Month: September 2009

What’s happening now?

I am sure you noticed, I certainly have, that healthcare has fallen off the top of the news cycle.  In fact, it’s almost getting difficult to find any news articles with updates on where the country stands with healthcare reform.  I have to admit, I have enjoyed the break. 

Let me get a few pieces of important information out on healthcare reform.  A recent poll just released in the NY Times last week shows more than 50% of this country still supports President Obama on healthcare reform.  However, the same poll shows this same majority does not understand the issues or how reform will impact them in the future.  These poll results should not be surprising to anyone.  Healthcare reform is very complicated.  It’s like a jigsaw puzzle.  There are many pieces and if you are missing some, the puzzle does not fit together. That is why I have always said, start smaller (pick a small puzzle with bigger and few pieces) to put together.  Once we figure out how it works, we can move on and tackle the larger issues in healthcare reform.

So here is where we are today.  The Senate Finance Committee is putting their bill out to vote.  Once all members of the Committee approve or disapprove the bill, it will be reconciled with the other Senate bill on healthcare, education, labor and pensions (HELP) to create one bill.  The HELP bill is slightly more “liberal” and there will be plenty of discussion on the final Senate bill before a joint bill is released.  President Obama needs to make sure he gets enough votes in the Senate to come out with a bill that is supported by Congress and America.  The next few days and weeks are critical.

Once this happens, the Senate Bill will be reconciled with the House bill.  This is where, in my opinion, it is going to be tough.  The House Bill is more expensive and has a public option a.k.a government run health plan to co-exist along with the current private health plan industry. The Senate bill will be less expensive, assuming it stays close to the Finance Committee’s current version, and it does not include a government insurance option.  The Democrats in the house are going to have to bend to make something happen.  If they stick to their current legislation, I am fairly certain reform will fail.  More to follow as the bills get reconciled.

Will we have Healthcare Reform

So everyone keeps asking me, what’s going to happen?  Will we have healthcare reform?  Is the Baucus bill (Senate Finance Committee Bill) finished?

The answer is I just don’t know – but – If I were a gambling man, I would bet it’s going to happen in the next 12 months.  Here’s why.

In spite of all the doom and gloom from Washington (would you expect anything else????), most polls still show Americans want reform.  Further, if you listen to my radio show each week (Healthcare Connect – Sirius 114/XM 119), you know the current system severely broken.  As I am an Independent, I have political agenda when I talk about healthcare reform.  Yes, the Republicans keep trying to kill the finance bill and the Democrats refuse to compromise but in reality, there is too much that can work in the current bill to start over.  It would not make any sense.

Since the national plan has been removed, a big obstacle has been eliminated from the fight.  While there are still many other hurdles to reform, one of the big remaining issues is insurance coverage mandates.  Specifically, requiring all Americans to carry insurance.  In my opinion, this is a critical component of healthcare reform.  I believe without mandates for everyone to carry insurance, the system will not financially balance.  You will hear many conflicting views on this subject, but if we want a deficit neutral bill, this has to happen.  Period.   Having a broader pool of insured, including more healthy people, spreads the risk to everyone.  Conservative Americans do not like being told what to do and I can appreciate their feelings.  However, if we are going to solve healthcare for everyone, we are going to have to make sure the risk is spread evenly to everyone.  Much like car insurance is today.  It is easy to say it’s unfair, but remember the fundamental principle of insurance – protection against something bad.  How many people were on the news from Atlanta this past week wishing they had flood insurance?  I understand as a society we cannot protect everyone from everything.  I do believe we have an obligation to share in the responsibility for all of us having access to affordable healthcare.  Like I have said in the past, we all end up paying for the uninsured anyway.  It seems to me like we should spread the risk evenly out to everyone who may ever end up sick and in need of insurance.

 

I have always loved Cadillacs

So that may sound like a silly statement but it’s true.  Ever since I was a kid, I always loved big Cadillacs with their luxurious, if not sometimes dated, styles.  The new Cadillacs are even better – sporty, modern and stylish. 

