Archive for the ‘US House of Representatives’ Category

Are Politicians and the Press trying to make Folks nervous about losing the ACA guidelines on “pre-existing conditions”? Should they be? Let’s discuss it.

July 19, 2018

According to a Poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, about 65% of likely voters say a candidate’s support for continued protections for people with pre-existing health conditions is either the “single most important factor” or “very important” to their vote in the upcoming midterms elections.
That’s significant and important!

The KFF Poll also reports that 57% of the voters in the poll say that they or someone in their household has a pre-existing condition of some sort. Critically important!

Additionally, 76% of the public say it is “very important” that the law continue to prohibit insurers from denying coverage because of a person’s medical history. Finally, 72% say it is “very important” that the law continue to keep insurers from charging sick people more for coverage. 

Once again, I say thank you to the KFF team for compiling these numbers which demonstrate how important the issue of “pre-ex” is to our citizens. I would add that this issue has always been the foundation on which every healthcare reform project has either thrived or failed. It’s really a no-brainer so why are the Press and certain Politicians stoking the fire of fear in our citizens.

In 1992, California’s healthcare reform bill, referred to locally as Ab 1672, provided for guarantee issue (GI) and full take-over for small group plans. It included a “pre-ex” clause for new enrollees who had no coverage during the previous 60 days. If a new enrollee had not had coverage in the previous 60 days then anything for which the new member had received treatment  in the previous six months would not be covered by the new plan until the member is covered under the new plan for six months. At that point coverage was full for any benefits covered under the plan. Pretty reasonable, right?

I remember the hysteria in the Press as well as brokers and industry pundits about how much premiums would increase due the GI and no pre-ex. Here’s what happened. Premiums increased initially about 6% to as much as 12% during the first year or so. Then in the second, third and fourth year the insurers actually started reducing premiums. No one organized any parades nor did the Press praise the results about the premiums coming down, but we in the industry knew it and employers appreciated it.

The failure of Ab 1672 was that it did not address individual and family plans (IFP), those plans not sponsored by employers. That error or purposeful neglect of leadership is where the crisis began yet no one in California had the vision or courage to address it.

So, let’s fast forward to the bantering we here today by the Press and Politicians as they try to scare up support for themselves and chip away at the efforts being made to improve healthcare pricing, benefits, and access.

As we continue, remember that the problem they’re projecting is for the State Exchange members covered by Individual and Family Plans (IFPs). We know that only about 8 million Americans have coverage on these plans but that 80-90% of those receive subsidies making their coverage be free or nearly so. But the fear is legitimate and fare; but the hysteria is not helpful.

There is a rather simple solution but it won’t happen because no Politician is going to take the risk and endure the public criticism of providing a workable solution.

So, I will.
A few simple steps:

  1. IFPs continue to be GI with its timely enrollment guidelines unchanged.
  2. New enrollees, not covered by any IFP or group plan for the preceding 60 or 90 days, would not have coverage for any pre-existing condition for which treatment had been received with in the previous 6 months. 
  3. Once the new enrollee is covered continually for 6 months then coverage is provided for all benefits provided by the plan. 
  4. During the period in which pre-existing conditions are not covered the enrollee would have coverage for all other benefits under the plan.
    Example: If pre-ex is treatment for diabetes but the enrollee breaks a leg or develops cancer during fist 6 months on plan, the broken leg and cancer is covered.

The time frames above could be adjusted but the result would be significant:

  1. It would encourage continuous enrollment, without a IRS implemented fine as demanded by the ACA, especially if one has an on-going condition which according to the KFF poll 57% of families do.
  2. It would stabilize premiums. The current mandates and guidelines of the ACA actually push premiums higher. Plus, Insurers have no incentive to control premium and as long as Insurers get reimbursed for 85% of covered enrollees the Insurers won’t have any incentive to control premiums in the future.
  3. Citizens would no longer need to fear being without coverage or not being able to acquire coverage and best of all, premiums would be lower.

That’s pretty easy.
Next, we add in the new Association Health Plans approved by President Trump and  we would see a revival of stability, faith and confidence in our healthcare delivery and finance system.

Of course we still need to deal with the core cost issues such as smoking, obesity and drug usage to really get the job done. But that’s for another day.

If we could encourage a healthy life style that is rewarded by a health plan while addressing the Unit Cost of Care” we will have made our healthcare system great again.
Sorry, that’s a dopey closing statement, but we could get it done.

That is if, we’re all in this together.
Until Next week.

Mark Reynolds, RHU
559-250-2000
mark@reynolds.wtf
It means “Walk the Faith”

Why are so many Americans deferring healthcare or going broke because of it? Wasn’t the ACA supposed to fix that problem?

July 12, 2018

The easy-simple-uncomplicated-straight forward solvable answer is that premiums have increased so much that people can’t afford premiums for anything but bronze plans. That means out of pocket cost for a single person of as much as $8,000 plus premium.

There is a solution to this and it will help all employers control costs while maintaining a healthy-loyal staff while reducing cost for both employer and employee.

Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs) are a popular type of employer sponsored plan that can be used to reimburse an individual for qualified medical expenses and certain types of health insurance. HRAs are funded by the employer, and cannot be funded via employee salary reductions. Technically, HRAs are not a health plan, as we commonly think of plans, but rather they are an ACA and IRS supported method for employers to reimburse their employees for healthcare expenses. And they work!

In fact, HRAs worked so well for small employers that certain Insurers in California
threaten punitive actions against brokers to prevent brokers from showing HRAs to their clients.

The Court in a recent anti-trust lawsuit in California decided in favor of the Plaintiff and small employers when it issued an injunction preventing the Insurer from restricting access to these employer/employee friendly programs called HRAs. For years, Insurers in California threatened broker’s commissions and contracts if their clients implement HRAs. That is, until one TPA had seen enough. Now, Insurers no longer threaten brokers to restrict HRAs; but more about that in a future post.

The regulations and guidance issued under the Affordable Care Act, make it difficult for HRAs to be offered on a stand-alone basis, other than for retiree-only groups. The most common means for implementing HRAs, and the safest for employers, is to integrate the HRA with a group health plan that already complies with the standards of the ACA.

The Trump Administration issued an Executive Order that directs the DOL and the Departments of Treasury and Health and Human Services to consider proposing regulations or revising guidance to increase the usability of HRAs It also directs them consider means to expand employers’ ability to offer HRAs, and to allow HRAs to be used in conjunction with non-group coverage.

HRAs are under-utilized in today’s market so the Trump EO may be a shot of adrenaline to insurance brokers to look at HRAs as a creative way to help their clients lower cost and improve benefits.

The point is that HRAs have a 15 year track record of proven results for small employers that demonstrates how HRAs can work effectively to reduce costs. That 15 year track record also shows why it is that HRAs improve benefits every time they are implemented. The track record was accomplished in CA and we all know that CA is one of the most expensive states for healthcare premium and unit cost.  That’s a pretty good state to set an impressive track record.

The HHS may expand HRAs in a manner to give larger employers the freedom to reimburse employees for premiums on their individual plans (non-group) through an HRA. This idea of “premium reimbursement for individual plans” may prove disruptive to the group market as often happened with defined contribution plans over the past 20 years. If employers commit to provide a benefit plan then employers will benefit if they choose to maintain the integrity of the “group” plan to assure proper pricing in future years.

We’ll keep an eye on the market but in the interim, every employer with 2 employees to 2,000 employees should demand that their broker present them with an HRA option. That’s not advice, its common sense!

HRAs work for everyone, including Insurers, which once again proves that we’re all in this together.

Until next week.

Mark Reynolds, RHU
559-250-2000
mark@reynolds.wtf
It means “Walk the Faith”.

July 4th is a “uniquely American date” as the Celebration of our Independence. Let’s look at it’s history.

June 28, 2018

Let’s take a day off from our normal healthcare reform discussions.

Next week we celebrate the 4th of July which at its core is why we have the freedoms we enjoy and for which so many have fought. No where in the course of history on this planet has any nation achieved what the USA has or is trying to retain. So, let’s take a moment to remember why we have the freedoms to debate and disagree.
Please enjoy the brief history and interesting facts to follow:

Have you ever wondered why we celebrate the Fourth of July or the risk our original Founders took to make July 4th significant to us? Many people think we celebrate the Fourth of July because it is the day we received our Independence from England on July 4th 1776.  Not true because it would be another 7 years before we would gain our independence because the war with England to gain independence did not end until 1783.

When the original 13 colonies were first settled, and before we were called the United States, England pretty much allowed the colonies to develop freely without much interference. But starting around 1763 Britain decided that they needed to take more control over the colonies(which means money) and that the colonies needed to return revenue(taxes) to the mother country. England’s reasoning was that it provided protection to the colonies so the colonies needed to pay for their defense.

But the colonies did not agree and felt that since they were not represented in Parliament (Congress) that they shouldn’t have to pay taxes to England, which gave origin to the phrase “no taxation without representation”. But England continued to tax which led the colonies to form the First Continental Congress with the intent to persuade the British government to recognize the rights of the colonies. Of course England did not so a war was declared, which we call the American Revolution.

Most folks forget that the American Revolution (the war) lasted for nearly 10 years. Failing to get satisfaction at first, the leaders of the 13 colonies organized a second Continental Congress. It is this group that adopted the final draft of the Declaration of Independence. The first draft of the Declaration of Independence was written by Thomas Jefferson, it was revised by Ben Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson before it was sent the Continental Congress for approval.

The Declaration was finished and ready for signature on July 2nd but was not voted upon and approved until 2 days later. All thirteen colonies stood behind the Declaration of Independence and adopted it in full on July 4, 1776.

The Fourth of July is known as Independence Day because that is the day that the Second Continental Congress adopted the full and formal Declaration of Independence. Even though we had declared that we were independent, the American Revolution was still being fought, which meant that we were still not independent.

After the war ended in 1783 the Fourth of July was celebrated for its importance and shortly thereafter became a holiday. We celebrate the Fourth of July as the most patriotic holiday celebrated in the United States.

