Last week I wrote about the fact that there is no true competition among health insurers because there are so few of them, in most markets one insurer dominates. On the consumer end of the spectrum, there is no true competition either, because there is no way to evaluate exactly what it is you are getting when you buy health insurance. There is no standard against which you can measure what you are getting and how it will perform and no transparency in how health insurance works. We need a choice of public health insurance that will set that standard.
Archive for February, 2009
Obama said he was serious about health care. His budget is serious about health care. Very serious:
"President Obama is proposing to begin a vast expansion of the U.S. health-care system by creating a $634 billion reserve fund over the next decade, launching an overhaul that most experts project will ultimately cost at least $1 trillion."
The cost of our health care has weighed down our economy and the conscience of our nation long enough.
This is a cost that now causes a bankruptcy in America every thirty seconds. By the end of the year, it could cause 1.5 million Americans to lose their homes. In the last eight years, premiums have grown four times faster than wages. And in each of these years, one million more Americans have lost their health insurance. It is one of the major reasons why small businesses close their doors and corporations ship jobs overseas. And its one of the largest and fastest-growing parts of our budget.
Given these facts, we can no longer afford to put health care reform on hold.
This budget…includes an historic commitment to comprehensive health care reform a down-payment on the principle that we must have quality, affordable health care for every American. Its a commitment thats paid for in part by efficiencies in our system that are long overdue. And its a step we must take if we hope to bring down our deficit in the years to come.
Now, there will be many different opinions and ideas about how to achieve reform, and that is why Im bringing together businesses and workers, doctors and health care providers, Democrats and Republicans to begin work on this issue next week.
I suffer no illusions that this will be an easy process. It will be hard. But…let there be no doubt: health care reform cannot wait, it must not wait, and it will not wait another year.
The Kaiser Family Foundation released their latest round of tracking polling on how the public feels about health care reform. There's a lot of great data in the full set of charts [pdf].
What struck me most was the series having to do with how people think health care reform will affect them, versus their fellow Americans. For example, 59% think the country will do better after health care reform is passed (and 19% say there won't be any change), while 38% feel health care reform will make their lives better (and 43% think there will be no change).
The same goes when you ask people about cost, quality, choice, and wait times, as you can see below. Less people think health care reform will make their lives better than who think it will make the country's lives better, though a clear majority either think their lives will get better or at least not change.
This is exactly why Obama's health care plan (and Health Care for America Now's health care plan) can become a reality.
In the past, opponents of health care reform have used fear to prevent change. They say (and they will say this time around) that health care reform will make your health care worse. Usually they do this by saying it will ration care (ie. lower quality), but wait times, less choice, or higher costs are all potential attacks. The point is, they argue and will argue that reform will hurt you, and specifically, your care.
This time around, it's an argument that falls flat on its face. Our idea of health care reform would allow you to keep the health care you have, no change whatsoever. And so even if the public doesn't believe health care reform will make their care better, they know they have the choice to keep what they have if they like.
It's a powerful argument, and one of the main reasons health care reform can pass this time.
President Barack Obama told a joint session of the U.S. Congress on Tuesday his budget plan this week would include a "down payment" on the principle that all Americans should have access to affordable healthcare.
Public Strongly Supports Action on Health Care Reform - Kaiser Family Foundation
As economic conditions continue to worsen, the public is increasingly worried about the affordability and availability of care, with many postponing or skipping treatments due to cost in the past year and a notable minority forced into serious financial straits due to medical bills, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s first health care tracking poll of 2009.
It's not universal health care, but… - Politico
To the casual listener, President Barack Obama’s promises on health care Tuesday may have sounded like an unequivocal vow to get all Americans health insurance coverage by the end of 2009.
Study Cites Obstacles for Poor to Renew Health Insurance - New York Times
More than a third of New York State’s recipients of Medicaid and other public health insurance programs fail to re-enroll on time, losing coverage even though they remain eligible, because of daunting paperwork and other obstacles, according to a new study.
President hints at 'hard choices' - Boston Globe
Although Obama did not lay out specifics on healthcare, advocates on the issue were elated that he forcefully reaffirmed his commitment to overhauling the healthcare system this year. He also made it clear he intends to think big, insisting on insurance for everyone. "I hope what the speech does is stop the chorus of naysayers who say he doesn't really mean to do it in 2009, and get people to realize - yes, he does," said Richard Kirsch, president of Health Care for America Now, a liberal coalition campaigning to remake healthcare.
