Archive for the ‘Affordale Care Act’ Category

They hope we’ll forget about the taxes still in the ACA. But we can’t, can we?

January 11, 2018

It’s easy to let things slide past us after awhile. Who among us can remember everything for ever and be willing and able to discuss a specific topic regarding of its importance? In the news reports on January 2nd, 2018 there were a scant few reports scattered among the daily news about how the ACA tax on Medical Devices was going live again. After a 2 year pause this tax will once again take affect and be a part of the cost and premiums we pay because it is a tax that the insurers will pay.

But, no one took notice. Nor did anyone start talking about the other taxes still remaining in the ACA. Why do you think no one is talking about these burdensome-premium raising taxes?
Here’s a couple thoughts:

  • In general the Press, both Liberal and Conservative, are focused on what they view as bigger topics such as the DACA issue, budget to keep the government open, Russia-Russia-Russia, is Jerusalem really Israel’s capital, Iran and North Korea, as well as the President’s Tweets, to name a couple.
  • The liberal Press does not want to bring up ACA taxes because it might distract from the get-Trump movement or worse, gain traction in the press and start the GOP in the direction of repealing the taxes.
  • The conservative Press does not want to bring it up because it points to the GOP’s failure to properly address the R&R of the ACA.
  • Democrats don’t want to discuss it for fear of losing the ACA completely even if it’s deleted a little at a time.
  • The GOP does not want to discuss it because it could pressure them to actually do something to solve the healthcare crisis of delivery and finance.
  • What a friggin mess, right?

In addition if the discussion on ACA taxes gets started the GOP may need to defend why it has done nothing about the following taxes:

  • Excise taxes on health insurance providers, pharmaceutical manufacturers and importers in addition to medical device manufacturers and importers.
    • These excise taxes are projected to raise $19 billion in 2020. 
  • An additional 0.9 percent payroll tax on earnings and a 3.8 percent tax on net investment income (NII) for individuals with incomes exceeding $200,000 and couples with incomes exceeding $250,000.
    • The high-income surtaxes are projected to raise $35 billion in 2020.
  • Excise tax on employer-sponsored health benefits whose value exceeds specified thresholds starting in 2020. The so called “Cadillac” tax reduces after-tax incomes the most in percentage terms for middle-income families. 
    • The excise tax on high-cost health plans is projected to raise $3 billion in 2020 with the revenue gain growing rapidly over time, reaching $20 billion by 2026.
  • Excise tax on employers offering inadequate health insurance coverage. The tax applies to employers with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees.
    • The excise tax is projected to raise $20 billion in 2020. 

Maybe these 5 additional taxes, in addition to the tax on the medical devices, answer the question as to why no one is screaming about the premium-increasing taxes remaining in the ACA.Oops, the cynic in me just popped out.

If the GOP had eliminated these taxes in the tax billed just signed then the GOP would have been forced(by CBO calculations) to adjust its calculated outcome. That could have made their job harder. But remember, Congress and Senate members(and staffers) don’t actually pay these taxes because they have their own health plan separate from the ACA. Therefore, how could we expect them to reduce these taxes.

I mean, if it would make their job harder, and all. Gees, we can’t expect them to work 5 full days each week, keep the promises they make, and still reduce our costs. Oh well!

OK, I know the new year is young and there is still time. But the Congress will soon set its full concentrated focus on the mid-term elections of November 2018, Then we can expect to see nothing being done except more speeches and more promises.
Dang, that cynic again.

Anyway, what do you think. Let’s keep an eye on it because we’re all in this together.

Until next week.

Mark Reynolds, RHU
559-250-2000
mark@reynolds.wtf

We didn’t have to stress about saying Merry Christmas, this year. Thank you Mr. President!

December 21, 2017

It’s four days before Christmas and while the Stockings are not yet hung, I bet most of us are thankful that the “war on Christmas” has been placed on-hold, at least for this year.

So this week instead of promoting or dissecting some aspect of healthcare reform let’s look for aspects of 2017 and our own lives in America that bring peace and good will to man.