Maybe our political leaders from both parties and at every level of government from local school boards to the US House and Senate would be wise to remember how it is that we celebrate the 4th of July to this day.
Below are some interesting facts you might enjoy.

Let’s all remember why we love the USA as well as how brave and wise our Founders must have been.

Did you know:
The Fourth of July commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. It was initially adopted by Congress on July 2, 1776, but then it was revised and the final version was adopted two days later.

  • As Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration, Britain’s army was on its way toward to New York Harbor. It began:
    “When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
  • The Declaration of Independence was signed by 56 men representing the 13 colonies. The moment marked the beginning of all-out war against the British. The American Revolutionary War is said to have started in 1775, however. The Declaration was signed more than two years after Boston officials refused to return three shiploads of taxed tea to Britain, fueling colonists to dump the tea into the harbor in what became the infamous Boston Tea Party.
  • Several countries used the Declaration of Independence as a beacon in their own struggles for freedom. Among them, France. Then later, Greece, Poland, Russia and many countries in South America.
  • “Yankee Doodle,” one of many patriotic songs in the United States, was originally sung prior to the Revolution by British military officers who mocked the unorganized and buckskin-wearing “Yankees” with whom they fought during the French and Indian War.
  • The “Star Spangled Banner” wasn’t written until Francis Scott Key wrote a poem stemming from observations in 1814, when the British relentlessly attacked Baltimore’s Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. It was later put to music, though not decreed the official national anthem of the United States until 1931.
  • We’ve grown up: In 1776, there were about 2.5 million people living in the newly independent United States, according to the U.S. Censure Bureau. Today there over 330 million  citizens in the US so let’s hope all of us as Americans will celebrate Independence Day.

We hope you enjoyed the brief respite from the frustrating conversations concerning the reform of the US healthcare system. I wish to thank the folks at LiveScience for their research and insight.

Next week will be off in honor of Independence Day.
Maybe then we can get back to thinking America first because we are all in this together!!

Until  we talk again.

Mark Reynolds, RHU
559-250-2000
mark@reynolds.wtf
It means “Walk the Faith”.

 

 

Will elimination of the Individual Mandate hurt or help. Will Insurers benefit, they always seem to. But, how will our citizens benefit? Maybe it’s time to implement reasonable Pre-ex standards.

June 21, 2018

Jeez, I hate long titles, don’t you? But, sometimes one can’t help it.
Most Americans are not aware that there are 20 GOP-led states suing the Untied States to eliminate portions of the Affordable Care Act. Specifically, the suit argues the Individual Mandate is unconstitutional since the penalty for non-compliance has been reduced to zero.

Opponents of the suit fear that this will lead to the elimination of certain critical
protections. Their fears are that the provisions within the ACA that guarantee access to coverage as well coverage for pre-existing conditions, without exception. These two provisions are critical for individuals seeking coverage. But, they were also a catalyst leading to the huge-unprecedented increases in premium levels. Not the only reason for premiums increasing but certainly a big part of it.

The Press is being a little misleading about this or at least jumping ahead to conclusions that can’t honestly be made. Many reports state that if the GOP lead suit is successful then it “may” also cause similar issues for people covered on small group plans. I don’t agree with those conclusions because small employer plans were already regulated in every state to be GI and full take-over for previous coverage.

In small employer plans, pre-ACA, an employee signing up for his/her employer’s plan was provided guaranteed issue (GI) and if the employee had coverage within the previous 90 days was granted full take over. Full take over means no pre-existing conditions would be denied.

An important additional provisions was that small group plans, pre-ACA, included very reasonable provisions for new enrollees with no previous coverage. Generally these provisions stated that if a new enrollee, with no coverage in previous 90 days, had been treated for something in the past 6 months, the new plan would not pay for treatment for that condition until covered on the new plan for 6 months. Smart pre-ex provision that help control premiums and it prevented people from “gaming” the system.

We have discussed GI with reasonable Pre-ex provisions in a number of previous Posts, so you know what should be considered. Without a mandate, with teeth, the Insurers will be “gamed” if GI remains in place for individuals. Why pay for something now if the law says you can buy it later when you need it?

Maybe the result of the battle will be that Individual and Small Group Plans will remain GI but return to the reasonable pre-ex provisions most states mandated for the past 20 years. Specifically, if you sign up now, but had no coverage within the past 60 days, then you are accepted for coverage, except the plan is not required to pay for that which you’ve received treatment during the past 6 months until you have been cover for 6 month on the new plan.

If the new plan is replacing a current plan then the new plan is GI with full take over of coverage for all benefits covered under the new plan. Simple, smart, protects all Americans equally while providing protection for Insurers, too. It also protects those Americans, who always maintain their coverage, from those few Americans who try to “game” the system. The “gamers” cost Insurers but they also cost the rest of us since our premiums include an actuarial estimate for the Insurers cost of providing coverage to the “gamers”.

A reasonable provision for GI and Pre-ex conditions is an example, once again, of why we’re all in this together.

Until next week.

