Thursday, September 8, 2016

United States Health Care Reform: Progress to Date and Next Steps

Robot psychiatrist by Rauhid Bondia, for Star Pirates Comics.
Before I lay off the health care subject for a while, I've really been wanting to call people's attention to this great academic article that was in the Journal of the American Medical Association last month, by a relatively young legal scholar who's been out of the scene for a while (in this and that government job), assessing the Affordable Care Act so far and what needs to be done.

It's a little bit harsh on Republicans:
Any change is difficult, but it is especially difficult in the face of hyperpartisanship. Republicans reversed course and rejected their own ideas once they appeared in the text of a bill that I supported. For example, they supported a fully funded risk-corridor program and a public plan fallback in the Medicare drug benefit in 2003 but opposed them in the ACA. They supported the individual mandate in Massachusetts in 2006 but opposed it in the ACA. They supported the employer mandate in California in 2007 but opposed it in the ACA—and then opposed the administration’s decision to delay it. Moreover, through inadequate funding, opposition to routine technical corrections, excessive oversight, and relentless litigation, Republicans undermined ACA implementation efforts. We could have covered more ground more quickly with cooperation rather than obstruction. It is not obvious that this strategy has paid political dividends for Republicans, but it has clearly come at a cost for the country, most notably for the estimated 4 million Americans left uninsured because they live in GOP-led states that have yet to expand Medicaid.
And on special interests:
We worked successfully with some health care organizations and groups, such as major hospital associations, to redirect excessive Medicare payments to federal subsidies for the uninsured. Yet others, like the pharmaceutical industry, oppose any change to drug pricing, no matter how justifiable and modest, because they believe it threatens their profits.66 We need to continue to tackle special interest dollars in politics. But we also need to reinforce the sense of mission in health care that brought us an affordable polio vaccine and widely available penicillin.
And makes a remarkably strong case for the "public option" idea that was dropped by the Senate Finance Committee when it wrote the original bill—at least in geographical regions where there's not enough competition between monopolistic insurance companies:
the remaining 12% of enrollees live in areas with only 1 or 2 issuers. Some parts of the country have struggled with limited insurance market competition for many years, which is one reason that, in the original debate over health reform, Congress considered and I supported including a Medicare-like public plan. Public programs like Medicare often deliver care more cost-effectively by curtailing administrative overhead and securing better prices from providers.59,60 The public plan did not make it into the final legislation. Now, based on experience with the ACA, I think Congress should revisit a public plan to compete alongside private insurers in areas of the country where competition is limited. Adding a public plan in such areas would strengthen the Marketplace approach, giving consumers more affordable options while also creating savings for the federal government.61
The author—his name is Barack Obama, J.D.—could have a pretty distinguished future in health care policy once he gets away from the annoying strictures of his current job.

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