So, thank you to:

  • First Responders who run toward the crisis or danger while we run away. These brave men and women are better civil servants to our Nation than anyone else, especially politicians, can ever brag to be.
  • Military that in spite of a decline in funding and respect over the past 10 years continue to keep us save by stopping the dangers over there from reaching over here. I did not join the military when I was of age, a decision I regret to this day.
  • Law Enforcement officers on a daily bases as they walk or drive into unknown danger without hesitation and without the support of too many in our nation.
    We should all stand each time the National Anthem plays!
  • Teachers who signed up to help educate our future generations and continue do so even when facing the toughest environments. Wouldn’t it be easier to teach if English was the required language, parents would help from home, and Unions cared about kids more than self-preservation?
  • Moms for doing what they do to love their children even when we are unlovable. Giving birth might be the easy part for Moms these days as they too often take on the role of both parents and both bread winners in American homes. Moms are the first responders for our families and they need our help and thanks.
  • Churches that stand for the true Word of God and don’t give in to the secular-worldly efforts by too many to cast shadows upon what we all know is right.
  • Co-workers that come to work each day to work as a team toward similar goals of creating good products, good service, and respect for team.

Thank God, above all else, for His gift of the Lord Jesus Christ, for us all. God so love the world that He gave His only Son for us that we might have eternal life. To those of you who are believers you know that a relationship with Jesus Christ does give us an eternal home but also gives us a relationship throughout the year like none other possibly could.

That’s just a few. To whom or what are you thankful that makes your life safer and better?

Love to hear from you and especially at Christmas we should know that we’re all in this together. 

Merry Christmas to all!! And to all, until next week.

Mark Reynolds, RHU
559-250-2000
mark@reynolds.wtf

 

The Thanksgiving Holiday is not unique to the USA but we may enjoy it more than most. Given the way History is taught in schools, do younger Americans know its origin? Let’s review.

November 21, 2017

We’re Posting two days early as we take a break from discussing healthcare reform and the ridiculousness of Washington DC to pause for one of our most cherished of traditions.

Why is it that we have this Thanksgiving Holiday? It’s a national holiday and generally grants us a 4-day weekend, at least for many of us. If one searches the internet for Thanksgiving there is a plethora of good info. But why do we celebrate it?

Most of us don’t research the reason for any holiday and we are perfectly happy enjoying the time off from work. I say this as someone who is not good help and therefore banished from the kitchen so Thanksgiving Day has always been a full day of food, parades and football. (Except this year, it’s just food and parades since we can’t watch the NFL until the protests against our National Anthem stop.)
But that’s not the story for today.

Let’s take a brief look at the origin of Thanksgiving; courtesy of Wikipedia and the Internet.

Early thanksgiving observances

Thanksgiving
, or Thanksgiving Day, is a public holiday celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November[1] in the United States. It originated as a harvest festival. Thanksgiving has been celebrated nationally on and off since 1789, after Congress requested a proclamation by George Washington.[2] It has been celebrated as a federal holiday every year since 1864, when, during the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens,” to be celebrated on the last Thursday in November.[3][4] Together with Christmas and the New Year, Thanksgiving is a part of the broader fall/winter holiday season in the U.S.

The event that Americans commonly call the “First Thanksgiving” was celebrated by the Pilgrims after their first harvest in the New World in October 1621.[5] This feast lasted three days, and—as accounted by attendee Edward Winslow[6]—it was attended by 90 Native Americans and 53 Pilgrims.[7] The New England colonists were accustomed to regularly celebrating “thanksgivings”—days of prayer thanking God for blessings such as military victory or the end of a drought.[8]

Setting aside time to give thanks for one’s blessings, along with holding feasts to celebrate a harvest, are both practices that long predate the European settlement of North America. The first documented thanksgiving services in territory currently belonging to the United States were conducted by Spaniards[9][10] and the French[11] in the 16th century. Wisdom practices such as expressing gratitude, sharing, and giving away, are an integral part of indigenous communities since time immemorial.

Thanksgiving services were routine in what became the Commonwealth of Virginia as early as 1607,[12] with the first permanent settlement of Jamestown, Virginia holding a thanksgiving in 1610.[9] In 1619, 38 English settlers arrived at Berkeley Hundred in Charles City County, Virginia. The group’s London Company charter specifically required “that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned… in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God.”[13][14] Three years later, after the Indian massacre of 1622, the Berkeley Hundred site and other outlying locations were abandoned and colonists moved their celebration to Jamestown and other more secure spots.

Harvest festival observed by the Pilgrims at Plymouth

Americans also trace the Thanksgiving holiday to a 1621 celebration at the Plymouth Plantation, where the settlers held a harvest feast after a successful growing season. Autumn or early winter feasts continued sporadically in later years, first as an impromptu religious observance and later as a civil tradition.

Squanto, a Patuxet Native American who resided with the Wampanoag tribe, taught the Pilgrims how to catch eel and grow corn and served as an interpreter for them. Squanto had learned the English language during his enslavement in England. The Wampanoag leader Massasoit had given food to the colonists during the first winter when supplies brought from England were insufficient.