In his speech to Congress, President Obama said bringing health care costs down would be a big step toward fixing the nation's economy. Small business owners are among the most eager for some kind of action. For them, the recession makes it even tougher to offer health insurance.
Moving nation from sick care toward wellness care - Associated Press
Popping a pill can cut your cholesterol. But did the doctor also prescribe cutting the stress that's eroding your immune system? Or teach you how to exercise without worsening painful joints?
Low-Cost Health Care in Howard Not an Easy Sell - Washington Post
What if you build it and they don't come?
Officials in Howard County thought their low-cost health-care program would be an easy sell in a community where an estimated 15,000 adults are without coverage. But nearly four months later, they are struggling to get people to enroll.
President Obama [emphasis added]:
I suffer no illusions that this will be an easy process. It will be hard. But I also know that nearly a century after Teddy Roosevelt first called for reform, the cost of our health care has weighed down our economy and the conscience of our nation long enough. So let there be no doubt: health care reform cannot wait, it must not wait, and it will not wait another year.
Health Care for America Now's National Campaign Director, Richard Kirsch:
“President Obama made it clear that 2009 is the year we pass health care reform. We call on Congress to join with President Obama to pass a guarantee of quality, affordable health care for all this year.
Over the past seven months, 188 Members of Congress have signed on with Health Care for America Now in a commitment to achieving a national solution to the health care crisis in 2009. They have signed on in support of a guarantee of quality, affordable health care we all can count on with benefits that meet our needs and the choice of keeping our private insurance or joining a new public health insurance plan.
Now we challenge the rest of Congress to join with the President, to stand up to the powerful special interests that profit handsomely off our broken system, to reject phony arguments and bogus excuses, and to support reform that puts our families' health and the health of our nation's economy before insurance and drug company profits.
We appreciate the Senate Finance Committee getting to work right away and scheduling a hearing for tomorrow morning as we continue to mobilize across the country to win quality, affordable health care for all in 2009.”
Well, folks, we're on our way.
As mentioned yesterday, we've moving from step 1 to step 2 in our steps to win health care for all. The formal mark of that turning point (and the beginning of the legislation process) is happening tomorrow morning at 10:00 am, when the Senate Finance Committee (one of the two committees with jurisdiction over health care in the Senate) will have its first hearing of the Congressional session on health care reform.
The topic? "Scoring Health Care Reform: CBO’s Budget Options."
What does that mean? Well…
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) "scores" every piece of pending legislation, estimating its effect on the national budget. These numbers can be useful guides to lawmakers when weighing legislative option, but these numbers can also be used for misinformation in the wrong hands.
The CBO's score of health care legislation will be important. We at Health Care for America Now (as well as the other policy experts in the arena) are confident we will see long term costs savings if we pass Obama's (and HCAN's) health care plan, as shown in the chart below from the Center for Economic and Policy Research:
But, that savings might not become apparent for years.
So, on what time frame the CBO scores health care legislation will be important to the public relations battle around the bill. If the CBO scores on a short time frame - say, five years - we will see opponents of health care reform (mostly conservatives who've suddenly got religion about "fiscal responsibility") running around shouting that health care reform will cost us billions. If the CBO scores the bill on a longer time frame - say 10 years or more - cost savings can be taken into account, and the total price tag will be lower.
The way the CBO scores specific policy points will also impact the final tally. For example, how the CBO takes into account things like a public health insurance option will greatly change the final numbers.
Of course, health care is going to require an upfront investment. We know this, and no CBO scoring tricks will reduce this. That's ok - the public understands that we need to fix the health care crisis and we may need to spend money up front to do it. Still, the details of CBO scoring of health care legislation will be important.
The Senate Finance Committee will be having the hearing on this tomorrow. If you have a moment, send them a message and thank them for getting to work so quickly, and let them know you're watching the outcome with baited breath.
Healthcare stressed at Obama's 'fiscal responsibility summit' - McClatchy Newspapers
President Barack Obama will convene a White House meeting next week to address runaway health-care costs. On Monday he called it key to reining in federal spending as he tries to balance plans to spend the country out of recession with shoring up its long-term fiscal health.
