June 29th, 2011
We can agree that skyrocketing federal deficits will lead to financial chaos. However, the unanswered question remains:
What should be done about it?
This question is certain to take center stage for the presidential hopefuls for 2012, no matter which party they represent.
The political bookends for the debate were recently established. On April 5, when Republican Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, who is also the chairman of the House Budget Committee, issued a long-term budget road map. The following Friday, the Republican majority of the House passed it and on April 13 the president gave his budget speech.
If any doubt at all existed that debates related to the deficits is not just about the numbers, but also the philosophies of the government, it takes advantage of the language of the economic policy. These two events should definitely be laid to rest.
The Master Plan
The primary goal of the plan laid out by Ryan is to cut healthcare spending by the government, including Medicaid, Medicare and the new healthcare reform plan. That seems like a reasonable place to target any plan to reduce deficits, especially sense it is the area that the increasing costs are most abrupt.
However, Ryan’s solutions are anything but reasonable. They include coming close to tossing out all of the sickest and most needy Americans from government care and leaving them to fend for themselves. Medicare would be all but eradicated and the cost of Medicaid would shift for the most part to state government, which is already hard-pressed. In addition, a reform program created to provide tens of millions of Americans with health insurance would be terminated completely.
photo credit: knitsteel
June 23rd, 2011
What are the greatest alleged sources of healthcare spending waste? Just like with David Hasselhoff’s singing career, opinions tend to vary from one country to the next, according to a recent survey by Deloitte of healthcare consumers in numerous countries.
Overall, more than 15,700 consumers were surveyed in twelve different countries. The consumers in ten of the countries, all except China and Brazil in fact, were questioned about the sources of healthcare spending waste.
#1 Lack of Responsibility
Most consumers in the United States and Canada believe that the number one source for wasted healthcare spending is people’s lack of responsibility when it comes to taking care of their own health. Consumers in the United State, along with consumers in at least six other countries, put the redundancy of paperwork at the top of their list.
#2 End of Life Measures
Both of the aforementioned options were also listed as the second most wasteful spending sources, with the exception of Belgians, who rank extreme and unnecessary end-of-life measures at number two on their list of wasted healthcare spending sources.
In Mexico, respondents to the survey were the only consumers to rank mismanagement and/or corruption as the number one source for wasteful healthcare spending. In fact, the margin was overwhelming.
#3 Defensive Medicine
Another choice on the survey was defensive medicine. However, this source seems only to be a concern primarily for people living in the United States. Americans ranked defensive medicine at number three on their list of biggest sources of wasted healthcare spending, while other countries ranked it as fifth or even last in some regions. Ranked fourth on American consumers’ list is unnecessary and unproven tests and procedures.
According to Deloitte, the margin of error for the collected responses varies from one country to the next because of differing sample sizes. It was give or take about 1.6% for the United States and about 2% for Canada. In addition, the margin was 4.1% in Luxembourg and around 3% for other countries in Europe as well as Mexico.
photo credit: bethanylynphotography
June 15th, 2011
Just a few days following his announcement that he is pursuing candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, Newt Gingrich, harshly condemned the House Republican’s plan to renovate Medicare radically, which is the federally funded program that provides health care to retirees.
Gingrich, who is the former Speaker of the House, led a conservative resurrection back in the ’90s. He said that the Republican’s plan for Medicare is “too big a jump” for the citizens of this country, comparing it to the overhaul in health care already put in motion by Democratic President Barack Obama.
Appearing on the NBC television show Meet the Press, Newt Gingrich said,” I’m against Obamacare, which is imposing radical change, and I would be against a conservative imposing radical change.”
Why G.O.P.’s Plan may be to Radical?
Gingrich said, “I don’t think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering.” He also said, “I don’t think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate.”
The Republican’s plan to refurbish the Medicare program is the most extensive since the creation of the program. Instead of direct payment for health care, health care coverage for older citizens would be subsidized.