The Pilgrims celebrated at Plymouth for three days after their first harvest in 1621. The exact time is unknown, but James Baker, the Plimoth Plantation vice president of research, stated in 1996, “The event occurred between Sept. 21 and Nov. 11, 1621, with the most likely time being around Michaelmas (Sept. 29), the traditional time.”[16]  ] The feast was cooked by the four adult Pilgrim women who survived their first winter in the New World (Eleanor Billington, Elizabeth Hopkins, Mary Brewster, and Susanna White), along with young daughters and male and female servants.[16][17]

So, there you go, a brief history lesson for us all. Can you imagine our Congress declaring a day be set aside for honoring the Almighty who Dweleth in the Heavens in 2017?

Over 120 Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock but only 53 survived the first year, to celebrate and offer thanks, in the New World.   As we enjoy our Thanksgiving Holiday I hope we all  can benefit by knowing the first years of this celebration were precluded by great hardship and therefore were indeed a blessing for the settlers. They endured much and likely would have all perished if not assisted greatly by the Native Americans living in the region. We each need a little help in our lives from time to time!

There’s a lesson in history for each of us. Unfortunately it is quickly forgotten as the Monday following Thanksgiving arrives. Hey, maybe it will be different this year.
Next week we’re back to healthcare reform, tax reform and the unbelievable mess we call our US government.
Until next week, let’s remember what Thanksgiving is about and that like the Pilgrims in 1621, we’re all in this together.
Until then,
Mark Reynolds, RHU
559-250-2000
mark@reynolds.wtf

Rates for the subsidy-eligible ACA Silver Plans projected to increase by an average 34% in 2018. Who does this really affect? Not who you think!

November 9, 2017

The Media as well as private news sites and blogs are making a lot of noise about the projected increase in premiums on ACA health plans for 2018. Clearly, 90% of the US public will be mislead by these headlines and not understand who these premium increase will affect. And who is paying for them. Let’s look closer.

Most reports are trying to blame President Trump’s decision to discontinue the Cost Sharing Reductions (CSRs) as the reason these rates are increasing. I don’t think that’s true and I don’t think 90% of America understand the truth about the plans and citizens for whom these plans apply.

Remember, the CSRs apply only to:

  • Roughly 6 million out of the 10 million Americans covered by individual Silver plans on State Exchanges.
  • These citizens get their premiums and out-of-pocket (OOP) costs subsidized.
  • So their OOP is not effected by increased premiums or the decision to discontinue the CSRs.

A couple other points to remember:

  • Insurers are not obligated to offer individual plans on the Exchanges.
  • If carriers offer similar plans on and off the exchanges then the premiums must be equal.
    • This is a somewhat awkward requirement since On Exchange plans have fees added on to pay the Exchange.
    • That means that Insurer plans Off Exchange, if their plan mirrors an On Exchange plan, must match the price.
    • That means the insurer keeps the cost added in that was due the Exchange.
  • BUT, insurers can offer different plans off the Exchange than on the Exchange with those Off Exchange plans can be priced however the insurer deems is appropriate.

To summarize:

  • Americans can buy their individual plans On or Off Exchange depending on their own needs or desires.
  • Only On Exchange Silver plans qualify for Subsidy for either premium or OOP.
  • Subsidy is based on annual income relative to Federal Poverty lines
  • Insurers are allowed to offer plans Off Exchange that are different from On Exchange plans.

The ACA did change the way individual plans are priced, the benefits offered, how they are sold and how they are underwritten. They are guaranteed acceptance with no denial of any treatment due to previous health history or treatment. The ACA made it possible for anyone, including the least healthy, to buy a policy that covers what ever ails them.
And do so almost when ever they choose.

Remember, an Off Exchange plan is simply a health insurance plan that is available from the insurer direct without the need to go through an official Exchange. It can be different from On Exchange plans both in benefits and premium. Honestly, there are probably only two reasons to shop through the Exchange:

  • One, is if applicant will qualify for subsidy.
  • Two, the applicant does not know or want an agent to be involved. (Foolish)

 In most states there are more plans available Off Exchange than ON. Most advisors will advise that the only reason to use an Exchange is if you will qualify for a subsidy, one must admit that makes sense.

So, the premium increases the press is screaming about affect a small number of citizens who are not responsible for the premium or OOP on the Silver plan they select. That means they are NOT paying for the increases the media is protesting. So, who does?