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

 

 

Premiums projected to increase by double-digit again in 2019. The only visible actions we see on healthcare premiums is to cast blame.

June 14, 2018

The headlines about premium increases are not getting the attention that the they produced just 2 years ago. Why is that? Projections across the country are for premiums for Exchange Plans will increase by 8-10% in the West to 19% to 59% in the East. Our minimal math skills tell us that these increases are not good but when compounded on previous increases then premiums reach staggering levels.

Why are Insurers increasing these premiums? Data which we’ll discuss below reflect 2017 as the best year for insurers since they signed on to the Exchanges.

But the blame game is in full swing and that may be partly why the headlines don’t command the attention they did in previous years. The American people are a lot smarter about these news stories than most politician give them credit. When citizens see Insurers cast blame and politicians cast blame and no one doing anything to help; they become skeptical if not down right cynical about the news. That cynicism is something with which I can relate.

The biggest “excuse” and most “blame” is that the Trump administration has refused to make the subsidy payments to insurers that the Obama administration had made in prior years. Remember those subsidy payments? The ones that allow members below certain income levels to pay little or no premium as well as lower the out-of-pocket cost for members. The burden of these payments was not authorized by Congress, say the GOP folks, plus the original ACA called for states to be weaned off Federal subsidies.

But now the bill comes due and everyone has their hands in their pockets as they pass the check around the table to see who will bite. Reminds me of a friend of mine.

Let’s talk about the insurers which are crying poverty. They state that the ACA requires them to accept all enrollees without consideration of current or past health status and cover any pre-existing health issues. In 2014, this was a valid concern. No one could accurately project what the cost of guarantee coverage with no pre-existing waivers would be, without a crystal ball. But, the Insurers sold policies, paid claims that were probably astonishing, received their subsidy payments then raised premiums again and again, anyway.

Now Insurers are looking at year 5 of the ACA. Insurers have increased premiums several hundred percent over the past 7 years and while their membership count maybe the same or even lower overall their revenues are much higher.

A recent article by the Kaiser Family Foundation included excellent analysis finding that Insurers in 2017 had their best financial year selling individual market health insurance since the Affordable Care Act began requiring guaranteed access to coverage for people with pre-existing conditions in 2014.

This analysis finds insurers posted their strongest performance in the individual market using two different financial indicators:

  • The average share of health premiums paid out in claims (or medical loss ratio) fell to 82 percent in 2017 from 96 percent in 2016 and 103 percent in 2015.
  • Average premiums collected in excess of claims (or gross margins) reached $79 in 2017 per member per month, up from $14 in 2016 and -$9 in 2015.

One can look at the reports by many Insurers that show enrollment down, some by as much as 40%, yet revenues have sky rocketed. Can you imagine if your business serviced 40% fewer clients but your revenues were higher than ever? Hard to digest isn’t it?

Anyway, the point is that the press can see that putting the “Premiums to increase dramatically” stories on Page One no longer compete with the other stories of the day. And I don’t even want to get started on what the other news is that they focuses upon, give me a break.

If you’re on a group plan sponsored by your employer you’ll be better off than if you were on your own. If your employer provides an HRA to tie with your group plan you will be in great shape. With employment numbers soaring it means that more people could be covered by employer sponsored plans. That’s good.

I hate the frog in the hot water analogy but that’s a bit of what we have here. Next week we’ll discuss the efforts by 19 state’s Attorneys General to void the “No pre-ex” portion of the ACA with actions that state “if the individual mandate is out then the no pre-ex is gone” which presents an interesting argument. Can’t wait.

These are confusing political times but we must remain committed because we are all in this together.

Until Next week.

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

Yes it’s true: California Voters have a chance to lower healthcare costs plus improve access. But it will take the proper “Vote” in the June 5th Primary and again Nov 6th in the general election.

May 31, 2018

As much as I hate to repeat a Post, I just can’t help it today because the subject is too important. California’s health plans are the most expensive in the land with killer high out of pockets and “way too skinny” PPO networks.
That’s not News, so why is that important?
Because, with your vote June 5th, you have a chance to set forth the real possibility of changing the healthcare delivery and plans available in Ca. Be sure to VOTE!

It’s true and for certain, California voters have a chance to start taking back control of the crazy out-of-control,  high-premium, low-benefit healthcare system in California. Premium increases exceeding 300%, since 2010, have literally destroyed our citizen’s access to the healthcare we need.

To lower premiums, improve benefits, increase access to more providers and get more health plan options – Voters just need to vote:

 Insurance Commissioner  –  Steve Poizner

For Governor  –    Travis Allen or John Cox
(Current polls show Cox in 2nd place trailing Gavin Newsome)

It’s that simple, REALLY!

Then, we can begin introducing the solutions that you have read about in previous Posts. Can you imagine a California in which you have:

  • Dozens of high quality health plans available.
  • Plans with benefits that fit your need – not the Government’s.
  • Rich plan benefits or narrow plan benefits.
  • Plans with huge provider lists.
  • Plans with narrow provider lists.
  • Premiums that are affordable and 50% lower!
  • Reasonable reimbursement for providers.
  • Transparency and better control.
  • Most of all: available when you need it!