Republicans in the House have portrayed this plan as a way to address the long-term financial issues in the nation. On the other hand, Democrats, along with their many allies, have sought after seizing the public’s concern over the plan, stating that such changes could actually hurt elderly citizens, who are somewhat of an influential group when it comes to voting.
Faced with public meeting filled with protest following the introduction of the Medicare proposal back in early April 2011, House Republicans have begun to indicate that they are ready to put the plan on the back burner for the time being.
photo credit: ProgressOhio
June 7th, 2011
Recently, Diana Dooley, who is the California Health and Human Services Secretary, announced the lifting of the hiring freeze that as troubled state mental hospitals amid rising concerns of violence.
Ms. Dooley’s decision came following an uncommon visit to the Napa State Hospital. The recent death of a Napa patient prompted the trip. The hospital has $100,000 fines levied against it by Cal/OSHA for alleged systemic failings, which contributed to the slaying of a psychiatric technician just months earlier.
Appointed by Governor Jerry Brown, Diana Dooley claims to be working to make sense of the complicated issues plaguing California’s five mental facilities. Over eighty percent of the patients at these hospitals have been convicted or accused of crimes. In addition, a growing number of these patients have predatory tendencies.
Help Wanted for Mental Hospitals
In spite of California’s severe budget crisis, Diana Dooley said, “I made the decision this week that there are real needs in the state hospitals, and we need to refill positions.” This action will make an exception to a statewide hiring freeze that had been placed on vacant positions that were the result of an executive order by Brown back in February.
Cindy Radavsky is the deputy director for long-term care services for the California Department of Mental Health, which is overseen by Diana Dooley. Radavsky says she intends to fill around twenty-five positions quickly with clinical staffers and hospital police officers in Napa with responsibilities for direct patient care.
Radavsky had only praise for Dooley saying, “Her advocacy is extremely appreciated.” Dooley spent several hours at the hospital, meeting privately with union stewards as well as other employees.
Dooley says that she has been working with the Department of Mental Health sifting through strategies to better assess the patients’ inclination for violence, administering proper treatment and moving patients so that the facilities that are less secure will house the patients that are less violent.
photo credit: GoTRISI
May 18th, 2011
How trust worthy is your doctor?
A neurosurgeon in Portland, Oregon who performed a number of spinal fusions. Was forced to seek approval from a mentor by the Oregon Medical Board, which has been approved by the board before he will be allowed to perform any more surgeries. This step is only temporary pending a full investigation.
This action by the Oregon Medical Board comes following an article by The Wall Street Journal
identifying Dr. Vishal James Makker with the highest rate of multiple spinal fusion procedures among more than three thousand four hundred surgeons performing the surgery on twenty or so patients with Medicare in both 2008 as well as 2009.
The rate of surgeries being performed by Makker was close to ten times the nationwide average, according to data obtained in the analysis by The Wall Street Journal. Makker performed the procedure on many of his patients up to seven times.
The hospital where Dr. Vishal James Makker performed a great number of these procedures, Providence Portland Medical Center, took the doctor’s privileges away to perform operations recently.
Dr. Vishal James Makker’s legal representative, Mr. Michael Hoffman, refused to make any comments regarding the action being taken by the Oregon Medical Board. In recent text messages and email, Dr. Vishal James Makker has denied doing anything wrong. He stated that he was only acting in the best interest of the patient’s health.
An “interim stipulated order” has been issued by the board, which stated that Dr. Vishal James Makker must consult with a “neurosurgical mentor” whom the board has approved to assess the patient’s need for the surgery before performing any operative procedures.
The board stated it had received four complaints it deems “credible” regarding Dr. Vishal James Makker. In addition, the investigation by the Oregon Medical Board has also raised a number of concerns warranting the restrictions that have been placed up on Dr. Vishal James Makker.