If the pundits and ACA proponents had their way it would be you, the US tax payer, who pays these increases. Your cost would be paid by the CMS and HHS which are funded by your taxes.

As we projected in earlier Posts, the Media and libs are making a big deal by distorting the facts and misleading the rest of us Americans. Six million Americans  affected, out of 330 million people, and those six million won’t be paying the increases anyway.

So, premium increases on both individual and group plans have little to do with the Presidents decision to discontinue the CSRs. The reasons for the increases are complex but basically the result of the ACA and its punitive restrictive rules.

Those are the facts as I see them. But what do you think, after all, we are all in this together.

Until next week.

Mark Reynolds, RHU
559-250-2000
mark@reynolds.wtf

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

Tax Reform, may not seem related to Healthcare Reform, but it is. Particularly, the deduction of State taxes on Federal returns. Let’s see why.

November 2, 2017

This Post may seem odd to those in states that have no or very low state income taxes. But the prospect that Congress might pass and President Trump sign a bill causing the elimination of the deductibility of state taxes on Federal returns is a possibility.

Let’s frame the discussion a bit.
For example, California and New York have state income taxes on their residents that are among the highest tax rates in America. Why do these states tax their residents so highly? It’s widely reported that it’s because these states are also the most liberal in entitlement payments to residents. You’ve all read how much is given away to residents in these states with little or no accountability and seemingly little fear for how to pay for the entitlements in the future.

Heck, in CA is seems the Dems seldom say “No” to any give away to residents (legal or not) not to mention the many restrictions on business. These attitudes result in a tax policy that is very burdensome to employers, employees and the folks who pay the majority of the taxes in Ca. and many other states.

To help offset these high state taxes the folks in Ca. and NY (and other states) are allowed to deduct the state taxes they pay from their Federal tax return which eases the pain (tax due) caused by Federal income tax, a bit. It also means that the tax payers in these states get higher deductions than tax payers in other states.

Your humble author lives, works and pays taxes in Ca so eliminating the deduction for state taxes would affect me directly. But is this one of those times when one must look further ahead than just the next tax year and make decisions based on what’s best for the Nation. I don’t mean to sound too honorable because it is my hope that if these deductions are eliminated that then more Ca citizens will stand up against the continual onslaught by Ca’s Legislature against financial fairness and accountability.

So, if more people of means or at least higher income taxes in Ca and NY  stand up and fight against foolish spending, frivolous projects and staggering regulations that kill opportunity for everyone then maybe everyone will have a chance to improve their lives with more jobs with higher wages, better access to healthcare and a chance to change the lives of their children and children’s children.

You know that I am an optimist trapped in a skeptic’s body, but are my ideas naïve? Well, what we have is failing so what do we have to lose if we give it a try.

When I moved to Ca in 1985 it was a different place with opportunity that fueled the ambitions of those willing to try. It also was a state in which one could take an idea, build on it and with luck and toil make it work. Sure, Hollywood and Silicon Valley have created a bunch of Ka-zillionaires but what about the folks that just wanted to start a small business to create jobs for others so they could prosper and live better?

The economy grows because of the small businesses that employ just a few employees, that provide sound benefits and good wages. It can be that way again if we make some well conceived gradual improvements.

So, how is Tax Reform related to Healthcare Reform? If people in Ca and NY (and other states) can’t deduct their “high state taxes” and therefore become frustrated by higher federal taxes, then maybe they’ll start looking for ways to reduce other costs. One area would to make more reasonable decisions about  reforming healthcare financing.  Healthcare premiums and OOP is costing many people more than their taxes.

Anyway, I think it’s possible. Let me know what you think because we’re all in this together.

Until next week.

Mark Reynolds
559-250-2000
mark@reynolds.wtf

Eliminating President Obama’s Cost Sharing Reduction (CSRs) payments. Is it legal, constitutional, and a good idea? Let’s discuss.

October 19, 2017

Our intent was to continue discussing President Trump’s EO providing for the formation of Association Health Plans. But, in the interest of fair discussion, maintaining topical subjects and allowing more details from HHS, Treasury and IRS to develop, let’s discuss the President’s Executive Order discontinuing the Obama era subsidy payments to insurers. Is President Trump’s action legal or even a good idea?

First of all, how else does anything get done in Washington to correct any issues let alone the problems caused by the ACA if steps aren’t taken to initiate action by Congress. It seems that our Congress can only take action when there is a crisis or deadline. It is certain that Congress, particularly the GOP, does not have the stones to take on the opposition to changing the ACA without some catalyst to make them do so.

