December 10, 2009

December 10: Health Care Reform News

By Kelley Luckstein

Medical groups balk at Medicare ‘buy-in’

Hospital and doctor groups that have generally supported the effort to revamp the nation's health care system pushed back Wednesday against a new idea proposed by Democratic leaders to let younger Americans buy into Medicare…


"Bringing more people into a system that doesn't work very well is not a good answer," said Jeffrey Korsmo, executive director of the Mayo Clinic Health Policy Center. "The current Medicare program is not sustainable."


USA Today by John Fritze, 11/9/09



For Some Ages 55 to 64, Medicare Will Cost Too Much

Millions more Americans could get access to Medicare under the latest health proposal by Senate Democrats. But the program may not be cheap enough to entice some of them to sign up.


The proposal is part of a compromise unveiled Tuesday night that jettisons a broader public health-insurance plan from the Senate's overhaul. Democrats also agreed to create a national nonprofit plan run by the same entity that administers benefits to federal employees…


"We have a lot of concern," said Jeffrey Korsmo, executive director for the health policy center at the Mayo Clinic, which said it lost $840 million treating Medicare patients last year. He said the change would "push the best providers, hospitals and physicians closer to the brink of financial ruin."


Wall Street Journal, by Janet Adamy, 12/10/09



Obama, other Dems praise new health compromise

President Barack Obama as well as Democratic liberals and moderates all found something to like Wednesday in an emerging compromise to expand the role of government in the nation's health care system, raising hopes inside the party that passage of overhaul legislation might be within reach after a struggle lasting decades.


The same plan drew critics, though — and the threat of more opponents once closely held details become widely known.  Obama hailed "a creative new framework that I believe will help pave the way for final passage of legislation and a historic achievement for the American people."…


The Mayo Clinic Health Policy Center sent notices to lawmakers criticizing the emerging plan. Expanding Medicare to individuals 55 to 64 years old, it said, "would ultimately hurt patients by accelerating the financial ruin of hospitals and doctors across the country."


AP by David Espo, 12/09/09



Mayo Clinic official doesn’t like Medicare buy in

Plans to expand the Medicare system, an idea that seems to be in the crosshairs of some Senate Democrats, will “compound” the nation’s health care crisis, according to the executive director of the Mayo Clinic’s Health Policy Center. Jeffery Korsmo, the executive director of the Minnesota-based policy arm of the famed hospital, said that expanding Medicare to people between the ages of 55 and 64 would “accelerate the financial ruin of hospitals and doctors around the country.”


Politico, by Jake Sherman, 12/9/09



Additional Mayo Clinic mentions on health care reform:


Boston Herald

American Spectator

HealthLeaders Magazine





Top stories


Senate Democrats Largely Support Health-Care Deal That Drops Public Option

The Washington Post

Dec. 10, 2009

Senate Democrats on Wednesday largely embraced a compromise that dropped a "public option" from health-care legislation, setting aside their concerns about aspects of the consensus plan in the hopes that the deal hatched by negotiators would serve as a rallying point in their push for the passage of reforms.
Related: Senate Democrats See Hope on Health Bill, The New York Times
White House Pins Hopes on Senate's Deal, The Wall Street Journal

Medicare Expansion Won’t Get Us There
Mayo Clinic Health Policy Center
Dec. 9, 2009

While the Mayo Clinic Health Policy Center supports covering all Americans with insurance, there is great concern over the Medicare buy-in as the current Medicare payment system is financially unsustainable. Any plan to expand Medicare, which is the government's largest public plan, beyond its current scope does not solve the nation’s health care crisis, but compounds it.  We need to fix Medicare by moving it to a system that pays for value, and ensure its success, before bringing more people into a broken system. Read more of this message, which was communicated to all Senators yesterday, on the Health Policy Center's blog.




Health Insurers Mum on Practices

The Boston Globe

Dec. 10, 2010


Executives from some of Massachusetts' leading health insurance companies refused to answer key questions from state regulators about why some hospitals and doctors are paid up to three times as much as others for the same services.


