Tag Archives: legislation

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.

Medicare for All Legislation Introduced

Yesterday, as reported by Dr. Adam Gaffney, President of the Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and more than 100 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives, introduced the Medicare for All Act of 2019.

In keeping with earlier posts on the subject, and to further convince not only the skeptics, but the opponents of Medicare for All, here is what is in the act, according to Dr. Gaffney’s letter:

What’s in the Medicare for All Act?

Coverage

  • Covers all medically necessary care, including hospitalization and doctor visits; dental, vision, and hearing care; mental health services; reproductive care, including abortion; long-term care services and supports; ambulatory services; and prescription drugs.
  • Covers all U.S. residents. Coverage is portable and lifelong.

Choice

  • Provides free choice of doctor or hospital.

Cost

  • Eliminates all patient cost-sharing such as co-pays, premiums, and deductibles.

Budgeting and Efficiency

  • Pays institutions such as hospitals and nursing homes via lump sum global operating budgets to provide covered items and services.
  • Funds capital expenditures such as expansions and renovations with a separate budget.
  • Pays individual providers on a fee-for-service basis that does not include “value-based” payment adjustments. Providers cannot use fees for profit, marketing, or bonuses.
  • Establishes a national drug formulary that promotes the use of generics. HHS will negotiate prices for drugs, supplies, and equipment on an annual basis.
  • Allows the override of drug patents when drug firms demand extortionate prices (a key recommendation from PNHP’s 2018 Pharma Proposal).

Health Equity

  • Provides regional funding for rural and urban areas that are medically underserved.
  • Preserves the benefits provided by the Dept. of Veteran Affairs and the Indian Health Service.
  • Overrides the Hyde Amendment that bans federal funding of abortion.

Transition to Medicare for All

  • Implements Medicare for All over a two-year transition period.
  • In the first year, current Medicare enrollees can utilize expanded benefits such as dental and vision care. After year one, the plan automatically enrolls everyone ages 0-18 and 55 and older, and also offers a Medicare Transition buy-in plan through the Federal and State exchanges during this time.
  • Allocates one percent of budget for the first five years to assistance for workers displaced by the elimination of private health insurance.

There are other similar legislation already introduced, especially the one introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders, as well as several faux Medicare for All plans that are really Medicare for Some.

Sen. Sanders’ bill calls for a four-year transition period, so the difference is not that important. What is important is that both bills will transform healthcare as we know it and finally get this nation to do what other nations already are doing.

As reported today by Dr. Don McCanne, the legislation was written with the help of a broad swath of lobbyists and special interest groups, if perhaps not the kind associated with typical health policy legislation on Capitol Hill.

Among these groups, as written in The Intercept yesterday by Ryan Grim (not making that up, folks), are the following: nurses, doctors, disability rights activists, and advocates for the elderly, as well as public interest organizations such as Public Citizen and the Center for Popular Democracy.

According to Mr. Grim (don’t laugh, that’s really his name), along with Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, the main groups involved in drafting the legislation were National Nurses United, a major nurses union that has long been on the forefront of the fight for single payer; Physicians for a National Health Program; the Center for Popular Democracy, which organizes poor and marginalized communities; Public Citizen; and Social Security Works, which represents more than a million progressive seniors who support expanding the Medicare coverage they have to the rest of the population.

Mr. Grim called these groups “special interests” and said that the insurance and pharmaceutical industries had no part in the drafting of this legislation, to which Dr. McCanne gave an affirmative comment, because they are “when that interest is for the all of the people and their health, but we need to keep out the “usual suspects.

It is sad that some choose to call those organizations who fight for people as “special interests”, yet, have no problem when those interests are insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, large hospital systems, Wall Street, investors, and shareholders in the medical-industrial complex.

Eventually, we will get there. Unfortunately, many of us may not live to see it, or be able to take advantage of it for only a short time before the opposition party repeals it, or we pass on.

This election is about your pre-existing medical condition – Managed Care Matters

Fellow blogger, Joe Paduda, summed up what is at stake for millions of Americans, your humble blogger included, if the GOP holds onto the House and Senate after the Midterm election thirteen days from today.

At the bottom of Joe’s post is a link to a Blue Cross/Blue Shield website. Scroll down to the part labeled “Medical Condition Rejection List.” It covers every conceivable illness and condition that human beings may suffer from, and included on that list is peritoneal dialysis, which I am undergoing, and hemodialysis also.

If the Republicans get their way, the only people who will have health insurance are perfect specimens, and we all know that there is no such thing as a perfectly healthy human being. We are all born with, or have the potential to get, some form of illness or disease at some time in our lives. It’s in our genes.

Unless of course, you are Superman/Superwoman.

Here is Joe’s post:

Will you be able to afford health insurance, and will that insurance cover your pre-existing medical conditions? For most, that’s the biggest issue in the upcoming election. Congressional Republicans are planning to pass legislation that allows insurers to: a) stop … Continue reading This election is about your pre-existing medical condition

Source: This election is about your pre-existing medical condition – Managed Care Matters

WA State Considering Telemedicine Legislation for WC

Legislators in Washington State are considering a bill, S. B. 5355, that would require the state’s Department of Labor & Industries to pay for telemedicine sert d require the department to provide access to telemedicine and reimburse providers for health care services provided to injured workers through such services.

The bill defines telemedicine as follows, according to the article, “the use of interactive audio and video technology, permitting real-time communication between the patient and the provider. ” It would exclude audio-only telephone calls (my White Paper mentioned this as a legal barrier to implementing medical travel into workers’ comp), fax messages, or emails.

Should this become legal, telemedicine services provided by hospitals, rural health clinics, physician offices, community mental health centers, and skilled nursing facilities would be covered.

This would have a profound impact on implementing medical travel into workers’ comp in Washington State, as this is one of two states that allows patients to travel outside the state or outside the country for medical treatment.

The Department of Labor & Industries has a page on their website called “Find A Doctor” where they list physicians in both Canada and Mexico, as well as the rest of the US, and when I began my research for my paper back in 2011, had a list of physicians in the following countries:  England, Germany, Honduras, New Zealand, the Philippines, Spain, Thailand and Ukraine.

As more states allow telemedicine services to be covered under workers’ comp, the day will come that getting surgery abroad, especially in the Western Hemisphere countries, will become reality, and will go a long way to lower costs and speed workers back to work, and relieve the stress to the health care system that repeal of the ACA will have on health care in the US.