I know what you’re thinking. How can two elected positions create such possibility for change? The truth is that it will take effort and a little time but my bet is that Ca. citizens would start seeing a difference within nine to fifteen months after these men take office.

Reports are starting to emerge projecting insurer premiums for 2019. Estimates are that premium may increase from 15% to as much as 100% depending on the state or region of the country. In Ca. we will see increases on employer sponsored group plans in the range of 10% to above 50% with further push toward Silver and Bronze plans.

Of course, we all know that the premiums we pay for Silver and Bronze don’t buy us first dollar benefits and leave huge out of pocket risks. If they do provide copays then those copays range from $50 to $250 which of course means people defer their medical care.

Regardless if you are Republican, Democrat, Independent, Libertarian or Green; we all have been hurt by the changes brought about by the ACA. This Fall’s election, the so-called mid-terms, provide Ca. citizens a chance to make a difference.

And isn’t that something we all crave, “a chance to make a difference”?

I could spend another 10,000 words outlining the potential improvements that might become reality if we vote wisely June 5th and Nov 6th.
But I’ll save that for future Posts.

Certainly we can all agree that elections provide a time when truly “we’re all in this together”.
Let me know what you think.

Until next week.

Mark Reynolds, RHU
559-250-2000
mark@reynolds.wtf
It means “Walk the Faith”.

Memorial Day: we all look forward to it but what do we really know about it. Please take just a moment now to know that we honor a true American Holiday.

May 25, 2018

Memorial Day is an American holiday, observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Let’s take a moment to look at its origin and history.

Memorial Day History

Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans — the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) — established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.

The first large observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.

The ceremonies centered around the mourning-draped veranda of the Arlington mansion, once the home of Gen. Robert E. Lee. Various Washington officials, including Gen. and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant, presided over the ceremonies. After speeches, children from the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphan Home and members of the GAR made their way through the cemetery, strewing flowers on both Union and Confederate graves, reciting prayers and singing hymns.

Local Observances Claim To Be First Local springtime tributes to the Civil War dead already had been held in various places. One of the first occurred in Columbus, Miss., April 25, 1866, when a group of women visited a cemetery to decorate the graves of Confederate soldiers who had fallen in battle at Shiloh. Nearby were the graves of Union soldiers, neglected because they were the enemy. Disturbed at the sight of the bare graves, the women placed some of their flowers on those graves, as well.

Today, cities in the North and the South claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day in 1866. Both Macon and Columbus, Ga., claim the title, as well as Richmond, Va. The village of Boalsburg, Pa., claims it began there two years earlier. A stone in a Carbondale, Ill., cemetery carries the statement that the first Decoration Day ceremony took place there on April 29, 1866. Carbondale was the wartime home of Gen. Logan. Approximately 25 places have been named in connection with the origin of Memorial Day, many of them in the South where most of the war dead were buried.

Official Birthplace Declared In 1966, Congress and President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, N.Y., the “birthplace” of Memorial Day. There, a ceremony on May 5, 1866, honored local veterans who had fought in the Civil War. Businesses closed and residents flew flags at half-staff. Supporters of Waterloo’s claim say earlier observances in other places were either informal, not community-wide or one-time events.

By the end of the 19th century, Memorial Day ceremonies were being held on May 30 throughout the nation. State legislatures passed proclamations designating the day, and the Army and Navy adopted regulations for proper observance at their facilities.

It was not until after World War I, however, that the day was expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress, though it is still often called Decoration Day. It was then also placed on the last Monday in May, as were some other federal holidays.

Some States Have Confederate Observances Many Southern states also have their own days for honoring the Confederate dead. Mississippi celebrates Confederate Memorial Day on the last Monday of April, Alabama on the fourth Monday of April, and Georgia on April 26. North and South Carolina observe it on May 10, Louisiana on June 3 and Tennessee calls that date Confederate Decoration Day. Texas celebrates Confederate Heroes Day January 19 and Virginia calls the last Monday in May Confederate Memorial Day.

Gen. Logan’s order for his posts to decorate graves in 1868 “with the choicest flowers of springtime” urged: “We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. … Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”

The crowd attending the first Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery was approximately the same size as those that attend today’s observance, about 5,000 people. Then, as now, small American flags were placed on each grave — a tradition followed at many national cemeteries today. In recent years, the custom has grown in many families to decorate the graves of all departed loved ones.

The origins of special services to honor those who die in war can be found in antiquity. The Athenian leader Pericles offered a tribute to the fallen heroes of the Peloponnesian War over 24 centuries ago that could be applied today to the 1.1 million Americans who have died in the nation’s wars: “Not only are they commemorated by columns and inscriptions, but there dwells also an unwritten memorial of them, graven not on stone but in the hearts of men.”

To ensure the sacrifices of America ’s fallen heroes are never forgotten, in December 2000, the U.S. Congress passed and the president signed into law “The National Moment of Remembrance Act,” P.L. 106-579, creating the White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance. The commission’s charter is to “encourage the people of the United States to give something back to their country, which provides them so much freedom and opportunity” by encouraging and coordinating commemorations in the United States of Memorial Day and the National Moment of Remembrance.