Which brings us to the Cost Sharing Reduction payments, the subsidies paid to insurers for low-income citizens out-of-pocket cost, which President Obama initiated. The Courts have already ruled that these payments are unconstitutional. 

The money for the subsidies was never appropriated by Congress, but President Obama paid insurers anyway.  The payments were ruled illegal by a Federal Appeals Court last year, but the order was stayed pending congressional action.

It’s estimated that about 6 million enrollees in the exchanges qualify for the cost-sharing payments this year, costing the federal government about $7 billion in 2017.  Insurance companies are required to fund the payments to reduce deductibles and co-insurance even if they are not reimbursed by the federal government.

If this were not the case then any President could initiate payments out of the US Treasury for any project a President desired. For example, President G.W. Bush could have pulled funds to start and continue the war in Iraq.

President Trump would be free to start writing checks to pay for the new border wall between the US and Mexico without the approval or appropriations from Congress. I’m sure most Libs would love that. In a country where the citizen’s freedoms are set for in the Constitution do we want our leaders to be free to pick the laws he/she wants to ignore or follow? 

So, if President Trump can’t decide unilaterally to pay for the border wall then how could President Obama decide to make payments to insurers unilaterally?

Consider some perspective. These CSRs are intended to cover the out-of-pocket costs such as deductibles, copays, and co-insurance  for low-income citizens covered on individual plans through an ACA authorized state exchange.

Also for perspective it’s important to remember that only about 10 million Americans are actually covered by the individual exchanges. As stated above, experts calculate that the CSRs affect about 6 million citizens.

So, once again a big hub-bub is created in the media for 6 million folks in a country of 330 million about payments estimated to $7 Billion. It might also be interesting for Americans in 48 states to know that about 3 million of the 6 million people receiving the CSRs reside in California and New York.

The point isn’t that these people don’t need and deserve assistance. Nor is the point that citizens from two of the most liberal states in America require around half of all these payments. The point is that the actions taken by the Obama administration to make these payments was/is unconstitutional. Even though those 6 million good Americans may deserve this help, don’t we need to follow the law. Why didn’t the Obama administration do the right thing and shouldn’t we expect Congress to do the legal thing.

Maybe the states should make these payments to insurers out of their own state treasuries. The payments might then be accounted for and more closely monitored. But, certainly the citizens of these states would be acutely aware of the impact.

Sure, I realize the GOP did not vote for the ACA and now the issue flares up during the GOP’s leadership which seems unfair and certainly untimely. The Obama team was masterful in its timing of many aspects of the ACA which is worth an entire Post on its own. 
But, the GOP had 7+ years to develop a workable replacement and failed to do so.

Next step? We’ll discuss further but first, stick to the facts and the constitution. Second, write and present a realistic replacement plan that provides solutions for all Americans including low income citizens, employees, employers, patients, providers,  that provide more alternatives, better choices and lower costs as its focus.
Simple, right? We’ve already outlined it in previous Posts.

Let me know what you think.
I enjoy the feedback especially since we’re all in this together.

Until next week.

Mark Reynolds, RHU
559-250-2000
mark@reynolds.wtf

 

Graham-Cassidy Healthcare reform bill: sure, it’s dead but was it just AHCA 3.0? Let’s look closer.

September 28, 2017

Not living nor making my living with in the political pressure constant in Wash DC it’s hard to look at this new GOP effort, the Graham-Cassidy bill, without a healthy bit of skepticism.

Why is that? Have you ever witnessed some one make a decision based upon desperation or a willingness to “settle”? We all have. It’s common in personal relationships, it’s frequent in business decisions, and it’s compulsory in politics.

The Graham-Cassidy bill GCB) looks and feels a lot like a political effort to avoid “doing nothing” and facing constitutes after having made the promise to “repeal & replace” the ACA. If you were a GOP legislator up for re-election in 2018, especially in the House, do you want to go home  at the end of the year to face those who trusted you when you said “Obama-care must be repealed”? Of course you wouldn’t, no sane person would. But, we’re talking about politicians not sanity.

Here are a couple of points from GCB for reference:

  • Says it repeals the Individual mandate but truthfully only reduces penalty to zero. If you don’t want to buy, don’t worry, no penalty.
  • Says it repeals the Employer mandate but truthfully only reduces penalty to zero. If you don’t want to provide coverage, don’t worry, no penalty.
  • Maintains guarantee issue with no pre-ex while reducing penalty to zero for no coverage. Like the other GOP attempts this adds the burden to premium calculations and to premium payers.
  • Eliminates only the medical device tax while leaving all the others such as the Cadillac tax. Why not eliminate all the taxes.
  • Maintains Medicaid expansion and its subsidies but does so in a block grant manner.
  • Converts Federal subsidies given to states into Block grants so states can use as they please. Giving states flexibility sounds great but this may create chaos between states.
  • Gives states freedom to determine Essential Health Benefits and how block grant funds are to be spent. This sounds good except for the poor souls in liberal states like NY and Ca. who will see those funds spent on more freebies and no accountability.