Try a Ratings System for Health Care Treatments

San Francisco Chronicle
Dec. 10, 2009


Russell Korobkin, a professor at the UCLA School of Law, says the experts should not have power to determine what care would be provided to patients. Rather, the law should explicitly permit insurers to sell policies that cover only treatments that obtain particular relative-value scores. Insurance that covers treatments rated at least 7 would be much cheaper, of course, than policies that promise treatments that score a 3.




Senators Seek to Shine Light on Medical Industry Relationships

The Chicago Tribune

Dec. 10, 2009


Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, is pushing for legislation that would require public reporting by drug- and device-makers on an annual basis.


Ethicist Callahan: 'Set Limits' On Health Care

Kaiser Health News

Dec. 10, 2009


An interview with Daniel Callahan, the co-founder and president emeritus of the Hastings Center. Callahan has argued for decades that expensive medical care be parceled out carefully -- essentially rationed -- for elderly patients. Now, at 79, his quest to stem late-in-life spending is coming face to face with his own mortality.


Another Medical School Reports Doctors’ Industry Ties

The Wall Street Journal

Dec. 10, 2009


Northwestern's medical school has become the latest large healthcare institution to start reporting financial ties between doctors and the drug and device industries.


Initiative Hopes to Improve Patient Safety in Public Hospitals

HealthLeaders Media

Dec. 10, 2009

The National Patient Safety Foundation, the National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems, and Kaiser Permanente this week launched the "Patient Safety Initiative at America's Public Hospitals.

State news


MA: Fewer Taxpayers are Penalized for Not Having Health Coverage

The Boston Globe

Dec. 10, 2010


Fewer Massachusetts taxpayers were penalized for lacking required health insurance last year than were fined in 2007, the state said yesterday in a report reflecting the second year that residents had to report on their tax returns whether they were covered under the state’s near-universal-coverage mandate.


Hawaii Leads Nation in Public Health Spending

AP/The Seattle Times
Dec. 9, 2010


When it comes to spending money on public health and hospitals, the U.S. Census Bureau says Hawaii leads the nation.




Democrats: Private Medicare Plans Waste Billions

Dec. 9, 2009


Private health insurance companies that offer alternative Medicare coverage funnel billions of dollars toward company profits and marketing efforts rather than to patient care, U.S. Democrats said in a report released on Wednesday.


Reform efforts


Liberals' Public Option Dream Fading

Dec. 10, 2009

Supporters of the idea woke up Wednesday to a disappointing new truth, given all they had invested in the proposal: Senate Democrats traded away the public option for 60 votes.

New England Journal of Medicine

December 9, 2009


Recent NEJM articles on health reform include:

Week 1 of the Senate Debate — Amending the Reform Bill, John K. Iglehart
Ensuring the Fiscal Sustainability of Health Care Reform, Michael E. Chernew, Ph.D., Lindsay Sabik, B.A., Amitabh Chandra, Ph.D., and Joseph P. Newhouse, Ph.D.
Payment Reform — The Need to Harmonize Approaches in Medicare and the Private Sector, Peter V. Lee, J.D., Robert A. Berenson, M.D., and John Tooker, M.D., M.B.A.
Primary Care and Accountable Care — Two Essential Elements of Delivery-System Reform, Diane R. Rittenhouse, M.D., M.P.H., Stephen M. Shortell, Ph.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., and Elliott S. Fisher, M.D., M.P.H.

Prescription drugs


Showdown Vote Nears on Importing Low-Cost Drugs

AP/Yahoo News

Dec. 10, 2009


Bipartisan group of lawmakers hopes to finally win a long struggle to ease curbs against importing low-cost prescription drugs but will have to overcome the Obama administration and the pharmaceutical industry to do so.




Ford May Use Stock to Pay Into a Fund

The New York Times

Dec. 10, 2009

The Labor Department said Wednesday that it would let the Ford Motor Company use stock instead of cash to pay some of the $13.1 billion that it owed to a new retiree health care fund, pending a period of public comment.




Insurance Company Handout: How the Insurance Industry Used Tort Reform to Increase Profits While Americans' Premiums Soared (PDF)

American Association for Justice
December 2009


A report by the American Association for Justice that shows state tort reforms have been a financial boon to insurers while providing no relief to docs and patients.

Tags: health care reform, Health Policy, Health Policy

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