Category Archives: Access to care

The Providers: A Film About Rural Health Care in America

Saturday evening, I came upon a documentary film in the Independent Lens series on PBS about the problems facing a part of rural America in providing health care to a poor, mostly elderly, and under-served population.

The film, The Providers, presented a very human face to the physician shortage, as well as the opioid epidemic in rural America, specifically by following three healthcare professionals at El Centro, a group of safety-net clinics that offer care to anyone who walks through the doors in northern New Mexico.

The providers in the film are Matt Probst, a Physician’s Assistant, Leslie Hayes, a Family Physician, and Chris Ruge, a Nurse Practitioner.

The first clinic shown is located in Las Vegas, New Mexico, a far cry from that other Las Vegas, many of you have gone to for conventions and gambling trips. The population of this Las Vegas is 13,201, and the per capita income is $15,481.

As the opening segment states, in 2016, 70,000 deaths in rural American could have been prevented with better access to health care.

Among some of the other points the documentary brings to mind are:

  • Hospital closures due to cuts to Medicaid
  • Failure to expand Medicaid, or repealing expansion Medicaid under the ACA

Chris Ruge, the Nurse Practitioner, is part of a program funded by insurance companies called ECHO Care™, which is an innovative program designed to improve access to primary and specialty care for patients with complex needs while also reducing the cost of care by utilizing a multidisciplinary team-based approach.  In New Mexico, the ECHO Care program expanded the capacity of primary care clinicians through:

  • The assembling, training and placement  of “Outpatient Intensivist Teams” (OIT) which dramatically improve care and reduce costs for the Medicaid beneficiaries served in this program.
  • Special teleECHO clinic designed to support the OITs as they care for patients with significant multi-morbidity, including mental health and substance abuse.

At some point, as the viewer will learn, the companies funding the program want to terminate it, but the CEO of the clinic wants to continue it, whether or not it makes a profit, as long as they break even, because she recognizes the benefits outweighs the cost and profitability.

In order to make sure that they can continue to provide health care to the community, both in Las Vegas, and in another town, they are recruiting from the local high school for students interested in careers in health care.

This was a very eye-opening film and should be watched by anyone who cares about health care and access to care for rural populations, and those who deal with patients suffering from substance abuse, either opioids or alcohol.

 

 

Medicare for All Act of 2019

Yesterday, Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced the Medicare for All Act for 2019, along with 19 co-sponsors in the Senate.

This bill mostly follows the previous bill he introduced in 2017, yet it has one notable addition. The new bill is summarized as follows:

