and assigned to feed zoo animals. In addition to the emotional distress it caused, this made my family’s financial circumstances even more precarious.

To understand his grandparents’ desperation to flee socialism, imagine leaving everything behind and starting anew at almost 60 years old.

He, the writer was born in Miami a little after his family was able to return to America — when President Jimmy Carter allowed travel restrictions to lapse. Growing up, a framed photo of his parents with President Ronald Reagan was a mainstay in the living room of his modest duplex. Yet, during the first election, he was able to vote, he served as a precinct captain for Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. Four years later, he knocked on doors in New Hampshire for then-Sen. Barack Obama. In 2016, his wife and he drove 14 hours to volunteer for Hillary Clinton and this June, they marched in support of immigrant families.

The popularity of ‘democratic socialism’

Despite his working-class immigrant roots, he is concerned by the popularity of socialism within my party. On the night of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s victory in New York, he thought that she used the term as a misnomer. He then began studying the views of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), remember that we discussed the various forms of socialism and the system here would be democratic socialism and now the rapidly growing national organization she belongs to and was disturbed by what he learned.

Like those of yesteryear, today’s socialists believe the government should nationalize major industries, propose eliminating private ownership of companies, and reject profits. In other words, democratic socialism is a lot like the system my family fled, except its proponents promise to be nicer when seizing your business.

When he confronted some progressive friends about this, they initially dismissed his concerns. After sharing some articles with them, the conversation shifted to “they just want us to be more like the Nordic countries” and “they’re not like real socialists!” Both are reductionist, self-delusions to avoid confronting difficult truths.

The latter is a particularly absurd fallacy because it requires one to believe that adults who willfully join socialist organizations, sound like socialists and call themselves socialists are not what they claim to be.

Claims of “Nordic socialism” are also largely exaggerated. As Jostein Skaar, of Oslo Economics, told him, “I would stress that the Norwegian economic system is capitalistic, heavily influenced by the U.S. and U.K.”

This is probably why DSA argues that the Nordic model is not good enough.

The ideological counterparts of America’s democratic socialists are likelier to be found to our south than in northern Europe. For instance, Cuba — where the state controls three-fourths of the economy, limits private-sector activity, and employs the majority of workers — is clearly more representative of DSA’s economic vision than Denmark, where 89 percent of the wealth is privately owned and seven out of 10 Danes work in the private sector.

Moreover, as an investigation by Transparency International revealed, the Venezuelan government owns at least 511 companies — resulting in a state-owned enterprise’s per-capita ratio that is more than three times greater than all of Scandinavia’s combined.

As someone who spent years defending Democrats from “socialista” charges, he understood why people roll their eyes when Cuba and Venezuela are mentioned alongside democratic socialism, but to reject the comparison simply because we don’t like those countries’ outcomes misses the point of why they turned out the way they did. He is under no illusion that increased access to health care and education will turn us into the Venezuelan capital Caracas, but it’s foolish to believe that democratic socialists — who promise to end capitalism — would be satisfied with Medicare for all if given the reins of power.

This must never happen. The descendants of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels should have no place in the party of Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy. Given its horrific record of human suffering, it would be a moral disgrace for Democrats to embrace socialism just to win elections, as some suggest. Those who use the blitheful ignorance of many for the political gain of a few deserve to lose. Indeed, if socialism represents the future of the Democratic Party, that’s a dystopia, no American should want to be a part of.

Britain’s Health Care System Demonstrates Perils of Socialized Medicine

Dr. Kevin Pham and Robert Moffit reviewed the British experience with socialized medicine and why those who want to convert our system to socialized medicine had better do some serious research first. Younger doctors who are flirting with the support of government-run health care should consider some hard facts—including the unfortunate results such control would likely have for patients and doctors themselves. They should also look at the recent raw experience of Britain with a government-controlled health care system.

But first, let’s look at the most serious plan for government-run health care: Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All Act of 2017, which has the support of one-third of Senate Democrats.

Recently, Sanders, I-Vt., claimed that his bill would save more than $2 trillion over a 10-year period. According to the Associated Press, however, the senator “mischaracterized” the analysis upon which that estimate was based, a major study of the cost of the Sanders bill by Charles Blahous, a former Medicare trustee, now at the Mercatus Center.