There are countless other provisions that are a mirror of the two previous failed GOP attempts but I won’t burden you with this.

So, the language you will hear from supporters will be:

  • This is our last chance to get rid of the evil Obama-care.
  • If we don’t do something now then we won’t have another chance.
  • Doing something is better than doing nothing
  • Choice is clear, you’re either for Socialism or federalism.

If this effort fails the GOP folks can return to their districts and tell their supporters that “I tried but we just did not have enough votes” “Re-elect me again and we will continue our fight to repeal the evil liberal OB-care”.

Then, what are we suppose to do, vote for a Democrat or not vote. This is political baloney at its worst or best depending on your perspective.

If the GCB passes its initial vote in the Senate it will still face an incredible battle in the House. Plus remember that the House GOP is in a worse pickle that the Senate so they will try to flavor the baloney to their best interest.
I actually give it a 60/40 probability of passing the initial Senate vote.

OK, enough huh? Let’s watch this debate (debacle) unfold. It does not need to be this way but the swamp has not yet been drained, as they say.

Until next week, we’re all in this together.

Mark Reynolds, RHU
559-250-2000
mark@reynolds.wtf

PCORI – is this a worthwhile expense on your health plan or another example of Government bureaucracy and waste?

September 21, 2017

Evaluating the benefit of PCORI, the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute, relative to the impact on healthcare costs and efficacy of current treatment protocols may be impossible. One’s opinion may well be determined by your baseline feelings about redundant government programs, government bureaucracy, or even political positions.

One could also add data security to the list of concerns. More about that below.

Honestly, it is hard to justify the added expense to health plan costs or the benefit to healthcare practitioners and their patients. If the goal is to study comparative outcomes for current practice protocols then how will the analysis be delivered. One problem is that the PCORI has no authority to implement any findings nor to direct healthcare practitioners to modify their practices. Another problem may be human nature, that being, Doctors wanting to practice in their own experienced manner.

We all want affordable high-quality healthcare with the latest and most effective technology. There’s no argument there. But, given the history of what happens in the private sector when government intercedes don’t we have the obligation to investigate and challenge the established bureaucracy?

There are already at least two notable government agencies that experts say could incorporate the PCORI objectives with in their current structure. One is the National Institutes of Health and another is the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality,

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has the stated mission of “making health care safer, higher quality, more accessible, equitable, and affordable”. It is considered small by federal government standards with a budget of about $440 million. Believe that, small at $440m? Anyway, the mission for the AHRQ sounds like something we want so why couldn’t it dish out the $3.5 Billion expected to be awarded by PCORI?

Plus, the GAO (Government Accountability Office) states that the PCORI won’t go through a review by any independent outside entity until 2020, after the program has run it’s course, awarded an expected $3.5 billion and PCORI is no longer operative.

So, one must ask, is PCORI a worthwhile venture or just another government program scheduled to end but destined for in perpetuity?

After reviewing many of the awards given to date it is easy to lean toward the obvious: that PCORI has both great waste and great potential, depending on one’s fiscol perspective.
Let’s look at a couple PCORI awards:

  • One project looks at how doctors can create a “Zone of Openness” with patients which was part of $61 million in awards. Were you wondering about your doctor’s “Zone of Openness” the  last time you were waiting to see the doctor, dressed in your paper robe, sitting on that awkward metal bench covered in butcher block paper?
  • $14 million for a study on the appropriate dose for aspirin being taken to prevent heart attacks. Too much and you could bleed to death. How long have doctors been practicing this treatment protocol and they don’t know the correct dose?
  • $500,000 went to AHIP (America’s Health Insurance Plans) to “build and maintain support from health plan leaders” and to “identify important gaps in availability of health insurance administrative data”.
    A spokesman for AHIP stated that sharing health plan data is “complex” and “requires a significant amount of review and expertise from the industry”.
  • $249,000 went to Society of General Internal Medicine for a 2 year program, as stated “to help us develop a better understanding of the attitudes and knowledge of our membership”.
  • I’m not kidding!