May 12th, 2011
Blue Shield of California claims that the 59% rate hike for individuals comes as a result from rapidly rising health care costs as well as many other expenses stemming from the recently passed health care laws. This move comes not even a year after Anthem Blue Cross attempted and failed to raise rates by nearly 40% for seven hundred thousand customers in California.
Individual policyholders in California have been stunned by huge rate increases from another major health insurer. This time around it is Blue Shield of California, and they are attempting hikes as high as fifty-nine percent for thousands of customers beginning March 1.
Blue Shield of California, which is based in San Francisco, told their customers,” We raise rates only when absolutely necessary to pay the accelerating cost of medical care for our members.”
Blue Shield of California’s Official Response to Rate Increases
According to Blue Shield, 193,000 policyholders will see rate increases that average between thirty and thirty-five percent, resulting from three different rate hikes that began in October 2010. Over five months, one out of every four of the affected customers should see cumulative increase of over fifty percent.
Some customers were sent individual notices for each of the successive rate increases, but others were informed about it all at one time. The latter had contracts that guaranteed their rates for one year, according to Tom Epstein, a spokesperson for Blue Shield.
Michael Fraser, a 53-year-old freelance advertising writer from San Diego, was shocked to learn that his monthly bill will increase by as much as fifty-nine percent. The $271 that he normally pays has skyrocketed to $431 a month. Fraser said, “When I tell people, their jaws drop and their eyes bug out.” He continued, “The amount is stunning.”
Many of the people who have individual policies, like Fraser, are self-employed. Other individual policyholders include people that have been laid off from their jobs, or do not work for an employer that offers coverage benefits.
photo credit: mangpages
April 21st, 2011
Many people are wondering if the health care overhaul law had any effect on voters in recent elections. A survey found that it did have an effect. In fact, more than eighty percent of the individuals that took part in the survey said that their decision was affected. Some participants in the poll were gracious enough to elaborate on the effect that health care had on their voting decision. For example, a health care worker in Kansas had this to say, “The current Kansas Attorney General did NOT join other states in opposing Fed Gov for mandating purchase of insurance. His opponent’s sign is the only sign in my yard!”
Another voter said, “For the first time ever, I’m voting against Senator Feingold. He voted for a health reform bill that he couldn’t have read, didn’t understand and will put me out of a job.”
Some of the voters who took part in the recent survey were in favor of the law, at least as an initial move forward. One voter said, “Yes. Health care overhaul is influencing my vote in a positive way. President Obama has done what no one has done before! He at least started a change in the U.S. health care system. No one is perfect and nor his plans. But at least he is doing something.”
However, other voters would like to see greater changes, including a quicker deployment of the much-hailed health exchanges. A displeased doctor had this to say, “Yes, I’m only voting for candidates who support a strong public option or single payer. No more of the status quo.”
Officially, the exit polls put health care in second place on the list of important issues that drive voters. In fact, according to a survey by Edison Research, only 19% of young voters interviewed believed that health care was an important issue. Most people felt that the economy was more important.
photo credit: chrisstreeter
April 8th, 2011
According to the World Health Organization, rising health costs are pushing millions of people every year into poverty. Recently, a report issued by the World Health Organization, and cited in VOA News, provided useful guidelines on ways that governments could make their health financing systems stronger, while making more services available to even more people.
Poor and wealthy governments alike are stressed to pay for healthcare. A number of people have good health insurance plans that take care of the majority of their expenses. However, these people are the minority.
One Billion People Lack Access to Health Care Services
According to reports by the World Health Organization, close to one billion people around the world do not have access to the healthcare services that they need because they are not available, or they just cannot afford them.
David Evans, who is the financing director for the World Health Organization Health Systems, believes that people have to make a difficult choice. They pay for health services directly that they cannot afford, or put off getting the care that they need and running the risk of contracting a more serious condition.
According to David Evans, “Probably 100 million people make the choice to use their services each year, pay for them, and they suffer the financial consequences. They are pushed down the poverty line simply because they pay for health services.” Evans believes that this is unacceptable and there is definitely a better alternative.
