A Busy Week for Health Care – there was utterly no shortage of health care activities this week, email frequency notwithstanding. Whether it was the Senate HELP Committee’s successful markup Wednesday of S. 1955, the Health Insurance Marketplace Modernization and Affordability Act of 2005, President Bush’s stalwart road show defense of the new Medicare drug coverage or the usual assortment of ill-tempered and poorly-timed amendments to the Senate Budget Resolution … health care was at the forefront. It’s practically enough to give one a migraine…. No imported pills for me though … they’d probably be fakes.
Enzi-Nelson Bill on to Senate Floor – we were particularly pleased to see the Senate HELP Committee report S. 1955 by a vote of 11-9, rather predictably on party lines. Hopefully a majority (even the magic 60) Senators will act to approve small business health plans (SBHPs) soon … patience is waning in the small business community. Chairman Enzi’s much-negotiated bill deserves approval and conference soon.
President Bush Campaigns for Medicare Drug Coverage – while normally our nation’s chief executive … well, executes the law, attacks and misinformation bandied about the new Medicare drug coverage has forced President Bush to continue to defend a signature achievement of his Administration. As former Sen. John Breaux (D-LA) is apt to say, members of his own party have not distinguished themselves on Medicare reform … making Sen. Breaux’s job as a dutiful son advising his father all the much harder. Shame on House Minority Leader Pelosi and her colleagues….
Kudos to both President Bush and former Sen. Breaux for their stalwart defense of the new Medicare drug coverage.
HSAs, High Deductible Health Plans Growing Fast – our friends at America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) latest survey data shows that some 3.2 million people are covered by HSA-eligible high deductible health plans (HDHPs). Likely 1-2 million of these people are covered by HSAs.
The demographics from enrollees show that early predictions that HSAs were vehicles primarily for the healthy young are wrong. Half of all people covered by these plans in the individual market are aged 40 or older. In the small group market, 45% of covered individuals are aged 40 or older. In the large group market, 44% of covered individuals are aged 40 or more.
40 may be the new 30 (or is it that 50 is the new 40?), but it is clear that HSAs and HDHPs are attracting individuals at varying ages and health status. Maybe HSA opponents need new talking points?
Transparency Spread – transparency in health care pricing is the modern day alternative to sunshine laws. A few rays of light can generate interesting changes in behavior. We strongly support the Bush Administration’s efforts to encourage transparency by requiring those who do business with Uncle Sam through Medicare to disclose their prices in a consumer-friendly manner. This is vital to encouraging consumers to be more cost and quality conscious in their purchasing decisions.
There is a somewhat creditable argument that employer costs will go up if their “deals” are there for everybody. But, how good are those deals in reality? One key clue is how much the hospital industry is squealing about transparency requirements. They say that they charge everyone the same price but some receive discounts and all must pay for uncompensated care. But, how much are the uninsured charged and how much goes to “profit” (even for non-profits) under the banner of cost-shifting?
I say turn the light on and let the bugs scurry as they may. They’ll likely merit further investigation … de-bug-ification … and if need be, extermination.
Health Subcommittee Chairman Deal Urges Caution on Health IT – we commend House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee Chairman Nathan Deal (R-GA) for his comments urging Congress to stay out of the way of private sector implementation of health information technology (Health IT). His fears are justified….
We agree that there is a role for Congress but we also think the private sector can jumpstart adoption of Health IT in a way Uncle Sam could only dream of. It’s a plausible concern, in contrast to the usual fears raised by Health IT opponents about patient confidentiality. That’s what HIPAA is there for…
Porter Bill Encourages Personal Health Records for Federal Workers – Rep. Jon Porter (R-NV) is pushing to require FEHBP plans to create personal health records for workers who so request. Uncle Sam and FEHBP (Federal Employees Health Benefits Program) can set a good example for the rest of the market. We think this is another helpful step in encouraging Health IT.