In announcing their new program that will “improve health and lower employer costs,” Anthem Blue Cross and Dignity Health show us once again that by relying on the private sector to control health care financing, we will continue to see innovations that serve their industries well, but at a cost to patients.
One of the flaws in our fragmented, multi-payer system of financing health care is that low-income patients tend to be lumped into the Medicaid program. Since it is a welfare program serving individuals who do not command much political capital, politicians are more willing to use cuts in Medicaid to balance their budgets than cuts for programs designed to serve the general population such as Medicare and Social Security. What lessons can Oklahoma’s proposed 25 percent cut in Medicaid rates provide for us?
Perhaps the most important statement in this report on the remaining uninsured is the following: “The ACA was not designed to eliminate uninsurance.” It should be no surprise that we are left with trying to figure out why so many are uninsured and who they are when the architects of the Affordable Care Act abandoned, in advance, any effort to make health care insurance truly universal.
Compared with members previously enrolled in BlueCross BlueShield plans, those enrolling after the Affordable Care Act (ACA) took effect have higher rates of certain diseases, use more medical services across all sites of care, and have higher medical costs associated with care – 22 percent higher in 2015. Adverse selection – concentrating more costly patients in the ACA-compliant plans – was a consequence of the design selected for expanding health care coverage in the United States.
So the answer to outrageously priced drugs is to pay for them through health care loans (HCLs) – the equivalent of mortgages – and then use securitization “to finance a large diversified pool of HCLs through both debt and equity.” Did we not learn anything from the subprime mortgage crisis?
Medicare Part D drug plans are shifting more drugs from a copayment requirement – a fixed dollar amount to be paid for each prescription – to coinsurance – a percentage of the charge for each prescription. This is important because coinsurance payments tend to be higher than copayments – sometimes much higher – especially with the recent increases in drug prices.
What is happening to Iowa’s Medicaid patients who are currently obtaining their care from Mayo? It seems that Mayo is no longer in charge of integrating the health care of these patients; the private insurers are instead. For most of the patients, that means they lose access to their current care. One of the insurers will still allow patients to use the Mayo affiliated primary care clinics but not the Mayo mothership in Rochester, except by special arrangement on an individual basis. Instead of integrated care, these managed care companies are providing disintegrated care (double entendre intended).
One of my father’s favorite phrases was, “There oughta be a law…” Whenever I heard that, I knew a bit of wisdom with a moral message would follow.
Our fragmented, dysfunctional financing infrastructure is so highly flawed that patches to it will have very little impact in moving us closer to the ideal of a quality health care system that serves all of us well. In contrast, the patches themselves lead to further administrative waste with associated higher costs.
Pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) are yet one more example of how effective our policymakers have been in taking care of the medical industrial complex while perpetuating the highest level of health care spending of all nations. PBMs are superfluous pharmaceutical middlemen who further compound our uniquely-American, highly wasteful administrative excesses as a necessity to gain reward for their own rent-seeking behavior.
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