Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Back to the 2010 Budget - Department of Health and Human Services

Here's the link to the part of the budget specific to Health and Human Services. It's only 4 pages so I think it's worth a read.


But if you can't bring yourself to read 4 pages, here are the highlights provided on page 1.
Funding Highlights:
• Accelerates the adoption of health information technology and utilization of electronic health
• Expands research comparing the effectiveness of medical treatments to give patients and
physicians better information on what works best.
• Invests over $6 billion for cancer research at the National Institutes of Health as part of the
Administration’s multi-year commitment to double cancer research funding.
• Strengthens the Indian health system with sustained investments in health care services for
American Indians and Alaska Natives to address persistent health disparities and foster healthy
Indian communities.
• Invests $330 million to increase the number of doctors, nurses, and dentists practicing in areas
of the country experiencing shortages of health professionals.
• Supports families by providing additional funding for affordable, high-quality child care,
expanding Early Head Start and Head Start, and creating the Nurse Home Visitation program
to support first-time mothers.
• Strengthens the Medicare program by encouraging high quality and efficient care, and improving
program integrity.
• Invests over $1 billion for Food and Drug Administration food safety efforts to increase and
improve inspections, domestic surveillance, laboratory capacity and domestic response to
prevent and control food borne illness.

First of all, I don't support government funded research of diseases. People don't need to be compelled to give to research, they will do it as they see a need. I highly encourage private efforts to raise funds for research. Look at how successful St. Jude's is at raising money for research and treatment of kids with cancer. But I shouldn't jump on this one since it's unpopular to oppose government funding of diseases.

Here's what the highlights don't tell you but the website does. The budget establishes a reserve fund of $630 Billion over the next 10 years to "finance fundamental reform of our health care system that will bring down costs and expand coverage." If you think $630 Billion over 10 years is enough to provide universal health care, you're crazy. It will cost more than that a year most likely. And that creates health care rationing. Ask Canada or England or any other country with it. It might not be too bad for routine care, but what are you going to do if you get a life threatening disease or a pain causing condition or need a knee or hip replacement. Do you want the government telling you when you can get it taken care of? How would you like to have to live with pain unnecessarily for years before it gets treated? The older you are the further down on the list you go because you're expendable. How's that for a violation of your civil rights?

Pharmacy's have already started a solution to the problem with their generic drug programs thanks to the leading of the oh so evil Walmart. And I thought Walmart only hurt people. Now for doctors and hospitals to follow suit. Actually in essence they do. If you go to a hospital most if not all of them will offer you a self pay discount to pay up front if you don't have insurance, which is equal to or greater than the discount provided by membership to an insurance network. (The discounts very by negotiated rates with various insurance providers). If you don't choose this option and you go through the emergency room, they will set up a payment plan. Many doctors will also negotiate with you if you ask them.

Do you want to know what's driving up the cost of health care other than uncompensated care? I'm going to tell you whether you want to or not. Insurance companies have become the middle man between patients and providers. They are not non profit companies. They are for profit. So now two entities are trying to make a profit from providing you a service. Since you are the only one paying money, who do you think is paying for the profit to the insurance company and the doctor? You are, or your company is. The insurance company has to pay people to process and pay your claims and the doctors and facilities have to pay people to file claims to insurance companies including Medicare and Medicaid offered by the supposed cost saving government. What if patients and providers got together to eliminate the middle man for routine care? You wouldn't have to pay insurance premiums which you could now save to pay cash for your health care. Providers would now be competing for your business on price and quality of care. Perhaps they could create their own premium based care where you pay them $X/month and they agree to see you and treat you as needed. They could tailor levels of care/cost to your age, family history, or desires.

Step two is encourage health savings though health savings accounts like are available now. I hate to use the term "mandate," but this would be an acceptable alternative in my mind. Only rather than losing any unspent money, it should be able to roll over to the next year in an effort to save for additional unexpected medical emergencies that can arise in our lifetime that may fall outside of routine care. If a balance gets to a point where it exceeds a certain cushion amount, a person can take that money out tax free for educational use, or be rolled over to a 401k or traditional IRA. (This is working under the assumption that the Fair Tax isn't implemented)

This may not be a perfect plan but it's a start and it's a better and more cost effective alternative to government run health care.

Here's a reminder/plea for you to write your congressmen and let them know what you think about the budget. I believe they are supposed to vote on it later this week. Email them, Call them!!! Do it now!!!


jan said...

Something should be done to stop multi million lawsuits and the frivolous ones that are settled to get rid of them.

Lola said...

Well in Texas there's $750,000 cap (I believe from each provider) which I was on board with and still support until a better solution comes along...it's helpful for the frivolous ones but kind of a bummer for the people that have legitimate claims. I'm a fan of loser pays...but I don't know if that would deter lawyers who are experts in certain areas. I wish I had the answer for that problem, because that's another factor driving up the cost of health care. Doctors have to pay higher premiums and the cost gets passed on to the patients...

Charcoal said...

Great article.

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