The problem is in the healthcare reform debate, when we talk about Cadillacs, we are not talking about cars.  We are talking about insurance plans that pass a cost threshold of $8,000 for an individual policy and $21,000 for a family policy.  In the Baucus plan (the Senate Finance Committee Plan), there is a new fee on insurance plans that republicans are calling a tax.  The concept is to generate funds to pay for healthcare reform by charging insurance companies (or self insured businesses) for providing expensive health insurance plans.  It does not matter what you call the charge – a fee or a tax, it’s all the same and it’s not the point.  Read more

The Amendment Process Begins

I am frequently asked:  “what next?” – the Baucus plan has been written, the republicans do not currently support it (publicly) and the democrats are upset too.  As I have been saying in my blog all along, the Baucus plan is a good first step in moving healthcare reform forward.  It is certainly not perfect and there are many items for all sides of the political spectrum to dislike.  Further, for those of us who live and work healthcare every day, there is also plenty to want changed,  and that is ok. This is how the political process works. Read more

I’ve Been Busy

Sorry it has been a few days since I posted my last blog – believe me, it’s not because I did not have something to say.  I have spent the past 2 days reading the entire Senate Finance Bill (the Baucus Bill) – it is not an easy read and I am glad I finished it last night.  I am also happy to see that at least one senator stepped outside of his political party and for the sake of unity and progress, drafted a bill that has many strong points.

I said on Healthcare Connect Thursday (Sirius 114/XM 119) and have been saying the past 10 days on television, if Congress is really willing to put aside politics (I know, it will never happen), there should be enough in the bill to move healthcare reform forward.  Listen, there is plenty in the bill to upset everyone.  I am a moderate, someone who believes in healthcare reform, and probably most importantly understands the intricacies and nuances of the current healthcare system.  In fact, I make my living in healthcare and probably more than most people, I need the industry to survive and thrive.

This bill finds ways to ensure more Americans – not all Americans, but many more than today.  This bill is designed to be deficit neutral.  It will pull costs out of the current system that are wasteful and not necessary, such as paying for unnecessary testing, readmissions, ineffective treatments, etc.  It does not call for cuts in services provided to Medicare beneficiaries and most importantly, increases protections for all of us who are insured through the private sector.  There are fees on various industry groups like insurance companies and commercial labs.  There is a mandate for all Americans to carry insurance with government support for those who cannot afford to pay.

Then there are the problems – Medicaid expansion which requires state funding when there is money available.  There is no tort reform.  The list goes on and on and I will share with you all more details over the next few weeks.  There is no public option which may belong in the good part of the bill section too – I just wrote about it here because the House really wants it in the legislation – as you may already know, I do not believe it’s a good idea to have a public option to get started with reform.  Maybe later.

But listen.  We need to move forward. Backwards is not an option.  Let’s start here and refine the bill.  Let’s not squander this opportunity.  There is enough here to start.  Make sure you tell you Congress members the status quo is not acceptable.

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Media – You are getting it wrong

I was reading and watching all the news over the weekend and this morning – the more I read and watched, the more frustrated I became with the coverage of healthcare reform in the media.  To me, this one is very simple.  The focus of the media lately has been on the fight in congress between the republicans and democrats.  Additionally, there has been a great deal of attention paid to the reactions of the American public to healthcare reform – both positive and negative.  It’s not that it’s wrong to cover these stories, what is wrong is that the most important story is being ignored. Read more

It’s In there…A Detailed Look at What is in the Senate Finance Committee Plan

I have been asked by so many people what I think is going to happen with healthcare reform since President Obama spoke last Wednesday night.  Truth be told, I have no idea how this will all end –   I am however optimistic.  The biggest question I have been asked is can we afford reform and is there enough detail now to evaluate the options; I believe the answer is yes.

Read more

Did President Obama Deliver?

Last night I listened very closely to the President’s Address to Congress and the American People.  I must admit, I normally only half listen to speeches – usually because I find them slightly repetitive of what I have heard or read in the news.  This time was different.  As you know, I follow healthcare reform very closely.  I am a firm believer in the need to change how this country delivers healthcare to make it more affordable and accessible to everyone.  I am also a capitalist so I have no desire to see the American healthcare system turn into a socialized delivery system.  So how do you get it done?

Read more

Pre-existing Conditions Exclusions

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Health Insurance Exchange Markets: What You Need To Know

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Important healthcare benefit information for federal employees

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