Will we see any demonstrative results from the $3.5 billion in research awards expected to be doled out? Good question! Supporters say that we will see the results in articles published in medical journals and through presentations , seminars and other public dissemination. Since the PCORI has no authority the information obtained will not be sent out as directives to be followed. That part may be good.

In fact, some legislators and professional groups are concerned that the government, particularly CMS, may try to use the PCORI results to limit or restrict healthcare services to citizens covered by Medicare and Medicaid. That means our senior folks covered by Medicare and Medi-cal. We were told about this potential issue in 2009, remember. 

Will doctors change due to PCORI?

  • Some who belong to large practice groups might if directed to by their group.
  • If payments for services rendered are reduced as a result of  procedures deemed ineffective by PCORI then doctors may change. 
  • Unless there are consequences, either financial or legal, doctors may not modify their current practices simply because of a result of a PCORI award.

My initial opinion was that PCORI was another example of over-reach by the government adding cost to premiums as well as costing taxpayer billions of wasted dollars and unneeded oversight. After doing my research and preparing for this Post, I have found no reason to modify my initial opinion.
Hey, maybe my opinion is just like the results of the billions spent on PCORI; nothing changes!

One other thought has lingered with me since 2010. The ACA also mandated that all health plans submit their data to the CMS and PCORI for the purpose of analysis. By data I mean every individual’s personal & private information including SS#s, employment & health status, and specific information on every healthcare service incurred.

So, how has that data been protected and by whom? The list of entities that have had data breaches is endless and includes cities, states, nations, government agencies, many insurance carriers, and thousands of other private businesses.
Here is a short list with the estimate of records stolen :

  • US Office of Personnel & Management -22 Million
  • Yahoo 1st time -500 Million
  • Yahoo 2nd time -1 Billion
  • Equifax – 143 Million (this is recent and huge!)
  • E-bay -145 Million
  • Anthem -80 Million
  • Target -40 Million
  • Home Depot -56 Million
  •  Sony – 77 Million
  • What are the odds that your personal info was not part of at least one of these?
  • Do you think the health records of our citizens stored at CMS are an attractive target to hackers?

As I said, it was a lingering thought!

Well, you can give it some thought and ask yourself some questions. Have you read or heard anything about PCORI in the past 2 years. Probably not because one of the operative guidelines of PCORI is to be invisible and not draw attention.

Geez, does that makes sense; a government bureaucracy created to analyze comparative treatment outcomes but do so without making any news?

That’s it for now. Let me know what you think or if you’ve seen any data that shines a positive light on PCORI. I want to be fair in our review.

Next week we’ll look at the Graham-Cassidy Healthcare reform bill now being urgently pushed by the GOP. The Senate has until Sept 30th to get it started with only 51 votes.

Until next week, let’s work together and stay positive.

Mark Reynolds, RHU
559-250-2000
mark@reynolds.wtf

 

 
 

Two things that unite us as Americans: One is the start of the Football Season. The Other is Catastrophic events like 911 and hurricanes.

September 14, 2017

This week’s Post about PCORI, established in 2010 by the ACA, was printed, polished and ready to go until about 6am this Monday morning. That’s when I started watching the news that was showing the various memorial services to 911 on the East coast. It reminded me again of how united and how resilient the people of the United States are when times are tough.

Recently, we have all been saddened and heartened with the stories from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. The pictures and interviews display how Americans of every race and origin willingly help out other Americans of every race and origin when the time comes.

The 911 memorials today may become a bit smaller in years to come but if and when the next event occurs we know that Americans will not hesitate to jump into the fight to help others when needed.
To quote the famous philosopher and great fiddle player Mr. Charles Daniels: “you just go ahead and lay your hands on a Pittsburgh Steelers’ fan and I think you’ll finally understand”.  Which means, that Packers fans and Cowboy fans or Dolphin fans alike will step up to help a fellow American when outsiders bring trouble to the United States.

As I watched a few of the speeches this morning it made me start to think about how, as Americans, we are resilient and we are resolved to the actions needed to protect ourselves and others from future harm. Americans will do what needs to be done if given good leadership and good planning.

However, over the past 16 years, plus the 10 years prior to 911, it seems that politicians often forget this aspect of our citizens and instead start thinking about their next election. Political correctness, identity politics, and a complacent culpable media add to the danger we face.

But this week instead of PCORI, the ACA, the media or politicians I want to focus on the core strengths we have as Americans. Those strengths that led our ancestors to leave their original homes to traverse across great oceans and  mountain ranges to build the greatest country the world has ever known.

