Quote of the Day

PNHP's Senior Health Policy Fellow Don McCanne, M.D. writes a daily health policy update, taking an excerpt or quote from a health care news story or analysis on the Internet and commenting on its significance to the single-payer health care reform movement. PNHP posts Dr. McCanne's listserv here; to subscribe to the listserv, please visit the Quote of the Day the mailing list website.

  • Posted on Thursday, October 16, 2014
    When the topic of controlling health care costs comes up, those opposed to single payer reform, and, for that matter, opposed to the Affordable Care Act, frequently cite the need for malpractice reform, often claiming that defensive medicine (ordering unnecessary tests and medical interventions merely to prevent lawsuits) is a major cause of excess health care spending. This article casts doubt that malpractice reform would reduce supposed defensive medicine.

  • Posted on Wednesday, October 15, 2014
    Private insurers use narrow networks of physicians and hospitals so that they can negotiate more favorable provider rates which then supposedly allows them to keep their insurance premiums more competitive. The trade-off is that patients lose their choice of providers and increase the risk that they will suffer severe financial penalties because of unavoidable circumstances wherein care is obtained out of network, or worse, care is not received at all because of impaired access.

  • Posted on Tuesday, October 14, 2014
    As the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was being crafted, it was recognized that the expansion of coverage under Medicaid could result in greater access problems because of the low Medicaid payment rates and the lack of willing providers. In order to improve access, at least to primary care, it was decided to increase Medicaid primary care payment rates to the same level as Medicare for the years 2013 and 2014. As with so many of the ACA provisions, this seemingly simple solution has proven to be more complex.

  • Posted on Monday, October 13, 2014
    This new survey conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research confirms, once again, that private health insurance in the United States often is not providing adequate financial protection for those with health care needs. More than 16 million people who have private insurance “face major financial hardships like going without food or using up all of their savings as a result of medical bills.” The one-half of Americans who use hardly any health care at all likely do not realize that they are one major illness away from similar financial hardship.

  • Posted on Friday, October 10, 2014
    Our policy wonks continue to look for methods of controlling health care costs that will protect the role of private insurers, and, above all, prevent us from drawing the inevitable conclusion that we desperately need a single payer national health program. Reference pricing is one more supposed cost-saving tool that has garnered much interest. What is it and will it work?

  • Posted on Thursday, October 9, 2014
    Low-income patients strongly support the Medicaid program. It provides better financial protection than does private insurance, and they perceive the care to be of high quality. Their primary concern is that “private coverage was seen as offering better access to and more respect from providers” than does Medicaid.

  • Posted on Tuesday, October 7, 2014
    This WSJ opinion article is from the conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI). When they say that “health costs are the biggest driver of income inequality in America today,” this should provide us with common ground to simultaneously address both income inequality and the health care crisis.

  • Posted on Tuesday, October 7, 2014
    Large retailers are infamous for low wages and limited benefits. Walmart has been a special target of critics, no doubt in part because a few members of the Walton family are amongst the very wealthiest people in the world - not just in the top 1 percent, but at the very top of the 0.01 percent. Providing more generous health benefits for all of their employees would cost only a small fraction of the annual net gain in wealth of the Walton family.

  • Posted on Monday, October 6, 2014
    Former Kaiser Permanente CEO George Halvorson said, “Everyone at KP, including myself, strongly preferred the model where there was no cost for the patient.” So why did they start selling plans with deductibles?

  • Posted on Friday, October 3, 2014
    Our two major public programs for health care financing - Medicare and Medicaid - continue down the path of privatization, with the complicity of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

  • Posted on Thursday, October 2, 2014
    Citing this study from the Center for Healthcare Decisions, it is being widely reported that 82 percent of the public would be willing to accept provider networks for Medicare. Conservatives particularly are touting the fact that the public is no longer demanding unlimited choice of physicians and hospitals under Medicare. Is this what the study really showed?

  • Posted on Wednesday, October 1, 2014
    A decade ago we already had a very successful, publicly-owned health information technology system (HIT) with interconnectivity - VistA - the system in use by the Veterans Health Administration. Under the leadership of President George W. Bush, it was decided that we should move forward with interconnecting our entire health care system through HIT, but that the system should be developed in the private sector instead. What has happened since?

  • Posted on Tuesday, September 30, 2014
    Under a well designed single payer national health program there would be no need to choose networks since the entire health care delivery system is covered, and there would be no need to shop deductibles since they would be eliminated.

  • Posted on Monday, September 29, 2014
    A consequence of allowing health insurers to contract selectively with health care professionals (physicians) and institutions (hospitals) is that patients not only are financially penalized should they elect to obtain their care outside of the contracted networks, they may unavoidably face such penalties when they have sought care only within networks.

  • Posted on Friday, September 26, 2014
    One of the advantages of reform that ensures that everyone would have health care coverage is that safety-net institutions, such as community health centers (CHCs), could be assured that payments would be made for the services they provide, ending the continual struggle of funding these institutions. As it turned out, reform will still leave 31 million uninsured, perpetuating this problem. But at least those now insured will no longer stress the budgets of the CHCs. Or will they?

  • Posted on Thursday, September 25, 2014
    After telling us that it is ironic that President Obama did not introduce a single payer system, The Economist tells us that we should use prices, competitors and choice if we want to make our health care system more like a market. That seems odd advice since their system is not only single payer, it is socialized medicine - a national health service.

  • Posted on Wednesday, September 24, 2014
    The private insurers are not the only villains that are driving high health care costs in the United States. The private, investor-owned segment of the health care delivery system is also bringing us higher costs, often with inferior quality. A case in point is HCA - one of the nation’s largest investor-owned hospital chains.

  • Posted on Tuesday, September 23, 2014
    At forums discussing the high costs of health care and what can be done about it, inevitably the subject of malpractice comes up. People hold very strong views on the topic. Such discussions generate much heat, often blaming frivolous lawsuits, excessive defensive medicine, outrageous jury awards, and attorney greed, but we need to step back and see if we can generate a little more light and a little less heat.

  • Posted on Monday, September 22, 2014
    Although this is an outrageous example of the perversities of private insurers using provider networks to manipulate health care spending, it nevertheless helps us understand why we should reject the private insurers and their patient-unfriendly, investor- or board-pleasing business tools of health care.

  • Posted on Friday, September 19, 2014
    This academic survey of human resource officers at Fortune 500 companies shows that they plan to address rising costs of their health benefit programs by increasing the financial burden on their employees. Check the key findings from the survey listed above. Each one is bad news for the employees.