Evans also stressed, “But, what the report says, it is not just acceptable, but it is not necessary. Something could be done about it, and something can be done about it now.”
Health Care Costs is a Financial Catastrophe for Many Countries
The World Health Organization recognizes that financial catastrophe and impoverishment are more widespread in the low-income countries because people in such areas are more reliant on paying out of pocket for their healthcare. Therefore, the poorer countries will require more aid from the international community.
photo credit: anolobb
March 2nd, 2011
The Great Recession is here and does not seem to be letting go of the American economy. More workers are unemployed than ever before. For those who are over 50, the chance of finding new, equivalent employment is slim to none. New statistics are showing that unprecedented numbers of these unemployed seniors are turning to drugs to cope with the stress. While some Medicare parts offer coverage for treatment, this leaves out a big portion of over-50 Americans who have not reached the eligibility age of 65. Additionally, the addiction problem is compounded by the easy availability of prescription drugs through insurance programs.
Senior Drug Addiction Getting Worse
In a report recently released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, a quarter-million Americans over the age of 50 are being actively treated for a drug addiction of some sort. Not only has this number more than doubled in the past 18 years, many of these cases go undocumented and untreated. The true rate of over 50 drug addiction is estimated at closer to a half-million seniors and pre-retired age Americans.
This drug problem stems from the lax pain treatment programs and the increasing availability of pain medication. While prescription drugs are only a part of the problem, records associated with illegal drugs are a little more difficult to come by.
Breaking Free from Addiction
Unfortunately, these addictions won’t just disappear when the economy turns around. Instead, those suffering with drug addictions will be even less likely to find work than before. Facing budget cuts, lawmakers and enforcers don’t have the ability to control the problem.By implementing a few simple controls, access to addicting drugs will diminish and these over 50 addicts will have a chance to recover their lives.
Control the distribution of pain clinic prescriptions
Monitor patients who are prescribed pain medications
Regulate doctor prescribed pain medications
Offer more free addiction treatment programs
Drug addicts over 50 don’t have to work all that hard to satisfy their addiction. Many doctors assume that those over 50 are responsible adults who are truly experiencing pain. As a result, addictions in the over 50 crowd are literally at an all time high.
photo credit: Kazarelth
January 20th, 2011
A recent survey revealed that the majority of Americans would rate their own health care rather high, even as the debate continues over whether to reform or repeal Obama’s health care law. The debate is only expected to get hotter as the new Republican-dominated Congress falls into places next year.
According to the latest health care survey by Gallup, 40% of people in America rated their health care as excellent. Another 42% rated their health care as good. This survey is the most positive evaluation in at least the past ten years or so.
Debate Over Health Insurance Focuses on Improving Access, Costs
As stated by Gallup, “The national debate over health care reform in the past two years focused mainly on improving access to health insurance as well as on lowering costs. As Congress considers further changes to U.S. health care policy, or possibly scaling back the new law, it is important to bear in mind that the vast majority of Americans, overall, believe they are getting at least good quality health care under the current system.”
After an evaluation of their own data ranging from 2006 through 2010, encompassing over five thousand interviews, Gallup concluded that Americans who carry either health care supplied by the government or private coverage are more positive than people who have no health care coverage at all. However, even the people that do not have health care coverage, according to Gallup, rate it as either good or excellent, with only 14% feeling that it is excellent.
People Increasingly Choosing Not to Purchase Health Insurance
In spite of the overall feelings of Americans that their health care coverage has been good, Gallup reports that there is a rise in the amount of people that put off acquiring coverage due to the rising costs.
The evaluations of health care by Americans are largely positive. In the terms of ratings, the percentage that rates it as excellent has grown considerably over the past decade. According to the survey, “Over the same period, however, the percentage reporting that they or a family member has put off treatment because of cost increased from 19% in 2001 to 30% in 2006, and has generally remained at that level since. A record-high 21% now say they put off treatment for a serious condition.”
photo credit: therichardlife