October 20, 2009

October 20: Health Care Reform News

By Kelley Luckstein

Is There a Better Way to Pay Doctors?

It's hard to feel sorry for America's family doctors. Any job that averages $179,000 per year and lets you be your own boss is a job most folks wouldn't turn down. With the effort to rein in health-care costs increasingly framed as an unhappy trade-off in which insurers either slash benefits or raise premiums, some in Washington are beginning to ask a question long considered off-limits: Do we simply pay doctors too much?


The truth is, we pay them all wrong.


Doctors themselves could tell you that — particularly primary-care providers (PCPs), the foot soldiers of the U.S. medical system. New doctors graduate from medical school lugging up to $200,000 in student loans. Paying that off takes a big bite out of even a low-six-figure salary. Add to that the high costs, long days and billing headaches involved in running a practice, and it's no wonder so many family docs are trading up to specialties like orthopedics, where the pay can be three times as great and the hours a whole lot shorter…


In his Sept. 9 speech to Congress, President Obama singled out Geisinger and Utah's Intermountain Healthcare as examples of organizations that are learning to do things right. He could have cited others too: the Cleveland Clinic, the Mayo Clinic, Kaiser Permanente. What these providers have in common are the creative ways they're doing away with fee-for-service and replacing it with an imaginative mix of systems that cost less, keep patients healthier and make doctors happier.


Time, By Jeffrey Kluger, 10/19/09


Additional Mayo Clinic health care reform mentions:





Health Costs and History

The Wall Street Journal

October 20, 2009


Government programs always exceed their spending estimates.


Senate Finance Committee Releases Bill


October 20, 2009


The Senate Finance Committee filed its sweeping health care reform bill yesterday, and its release served largely to highlight the divisions among Democrats over the direction of reform.


Public Option Gains Support

The Washington Post

October 20, 2009


A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that support for a government-run health care plan to compete with private insurers has rebounded from its summertime lows and wins clear majority support from the public.


Additional Coverage:

Public Option Gets New Life in Senate - The Wall Street Journal

Baucus Doubts Public Option Can Get 60 Votes in Senate - Kaiser Health News



Their Own Worst Enemy

The American Prospect

October 20, 2009


Health insurers stopped pretending they support reform - in doing so, they may have given new life to the public option.


About That Health Reform Cost Study

The Washington Post

October 20, 2009


AHIP CEO Karen Ignagni discusses and supports the findings in her recently released AHIP report.



Mergers Thrive in Health Industry

The Wall Street Journal

October 20, 2009

Mergers-and-acquisitions activity among U.S. health care companies is on pace for one of its strongest years. While overall deal activity in the U.S. has tumbled, the value of health care deals this year is up from 2007 and 2008.


The Poor Pay More:  Poverty’s High Cost to Health

Dr. George Kaplan - University of Michigan School of Public Health

October 20, 2009


Poverty costs not only the poor, but the overall U.S. economy as well. Based on a subset of the potential quantifiable consequences of poverty, the economic costs of sustained childhood poverty alone amount to $500 billion per year -- nearly 4 percent of the U.S. GDP.

Medical Home Model Designed to Improve Preventive Care, Communication

The Chicago Tribune

October 20, 2009

Illinois' largest insurer is launching a pilot program featuring the medical home model.  Last month Medicare announced a similar initiative and health reform plans being debated by Congress contain changes designed to foster medical homes.


H1N1 Virus Has Hospitals Clamping Down on Who May Visit Their Patients

Minneapolis Star Tribune

October 20, 2009


Like providers across the country, Minnesota-based Allina Hospitals and Clinics announced that it is placing limits on visitors to labor and pediatric units at 10 hospitals in Minnesota and western Wisconsin.


Massachusetts Governor Wants State to Review Health Care Premiums

The Boston Globe

October 20, 2009

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick is expected to announce a plan that would give state insurance regulators the authority to review health insurance premiums that are charged to small businesses, an approach meant to stem the growing health care costs.

Nurses’ Union Plans To Strike

The Wall Street Journal

October 20, 2009

A union is threatening a one-day strike involving 16,000 registered nurses at 39 hospitals in California and Nevada, saying hospitals aren't providing enough protections against swine flu for its members.


Bill Would Halt Reduction of Medicare Payments to Doctors

The Los Angeles Times

October 20, 2009

In an effort to reconcile a nearly $250-billion difference between the House and Senate approaches to overhauling health care, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is pushing a bill to halt scheduled reductions in Medicare payments to physicians. The measure would end the cuts and set Medicare payment rates at current levels.

Basic Medicare Premium to Raise 15% by Next Year

The New York Times

October 20, 2009

The basic Medicare premium will shoot up next year by 15 percent, to $110.50 a month.  The increase mans that monthly premiums would top $100 for the first time.


Reid Leads Democrats In Carving Out Favors For States On Health

The Bloomberg Report

October 20, 2009


Provisions in Harry Reid’s bill include: Nevada would get help with its Medicaid bills, the elderly in Florida and New York would receive additional Medicare benefits, and workers in so-called high-risk professions such as firefighting and construction would get a break on a new insurance tax.


Tension Rise Among Senate Democrat Leaders


October 20, 2009

As the Democratic players huddle behind closed doors to hammer out a deal, tempers are a little shorter, tongues are a little looser, nerves are a little more frayed and egos are a little more bruised than during the usual course of Senate business.


GOP Launches Strategy To Trip Up Health Bill

Roll Call

October 20, 2009


Senate Republicans, acknowledging they lack the votes to block a health care reform bill outright, have implemented a comprehensive political strategy to delay, define and derail.


GOP:  Reform is Bad Politics


October 20, 2009


As the odds grow that President Barack Obama will have a chance to sign a health reform bill, Republicans say they can define the Democratic plan as a bad mix of higher premiums, more taxes and cuts to Medicare.



Insurance at Risk:  Small Businesses Employees Risk Losing Coverage


October 20, 2009


If health care trends continue, health care costs for large firms will increase 166% by 2019, resulting in a cost burden of $28,530 per employee.  By 2025, one in every four dollars in our nation’s economy will be spent on health care.


Tags: health care reform, Health Policy, Health Policy

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