The past 4 weeks have shown us how we come together when times are tough. The memorial ceremonies for 911 show us how we come together as a nation when attacked. Now, we just need to maintain that steadfast resolution on a day-to-day basis. Help your neighbor when they need it, forgive that careless driver that cut you off this morning, and continue to pray, praise and donate to our fellow Americans who need our help.

Let me finish with a thought about the idea that the football season being a factor of unity. Some may disagree (probably soccer fans) but for six months each year three hundred of million American come together to root for their favorite team or teams. Whether its high school, college, the NFL or even Pee-wee or arena one must admit that we are avid fans. Heck, look how many people watch the Super Bowl each year (without any rioting in the stands).
So, back your favorite team which I know for all of us is Team USA.

Next week, we’re back to common sense solutions for healthcare, OK?
And remember, we’re all in this together.
Until next week,

Mark Reynolds, RHU
559-250-2000
mark@reynolds.wtf

Promoting “polls” that suggest a change in “favorable vs. unfavorable” opinions is the new technic to support the ACA. Can we trust these polls?

September 7, 2017

You’ve probably seen them, too. Polls that show the “favorable” opinions about the ACA increasing dramatically. Since the introduction of the failed House and Senate bills to replace the ACA more articles are stating that opinion polls are showing the “favorable” attitude about the ACA increasing.

Who in the world did these polls approach. And I do mean “in the world”, because if anyone likes the ACA better now than before January 2017, they must have been people from other world counties. Another likely scenario would be that the polled population was previously uninsured who are now covered by either Medicare expansion or a state exchange with full or nearly-full subsidy.

Who could find the ACA more favorable after 7 years of:

  • Double digit premium increase (100%+ in many areas)
  • 50% fewer providers in the PPOs
  • Crappy benefits with higher out of pockets
  • Limited number of insurers

The answer is that no one would find the ACA more favorable unless:

  • You paid premium before but now it’s paid for you.
  • You were uninsurable before and had no coverage.
  • Had no coverage before but what the heck – its free now.
  • You are Harry R or Nancy P or Z Emanuel or J Gruber.
  • Or one of their relatives (even that’s unlikely, though).

The key to the outcomes in these kind of polls is often the format in which questions were formulated to meet the desired outcome of the pollster. In a sensitive issue such one’s health care it is easy to ask a yes-no question in a manner that leads the subject to the answer desired.
For instance: if I asked you “Do you think it’s fair for insurers to decline an applicant for coverage?” you could easily say NO. But, would your answer change if you knew that the applicant had several opportunities to enroll before but chose not to until just recently after a negative diagnosis was received?

Our citizens are smarter than politician think, or want for that matter, so they know what should be done. However, if they are polled with questions impossible to answer then it skews the outcome. As Ms. Vido, in My Cousin Vinny, said “It’s a bullshit question”. By that, as she goes on to explain – “It’s a trick question. No one could answer that question.” So how are we to believe these polls?

Or let’s say you were asked – “Sir, do you still beat your kids?”. Of course you don’t because you never have but you must answer yes or no. The point is that professional pollsters conducting polls for entities with certain agendas can make the American public seem like it supports or does not support an issue based on the specific outcome desired.

So, don’t you find it difficult to believe that any American would answer that he/she is more favorably inclined toward the ACA today than they were 1 or 2 years ago? Unless, it was because they were among the citizens outlined above.

I know I can be a skeptic or even a cynic, as I’ve mentioned before, but some things are beyond giving the benefit of the doubt.

Now, if you were to ask people the following questions you could be sure of people’s true opinions:

  • Do you think premiums increasing 100% per year is reasonable?
  • Do you think insurers should be subsidized by the government.
  • Do you think PPOs with half the Doctors carved out provide good service?
  • Do you think the premium you pay should be tax-deductible?
  • Do you think people who choose not to enroll should be GI with no Pre-ex later?
  • Do you want your plan to cover pediatric dental if you are a single 50 yr. old male?
  • Do you think healthy working-age people should get their coverage for free?
  • Do you think the Congress should have been better prepared to offer a replacement plan for the ACA?
  • Do you think calling the House or Senate’s bill a “repeal” was an assault on your intelligence?

I guess I got on to another rant there for a moment but you get my meaning. It is very difficult to believe that tens-of-millions of our hard-working premium-paying citizens would find the ACA more favorable today than they did a year or two ago.
But, what do you think?

Until next week, just remember that we’re all in this together.

Please keep praying for the folks in south Texas and Louisiana. They have a long haul ahead.

Mark Reynolds, RHU
559-250-2000
mark@reynolds.wtf