The National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation. As Moment of Remembrance founder Carmella La Spada states: “It’s a way we can all help put the memorial back in Memorial Day.”

I want to give a special thank you to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs for the facts about our history. It’s through the efforts of these fine folks that we all can stop what we’re doing, just for a moment, to appreciate the sacrifice that so many fellow Americans made for your and my benefit. It’s these American heroes that allowed the United States to become the beacon of hope and the land to which so many want to immigrate. In its brief 240 year existence let’s hope we’re just getting started.

Surely, those brave men and women who we celebrate would want us to know that “we’re all in this together”.

Until next week.

Mark Reynolds, RHU
559-250-2000
mark@reynolds.wtf
It means “Walk the Faith”.

 

A special post Mother’s Day Post. Everyone has or had a Mother and we generally honor them on Mother’s Day. But do you ever wonder what your delivery cost your Mother? Let’s look.

May 17, 2018

I know that you are reading this after Mom’s special day but give me two minutes to enlighten you on the cost to your Mom, at least medical cost, of bringing you in to this world. Now, I can’t address all that you cost your Mom since then but that is another day.

The tipping point for maternity costs, all medical costs really, was 1967 and the Medicare Act. Yep, that grand old bill that 80+ million Americans count on today was the catalyst for an explosion in healthcare costs.

My first daughter was born in 1986. When we visited the hospital where she would be delivered we were ushered into a room with dozens of other hopeful couples. The hospital staff’s goal was to convince us to utilize their hospital when our lucky day arrived. So, they presented all of the terrific features the hospital offered as well promoted their staff as being experienced, caring and loveing what they do.

The hospital administrator presented several option for delivery each having a different price attached as well as easy payment plans, if desired.

  • If you just planned to stop in, pop out the new little one, then go home in less than 22 hours the cost would be $1,800. I remember the 22 hours comment specifically because I remembered thinking, how does someone get in, deliver a child, and get out in 22 hours.
  • Then, for you more traditional types who plan to take your time, labor for 20 hours, then get some rest before you go home and the cost would be $5,600. I remember the $5,600 because it struck me as an arbitrary number and I wondered how many times they actually kept to that estimate.
    Heck, we all know aspirin cost $12-$18, depending on time of day.
  • Now, for you couples who might have a little complication in delivery or just want to choose the day and time of day your baby is born, they offered cesarean or C-section delivery. That was $12,800. For that price they’ll let you stay 3-4 days, teach the Dad how to change a diaper and feed you a steak & lobster dinner on your last night. Got to admit, the steak and lobster was pretty good.

That experience was at a respected hospital in the west San Fernando Valley of California. These prices, as well as last meal, vary greatly as one crosses the country.

I remember people telling me what a delivery would cost in “the old days”. Great friends of ours, who were 30 years older, regaled me with stories of how their first son, born in 1953 cost $250. Plus they paid the nurse $50, just because she was so nice to them.
I’ve had dinner for 4 in the San Fernando Valley that cost more than $250.

We’ve all heard the stories of the doctor getting paid a couple of chickens or a prize pig for his OB work. I can’t imagine the anguish of giving up my prize pig. That’ll make sense for those of you who know my origins.

On the other end of the spectrum there are the unfortunate many who have premature or early delivery or other complications. In 1993, I heard Leonard Schaffer, former CEO of Blue Cross of Ca., state to a group that  Blue Cross of Ca. had a $1 million baby born every week. He did not mean it in any glib sense but only as a fact related to healthcare cost that would be meaningful to the group.

In 2018, babies are as adorable as ever but a lot more expensive. Again, I’m speaking only of delivery, not the other stuff they cost their parents. But as we celebrate or rather celebrated Mother’s Day we should all reflect on this lesson to share with our kids.

Abstinence is the only means to 100% prevent pregnancy. Seriously.
Jeez, that sounded like Smokey the Bear and his forest fire warning. That doesn’t work either.

The point in this post Mother’s Day Post is that we love our Mom’s, or the memories of our Mom’s and this day gives us a chance to pause to be thankful. But also that it’s a great example of how healthcare has changed in both services available and costs. It also amplifies the urgency to solve the crisis in healthcare cost and access.
Plus, because of our Mom, we’re all in this together!

Until next week.

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

Last July, our Post heading was “What would the consequences be if the GOP passes NO legislation to Repeal & Replace? Let’s look at the impact on insurance coverage.” Were we RIGHT?

April 19, 2018

Below is a re-Post of July 27th 2017 with a few comments highlighted in Red. With midterms only 6+ months away, will the decisions made by the GOP last year come back to bite? Read on to see if we were close.

 As I write this post, the Senate has voted to open hearings and take amendments for the Senate’s R&R bill. Basically this is the Senate’s last effort do accomplish anything  for now on Repeal & Replace. Without being pessimistic, I would wager that the smart money will be bet on nothing coming of this.