*  Eligibility: Covers everyone residing in the U.S.
*  Benefits: Covers medically-necessary services including primary and preventive care, mental health care, reproductive care (bans the Hyde Amendment), vision and dental care, and prescription drugs. This bill also provides home- and community-based long-term services and supports, which were not covered in the 2017 Medicare for All Act.
*  Patient Choice: Provides full choice of any participating doctor or hospital. Providers may not dual-practice within and outside the Medicare system.
*  Patient Costs: Provides first-dollar coverage without premiums, deductibles or co-pays for medical services, and prohibits balance billing. Co-pays for some brand-name prescription drugs.
*  Cost Controls: Prohibits duplicate coverage. Drug prices negotiated with manufacturers.
*  Timeline: Provides for a four-year transition. In year one, improves Medicare by adding dental, vision and hearing benefits and lowering out-of-pocket costs for Parts A & B; also lowers eligibility age to 55 and allows anyone to buy into the Medicare program. In year two, lowers eligibility to 45, and to 35 in year three.
According to the Physicians for a National Health Plan (PNHP), this bill can be improved by:
* Funding hospitals through global budgets, with separate funding for capital projects: A “global budget” is a lump sum paid to hospitals and similar institutions to cover operating expenses, eliminating wasteful per-patient billing. Global budgets could not be used for capital projects like expansion or modernization (which would be funded separately), advertising, profit, or bonuses. Global budgeting minimizes hospitals’ incentives to avoid (or seek out) particular patients or services, inflate volumes, or up-code. Funding capital projects separately, in turn, allows us to ensure that new hospitals and facilities are built where they are needed, not simply where profits are highest. They also allow us to control long term cost growth.
* Ending “value-based” payment systems and other pay-for-performance schemes: This bill continues current flawed Medicare payment methods, including alternative payment models (including Accountable Care Organizations) established under the ACA, and the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA). Studies show these payment programs fail to improve quality or reduce costs, while penalizing hospitals and doctors that care for the poorest and sickest patients.
* Establishing a national long-term care program: This bill includes home- and community-based long-term services and supports, a laudable improvement from the 2017 bill. However, institutional long-term care coverage for seniors and people with disabilities will continue to be covered under state-based Medicaid plans, complete with a maintenance of effort provision. PNHP recommends that Sen. Sanders include institutional long-term care in the national Medicare program, as it is in Rep. Pramila Jayapal’s single-payer bill, H.R. 1384.
* Banning investor-owned health facilities: For-profit health care facilities and agencies provide lower-quality care at higher costs than nonprofits, resulting in worse outcomes and higher costs compared to not-for-profit providers. Medicare for All should provide a path for the orderly conversion of investor-owned, for-profit health-care providers to not-for-profit status.
* Fully covering all medications, without co-payment: Sen. Sanders’ bill excludes cost-sharing for health care services. However, it does require small patient co-pays (up to $200 annually) on certain non-preventive prescription drugs. Research shows that co-pays of any kind discourage patients from seeking needed medical care, increasing sickness and long-term costs. Experience in other nations prove that they are not needed for cost control.
Any other legislation such as strengthening the ACA, or half-measures for Medicare such as
buy-ins or public options, or leaving private, employer-based insurance alone, will not solve the
problems we are having, which stem from the financing of health care, and not the providing of
health care.

Trump Regime to Repeal ACA

From the Overnight News Desk:

Both CNN and The Washington Post reported yesterday that the Justice Department will back a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), after a federal judge in Texas ruled the law unconstitutional in December.

If this repeal takes effect, millions of Americans will lose their healthcare. Those of you employed in the medical-industrial complex, and related industries, must face the fact, that if the Republicans succeed in their long-held promise to destroy healthcare for Americans who could never afford it before, or had limited coverage, there will be no other alternative left to provide healthcare than to have an Improved Medicare for All/Single Payer system.

There are those who believe that Medicaid for All is a better option, but given that many states that expanded Medicaid elected GOP governors and legislatures, or could in the future, Medicaid in those states could also be taken away from those who receive expanded coverage.

Many of you are employed by the very same insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, device manufacturers, and other businesses that are allied with the healthcare system, and it is these companies that are gearing up to fight passage of any Medicare for All/Single Payer health care bill.

Do you really want your fellow Americans to die because they cannot generate huge profits for your employers and for Wall Street investors and shareholders?

if the Orangutan gets his way, that is what will happen. Also, our hospital ERs will once again be clogged with patients who need immediate medical attention, and the quality of health care will deteriorate even further.

The only logical solution is Medicare for All/Single Payer, because the only option left will be Medicare for All/Single Payer.

Hospital lobby ramps up ‘Medicare for all’ opposition | Healthcare Dive

Sound the alarm bells, the health care industry is trying to prevent Americans from having the same kind of health care other Western industrialized countries give their citizens — universal health care; in this case, an improved and expanded Medicare-for-All.

Instead, they want to perpetuate the current system which by all accounts, is failing to provide quality health care at affordable costs, with better outcomes.

And the tactic they are using is fear-mongering of the worse kind, saying that if we move towards a Medicare-for-All system, the people who like their employer-based health care, or the hospitals, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, etc., will lose what they have, hospitals will close, and companies go bankrupt; in other words, they will lose huge profits the current broken system generates for them.

As the following article from Healthcare Dive reports, the hospital lobby is opposing this movement towards a more equitable system of health care in this country all for the purpose of protecting their bottom lines.

Don’t let them scare you. Universal health care is a right, not a privilege. We are the only Western industrial nation without such a system. People before profits. Health care for all, not for the few.