A warning shot in the healthcare fight - Los Angeles Tiimes
A relatively obscure proposal in Obama's economic stimulus plan stirred passions on both sides of the healthcare reform effort.
Health Care Tops Fiscal Need List - Washington Post
Medical Costs Threaten the Nation With Bankruptcy, White House Says at Summit
Health care costs to top $8,000 per person - Associated Press
A new government report on medical costs paints a stark picture for President Barack Obama, who is expected to call for a health care overhaul in a speech Tuesday night to a joint session of Congress.
Six million Americans are expected to lose private health coverage by the end of next year, while Medicaid, the national health program for low-income Americans, will beef up its enrollment to pick up much of the slack, federal health analysts reported Monday.
Stimulus ignites health care debate - Politico
Pharmaceutical companies have spent more than two years and tens of millions of dollars working to shed their reputation as a Republican hatchet squad. But making the turn to the center has been especially difficult for an industry whose one-sided political strategy was legendary.
This week, the health care reform fight moves forward. Since the election of Barack Obama, we have been in the momentum building portion of our campaign to win health care for all (see step 1 of our "steps to win"). Tomorrow, President Obama will make a speech to Congress and the nation, outlining his next priorities. Health care will be on that list. On Wednesday, the Senate Finance Committee will hold its first hearing on health care reform. And on Thursday, Obama will deliver his budget outline to Congress. Again, health care will be a priority. (See Jonathan Cohn for more details.)
This all means that we're no longer in the momentum building stage. We've progressed to the formal legislative process, the first step of which is committees holding hearings (see step 2 of our "steps to win").
But all the action isn't in Washington, and indeed, the most important stuff is happening out in the states. There, too, health care has turned a corner, as people start to focus on solutions. From our partner at Citizen Action of Wisconsin:
Health Care for America Now, an unprecedented coalition of labor unions, community-based membership groups, faith-based groups, doctors, nurses, and small businesses, held a listening session in Green Bay Thursday evening. The 90 minute session drew a large audience of area residents. The event was held at the First Methodist Church in downtown Green Bay. The program featured eight testimonials from area health care consumers and small businesses dramatizing the need for immediate national action to guarantee quality affordable health care for all.
"I ran for Congress to address our health care crisis and I am working hard everyday to guarantee affordable health care for all of us," said Dr. Kagen in response to the testimonials.
"This is at the heart of who we our as a nation and how together we will build a better future. We cannot solve our economic crisis without addressing our health care crisis. By reducing our health care costs we will put more money in our pockets and lower overhead for businesses and government which will reduce taxes and create jobs. The stories I heard tonight echoed the concerns my patients shared with me for over 25 years. I have seen this issue from several different sides as a doctor, small business owner, parent, patient and legislator - and I am committed to winning the fight for affordable care in this country." Through the session Kagen expressed confidence that fundamental health care reform is a top priority for President Obama, and that we can expect action in the near future.
Congressman Kagen was joined by Senator Dave Hansen and State Representative Jim Soletski. They heard a series of 8 compelling testimonials at the listening session.
125 people attended this event on a weekday evening. People are clearly interested, and they're looking towards Congress for answers. This is no longer just about momentum, it's about solutions.
There is more information coming, especially what exactly President Obama says tomorrow night and releases on Thursday. Stay tuned.
Can Obama overhaul health care? - Associated Press
Now for the hard part.
Even if the national credit card is maxed out and partisanship remains the rule for Washington's political tribes, President Barack Obama and Congress are plunging ahead with a health care overhaul.
Entitlement Reform Means Fixing the Broader Health System - Center for American Progress
Discussing long-term budget challenges earlier this year, President Barack Obama remarked, “Social Security, we can solve…. The big problem is Medicare, which is unsustainable…. We can’t solve Medicare in isolation from the broader problems of the health-care system.”
President Barack Obama has named a University of North Dakota rural healthcare expert to head the federal agency in charge of improving access to care in the United States, the White House said on Friday.
Health-Care Focus Next for Obama in Speech, Budget Proposal - Bloomberg
With the economic stimulus package signed, President Barack Obama this week will outline how he plans to provide affordable medical coverage for all Americans, an administration official said.