As the Associated Press’ fact check notes, the $2.1 trillion “savings” estimate rests on the implausible assumption—studiously ignored by Sanders and others—that hospitals and staffing levels would remain the same—despite an estimated 40 percent reduction in compensation for medical services.

Such a massive pay cut would guarantee, says Blahous, that doctors and hospitals would get paid for services “substantially below” their costs of providing the services. Thus, he warns, “ … whether providers could sustain such losses and remain in operation, and how those who continue operations would adapt to such dramatic payment reductions, are critically important questions.”

Yes, they are. Blahous’ findings are particularly relevant for young men and women entering medical school. As Kaiser Health News recently reported, a growing contingent of young physicians and medical students favor expanding the power of government officials to control medicine, and thus their professional lives.

After all, most students become doctors more out of a desire to care for patients than to make a lot of money. Sanders’ proposed pay cut, however, would likely price many doctors out of independent practice, as well as decimate larger medical systems—neither of which would benefit patients.

Medicare would ostensibly be the model for Sanders’ national health insurance program. Beyond lower payment levels, Medicare is governed by tens of thousands of pages of rules, regulations, and guidelines.

The transactional or administrative costs that doctors and other medical professionals already incurred in compliance with these reams of red tape are real, though they do not show up on Medicare or Medicaid budget documents. That is one reason why Medicare’s official administrative costs are deceptively low; the government shifts a large share of administrative costs for medical professionals.

By 2030, America faces a physician shortage ranging from roughly 43,000 to 121,000, depending upon the assumptions. The crush of nonclinical administrative duties is today a leading cause of American physician burnout and accelerated retirements.

Ultimately, the Sanders bill, by reducing physician compensation while enlarging the power of Washington’s health care bureaucracy, would only make matters worse.

Young doctors—and anyone else considering government-run health care—should look at the performance of the British National Health Service.

In a candid Oct. 12, 1975 interview with the London Sunday Times, then-Labor Minister David Owen, conceded:

“The health service was launched on a fallacy. First, we were going to finance everything, cure the nation and then spending would drop. That fallacy has been exposed. Then there was a period when everybody thought the public could have whatever they needed on the health service- it was just a question of governmental will. Now we recognize that no country, even if they are prepared to pay the taxes, can supply everything.”

Today, the British National Health Service is plagued with long wait times, delayed procedures, and an overstressed medical workforce.

A cursory survey of recent British news sources reveals a worrying trend in the delayed delivery and deteriorating quality of National Health Service health care. While British tabloids can be sensational, with bleeding ledes on hospital problems, sober British analysts are concerned.

Last winter, a particularly virulent strain of influenza hit Britain. British hospital wards are often overcrowded, but the crush of flu patients exacerbated the system’s persistent and underlying problems—inadequate staffing and insufficient resources. The British Medical Association’s quarterly survey of physicians found that 82 percent of respondents felt their workplaces were understaffed.

One doctor described the situation this way to the British Medical Association: “I came on to shift yesterday afternoon and there were patients literally everywhere. The corridor into the hospital was so busy we couldn’t have got a cardiac arrest patient through it into the resuscitation room.” He added, “To say the staff was at the end of their tethers would be a complete understatement.”

National Health Service morale has been suffering, and British Medical Association surveys show that complaints about resources, understaffing, and perpetual physician vacancies have been constant.

Aggravated by the flu season, and budget constraints, the National Health Service canceled some 50,000 “non-urgent” surgeries. The problem is that the urgency for a particular patient’s surgery is, or should be a doctor’s clinical judgment. For example, surgery for a person to repair an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA), for instance, may be delayed. But delaying an AAA repair is risking a rupture, and patients with a ruptured AAA have a 90 percent mortality rate.

By March 2018, British emergency departments reached new lows, leaving 15.4 percent of patients waiting over four hours before being seen. This was far short of the goal of less than 5 percent of patients forced to wait over four hours.

When considering only major emergency departments, classified as Type 1 in the National Health Service, the rate increased to 23.6 percent of patients waiting longer than four hours to be seen. The British Medical Journal reports that this is the worst performance since 2004 when these metrics were first tracked.