Here is the article:

As more Democratic presidential hopefuls embrace the idea, health systems and providers have picked up lobbying efforts arguing it would shutter hospitals.

Source: Hospital lobby ramps up ‘Medicare for all’ opposition | Healthcare Dive

Who’s healthier and why. – Managed Care Matters

Yesterday, my fellow blogger, Joe Paduda, posted the following article about health care in the US and why whites are more healthier than people of color and native Americans.

It is a good quick read, and has some excellent graphics to go along with it. However, there are several factors missing in Joe’s analysis of the problem; yet, he is not wrong.

One of the factors missing is that in neighborhoods that have a large percentage of people of color, they are living in what has been termed, “food deserts”, whereby the choices they have in food are lacking because there are no good outlets for healthier choices. Supermarkets that would carry fresh fruit and vegetables, and other healthy options are replaced by local bodegas that carry sugary drinks and fattening snacks and other items.

Second, healthy choices often are more expensive than foods that are less healthy, and therefore, are not readily available to the residents of those areas. Whole Foods are nowhere to be found.

Third, there is a lack of education among people of color about what is healthy and unhealthy. And the food and beverage industry has used slick advertising campaigns to make fast food enticing.

But there have been some attempts to correct this problem. Former First Lady Michelle Obama, besides initiating her “Let’s Move” program, was very involved in getting school kids to grow their own food, and she even appeared on an episode of “Restaurant Impossible” with chef Robert Irvine and a local Virginia farmer to grow vegetables at a local school in the DC area. Upon moving into the White House, the current occupant even tore up her garden that was providing vegetables to the White House kitchen.

So, the issue of healthier food and minority communities is one that needs to be addressed constantly; otherwise, the food and beverage industry, as I learned when I wrote this paper for my MHA degree program, will continue to be in bed with the FDA and USDA, to the detriment of the health of people of color and native Americans.

Here is Joe’s article:

Two quick facts about healthcare in the US. One – we white people are a lot healthier than people of color and native Americans. This is particularly true for African Americans. Two, that’s because minorities have less access to healthcare. … Continue reading Who’s healthier and why.

Source: Who’s healthier and why. – Managed Care Matters

Universal healthcare could save America trillions: what’s holding us back? | Opinion | The Guardian

More fuel to the fire on single payer from The Guardian, as a follow-up to my two previous posts on the subject, Healthcare Lobbying Group Double-Crossing Democratic Voters and Establishment looks to crush liberals on Medicare for All – POLITICO.

A slew of studies are confirming that America can afford real universal healthcare, but some call it economically infeasible

Source: Universal healthcare could save America trillions: what’s holding us back? | Opinion | The Guardian

Health Insurance Costs Accelerating for Workers | HealthLeaders Media

This is a follow-up to my previous post, Health Care Costs Rising for Workers. My post then cited a Kaiser study; this article references the University of Minnesota’s State Health Access Data Assistance Center.

On Monday, I reported that there is an effort underway to discredit the move towards single payer by various groups, and even Howard Schultz, the outgoing Chairman of Starbucks said the following back in June:

“It concerns me that so many voices within the Democratic Party are going so far to the left. I say to myself, ‘How are we going to pay for these things,’ in terms of things like single payer [and] people espousing the fact that the government is going to give everyone a job. I don’t think that’s something realistic. I think we got to get away from these falsehoods and start talking about the truth and not false promises.”

So, if these two studies are accurate, and there is no way to prove they aren’t, then both Mr. Schultz and the various groups attempting to derail single payer, are only going to make things worse for workers, and for everyone else.

Oh, and by the way, there have been studies that indicated that we could afford single payer health care, especially a report sponsored by a Koch Brothers backed think tank, Mercatus.

So, consider the following from this Health Leaders article back in October of this year.

The average premium for employer-sponsored plans rose $267, or 4.4% between 2016 and 2017, which is twice the increase recorded between 2015 and 2016.

Source: Health Insurance Costs Accelerating for Workers | HealthLeaders Media