Regardless of one’s political leaning everyone must agree that action is needed to either replace the ACA (with something better) or make repairs to the ACA (that will keep it alive). I realize that is a big summation but if we are honest then we must conclude that the ACA is failing so one way or another action is needed. Either for the benefit of the millions of Medicare Expansion subsidized enrollees or for the tens-of-millions of premium paying citizens and employers, the ACA needs either fixed or replaced.

So, what would the consequences be if our House & Senate don’t do anything. That is, if they don’t provide or modify the subsidies for the insurers and all of the other ACA issues that need changed to survive or don’t replace the whole darn thing, then we will see a number of absolutely predictable results.

Of course, the Politician’s thoughts will immediately turn to their own future and the 2018 elections (probably have been already) but I want to focus on the impact to all of us, the hard-working premium paying, mortgage paying, car payment making, tax paying citizens. It won’t be good but let’s look at it:

  1. Regardless of whether or not the subsidies of the ACA are paid to insurers we will see: (Correctly so, they’re not paid, yet.)
    a. Premiums for individual plans increase double-digit (20% or more) and be projected to continue for the next few years. It’s happening!
    b. The Counties without an insurer for the individual ACA plans will continue to increase. It’s projected that as many as 1/3 of all counties will have no individual ACA plan available. In the more rural states we could see the number of counties with no individual plans exceed 80% of the counties within those states.
    YEP, that’s what’s happening!
    c. The number of insurers willing to even offer plans anywhere in the country will decline, including those insurers offering plans outside the ACA Exchanges for both group and individual plans. Sadly, for rural areas this is true.
  2. Medicaid enrollment will continue to rise. Even though Medicaid plans provide lower benefits and there are fewer providers, most people don’t realize those facts until it’s too late. Besides, the idea of “free insurance” will become more and more appealing as premiums continue to rise for the tens-of-millions of premium paying citizens that use very little or no healthcare each year. “Why should I pay premium when I never use my plan and those folks are getting it for free?”. Right?
    This is happening plus a few states are trying to expand further.
  3. To summarize: fewer insurers offering fewer choices with few participating providers all at premiums increased each year. That is correct, Madam.
  4. Of course, the result of # 1, 2, and 3 above will lead to another crisis because there won’t be enough money to pay for all of the Medicaid claims and insurer’s subsidies. Which will lead to:
    a. Increased taxes or create new taxes on benefits to generate more funds.
    b. Decrease the benefits at either the plan benefit level or utilization level. That means the IPAB “Independent Patient Advisory Board” or Death Panel will decide what gets authorized and covered and what does not.
    Your 90-year-old mom may need a new hip but will the IPAB authorize it?”
    Luckily, as you read in previous Posts the IPAB is dead, not your 90-year-old mom.

We could go on and on because it is clear that the entire healthcare finance and delivery system will feel the impact of our Congress doing nothing. There is some hope though due to the President’s EOs for AHPs.

One additional concern is the “overly optimistic political corrected” desire to pass a “skinny bill” that would simply repeal the Play or Pay mandates. That could be catastrophic to insurers and to premiums that would need to be increased.

I don’t understand politics and have the scars to prove it but I do try to understand human nature. Human nature will drive most politicians to look out for themselves in their own individual voting district throughout the healthcare debate. This is already occurring in many districts.
Sad thing is that the GOP seems to be immobilized from taking action on R&R  due to the criticisms from people who wouldn’t vote for them regardless of any action taken.

Makes you want to ask, “So, a small percentage of people in your district, who wouldn’t vote for you under any circumstances, are preventing you from doing what’s right for tens of millions of American?” See this example before, haven’t we?
As I said, I don’t understand politics.

Sorry for the negative outlook concerning our Congress and especially its leadership. But, since neither the House nor Senate bills actually repeal the ACA there seems to be little to ignite optimism. And of course, times and circumstances change the immediate need of the population so all help is on hold.

I think we can point to the children’s book “The Emperor’s New Suit” as the beginning of the GOP’s downfall.  You can’t tell people it’s an ACA repeal bill, while leaving the core foundation of the ACA including taxes, and expect the people to embrace it. Reducing the Play or Pay penalties to zero and calling it repeal  does not repeal the Play or Pay core fear of the ACA. It only increases premiums.
I didn’t like that book when I was a kid, and I still don’t!

Well, we’ll see what happens this week and together we will address it.
Because, we’re all in this together, right?
It’s because we suffer with these political blunders together that makes it more frustrating. Together, we are fed up and should do something.
I know – vote.

Until next time.

Mark Reynolds, RHU
559-250-2000
mark@reynolds.wtf
It means “Walk the Faith”.

 

Insurers expected to increase ACA premiums sharply this Fall because they did not get their “bail out” funds. Guess who gets the blame?

April 12, 2018

 

Isn’t it interesting that when predictions come true about the failures of the ACA, the Left and the Media go looking for someone to blame? In this case the failure predicted is collapse of ACA State Exchanges with the projected “premium spikes” for the Fall of 2018 and the blame goes to Congress and the President.