Outside of emergency departments, the number of British patients waiting 18 weeks or more for treatment increased by 35 percent, which was an increase of 128,575 patients from about 362,000 patients in 2017, to over 490,000 patients in 2018.

Additionally, by March 2018, 2,755 patients had waited over a year to be treated, compared to 1,528 patients in 2017. In England, the National Health Service also broke records by canceling over 25,000 surgeries at the last minute in the first quarter of 2018—this was the highest number of last-minute cancellations in 24 years. Remarkably, this was after the British authorities initiated a series of reforms that started in 2016.

The British, of course, are responsible for their system and its results. They will, or will not, undertake reforms to reduce long queues, delayed care, and the consequent harm to British patients.

It is naïve, however, to believe that Americans can avoid similar consequences—annual budget dramas, long waiting times, and scandalous care denials—by giving members of Congress and officials of the federal bureaucracy control over American health care.

And if you want to see how crazy “our” politicians are, one only has to look at New York State and the governor’s race. We have discussed weeks ago the estimation of how much Medicare for All will cost.

Cynthia Nixon on getting single-payer health care in New York: ‘Pass it and then figure out how to fund it’

Kaitlyn Schallhorn wrote about Ms. Cynthia Nixon’s pursuit in her quest to become New York’s next governor.  Cynthia Nixon has advocated for a single-payer health care system in the state – something studies have shown would be a costly endeavor.

The proposed New York Health Act(NYHA), which would establish universal health care for everyone in the state, including undocumented immigrants, would require the state’s tax revenue to increase by about 156 percent by 2022, according to a study by the RAND Corp. But it also found state spending on total health care under NYHA would be slightly lower – about 3 percent – by 2031 than under the current system.

Nixon recently told the New York Daily News editorial board she did not yet have a plan to pay for single-payer.

“Pass it and then figure out how to fund it,” Nixon said. What an ignoramus and I’m not sure who or what she is as she tells the media not to call her a lesbian, but instead label her a queer!!

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who Nixon is challenging in the Democratic primary next week, has said it should be up to the federal government to pass a universal health care system. During a debate between the two candidates last month, Cuomo said the NYHA was good “in theory,” but would cost more than New York’s annual budget to implement it “in the long-term,” according to the Albany Times Union.

‘SEX AND THE CITY’ STAR CYNTHIA NIXON COULD BE NEW YORK’S NEXT GOVERNOR: A LOOK AT HER POLITICAL ACTIVISM

Nixon, on the other hand, has said a single-payer system will save the state and New Yorkers money overall.

There is widespread disagreement over how much it would cost to implement a single-payer health care system. Supporters of the single-payer system say it would cut excessive administrative costs compared to those incurred by private insurers. But critics, including most Republicans, warn the savings would be less dramatic than expected – and the system would cost too much.

Joe White, president of the Council for Affordable Health Coverage, has estimated that with single-payer “costs and taxes will rise, or patient access will be severely diminished – turning America’s medical system into a third-world product.”

The Medicare-for-all bill proposed earlier this year by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., was estimated to cost$32.6 trillion over 10 years by a Mercatus Center at George Mason University study and it is estimated that a single-payer health care system in New York will cost $155 billion dollars over 10 years or less.

ANDREW CUOMO, CYNTHIA NIXON ACCUSE EACH OTHER OF LYING, CORRUPTION IN HEATED PRIMARY DEBATE

The term “single-payer health care” denotes only one entity bears the financial responsibility of health care – the government. Under this system, the government would be solely responsible for covering health care costs.

“The basic idea of single-payer is to cover everybody with a single government program, and that program would basically cover all the doctors and hospitals,” Dr. Adam Gaffney, an instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, told Fox News.

As the Times Union reported, the NYHA has continuously been introduced by Democrats in the state Assembly every year since 1992 but has been unsuccessful in the Senate.

I believe that the dysfunction in our Congress will continue and may get worse as the Mid-Term elections get closer and they will get nothing done. What happens after the elections will be determined depending on whether the Democrats grab the majority in one or both the House and the Senate.

On forward to look closer at Medicare for All and other ideas for a single-payer health care system as we get closer to what a real future health care system will or could look like in the U.S.A.