But the blame game continues as Insurers, politicians at every level, and the Media lay the blame for the expected premium increase squarely on the Congress and the President. The “blamer’s” logic is that Congress failed to include any funding for bailing out Insurers in the Tax Reduction and Jobs Act in December 2017.

 The “blamers” also are saying that the GOP  had a chance to lower rates with an amendment that a couple Republicans had hoped to attach to the $1.3 billion  spending package passed on March 23, 2018.

Let’s clarify a couple things:

  • The ACA’s re-insurance “subsidy” program paid participating insurers huge taxpayer subsidies from 2014 until the program was scheduled to expire at the end of 2016.
  • The subsidies were designed help get the ACA Exchanges up and running but not remain intact beyond that point. The intent was to cover two issues:
    • One – the claims of high-cost patients for whom the law’s preexisting-conditions provisions provided guaranteed coverage.
    • The extra subsidies were supposed to keep premiums from skyrocketing. Obviously that failed as premium increased astronomically each year since 2010. By the end of 2016, premiums had doubled from pre-ACA levels.
  • The premium spikes you are hearing about will only affect the individual plans in state exchanges, the so-called Obamacare Plans. The premium increase will impact less than 10 million Americans and 90% of those receive subsidies so they pay almost nothing for their coverage and care. 
  • These points are important to remember because the Media will try to stir up activist who will then cry for single payer.

 You know this Post is no fan of the GOP’s efforts to R&R the ACA over the past 12 months, actually past 7 years. Additionally, we predicted delays and Democrat inspired litigation issues as the GOP continues its piecemeal approach to fixing our healthcare finance and delivery system.

We have already witnessed evidence of this by the lawsuits filed against the President’s efforts for Association Health Plans and allowing Short Term Medical plans to extend to 12 months.

Who does this lack of “bail out” impact the most? The Media would try to make you believe that the folks covered will be harmed but as we stated earlier that is untrue since 90% of the folks covered by these Omabacare plans pay nothing or almost nothing for their premium or services that they receive.

So, who else does this impact? The answer is the states that so enthusiastically embraced the ACA and rushed to create their Exchanges back in 2010 through 2014. They knew that their citizens would get the subsidies offered so they anticipated great enrollment numbers and enrollees would be “hooked” on Obamacare and unable to leave. It’s the so-called “blue” states feeling the biggest impact.

Reports indicate that some states are seeking their own solutions. Ironically, this funding issue may actually cause states to adopt realistic changes and better solutions than the ACA could ever provide. Let’s face it, government bailouts, especially bailouts for government initiated programs, seldom resolve issues and generally lead to more and more funding. Lot’s of examples of that over the pass 50 years.

Some reports indicate that a few states (mostly blue) are looking for how a they could restore the individual mandate (IM). Actually, there are many experts,”real experts”, who believe the elimination of the IM will lead to more reliance on Employer sponsored coverage thus reliving that burden on the states where the citizen lives.
Two things come to mind about that.

  • One – Employer sponsored plans tend to be less costly to members and provide richer benefits than the ACA individual plans.
  • But we wonder- Do “blue” states really want their citizens to leave the state-run and controlled plan for an Employer’s plan? The state would lose control/dominance over that member so you decide the state’s motivation.
  • States are in the news about their plight and their possible steps to fund the Insurers themselves. But will any of them really step up? Or is it just talk?
  • It is realistic to see states take steps to utilize the opportunities President Trump set forward with AHPs and 12 month Short term Med Plans. We’ve already seen efforts by Utah, Iowa, and Wisconsin to initiate steps in that direction.
    Of course, the Dems have threatened litigation.

In an election year it’s easy to predict that these issues will get much press, mostly uninformed or lopsided, but that noting will be resolved. As we’ve witnesses in the discussion concerning the Daca folks and immigration, issues are more important than solutions for certain politicians.
This premium spike issue will work for candidates because most or our citizens will not realize that it affects only the Exchange Individual plans (less than 10 Million people) which is less than 3% of our total population.

The states that ramped up their subsidized Exchange Plans as well  as expanded Medicaid eligibility are in a financial bind. As stated by Mila Kofman, executive director of the D.C. health exchange, “States don’t print money, and individual markets, to become stable, need an infusion of federal dollars,”. Doesn’t the verbalization that “states don’t print money” sound a bit creepy coming from a bureaucrat’s mouth?

In 2010 to 2014, many of us predicted that the ACA subsidy program would become an issue, when it became clear to us that the Federal funding for these programs would cease in 2016. Come on…, we all know that States receiving Federal subsidies is like an addiction! Did anyone expect States to wean themselves off the addiction?

You can see now that while the Media gives time for politicians (including a few in the GOP) to complain and lay blame the crisis was predictable and the solutions are available. But, it’s an off-year election year so getting elected and re-elected is more important than real solutions.

What do you think? In this case we truly are all in this together because the assistance the politicians seek for less than 10 million will adversely impact 330 million of us.
Again, that’s 330 million people impacted so, we really are in this together!

Until next week,

Mark Reynolds, RHU
559-250-2000
mark@reynolds, wtf
It stands for “Walk the Faith”.