Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Big Brother the Insurer - Health Insurers Are Vacuuming Up Alarmingly Private Details About You

Incredibly alarming trend in our industry expounded on by Marshall Allen at Pro Publica / NPR:
Without any public scrutiny, insurers and data brokers are predicting your health costs based on data about things like race, marital status, how much TV you watch, whether you pay your bills on time or even buy plus-size clothing. ... 
With little public scrutiny, the health insurance industry has joined forces with data brokers to vacuum up personal details about hundreds of millions of Americans, including, odds are, many readers of this story. The companies are tracking your race, education level, TV habits, marital status, net worth. They’re collecting what you post on social media, whether you’re behind on your bills, what you order online. Then they feed this information into complicated computer algorithms that spit out predictions about how much your health care could cost them.
Are you a woman who recently changed your name? You could be newly married and have a pricey pregnancy pending. Or maybe you’re stressed and anxious from a recent divorce. That, too, the computer models predict, may run up your medical bills.
Are you a woman who’s purchased plus-size clothing? You’re considered at risk of depression. Mental health care can be expensive.
Low-income and a minority? That means, the data brokers say, you are more likely to live in a dilapidated and dangerous neighborhood, increasing your health risks.  ...
The industry has a history of boosting profits by signing up healthy people and finding ways to avoid sick people — called “cherry-picking” and “lemon-dropping,” experts say. Among the classic examples: A company was accused of putting its enrollment office on the third floor of a building without an elevator, so only healthy patients could make the trek to sign up. Another tried to appeal to spry seniors by holding square dances. ... 
Robert Greenwald, faculty director of Harvard Law School’s Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation, said insurance companies still cherry-pick, but now they’re subtler. The center analyzes health insurance plans to see if they discriminate. He said insurers will do things like failing to include enough information about which drugs a plan covers — which pushes sick people who need specific medications elsewhere. Or they may change the things a plan covers, or how much a patient has to pay for a type of care, after a patient has enrolled. Or, Greenwald added, they might exclude or limit certain types of providers from their networks — like those who have skill caring for patients with HIV or hepatitis C. ...
The full story is absolutely worth your time to read. 

Monday, July 30, 2018

Why Insurers Are Not Fighting to Eliminate PPACA

No, insurers aren't fighting to eliminate PPACA, why would they? Big business loves big government.

House Passes Bill Greatly Expanding HSAs

From EBN
[The proposed legislation would allow for] dollar caps on first-dollar coverage for newly includable health services. [Those caps] would be $250 for an employee with individual coverage, and $500 for an employee with family coverage.

Other liberalizations under the measures include allowing employees to use HSA dollars for certain over-the-counter health-related items, including menstrual care products. Another provision would deem qualified “physical activity, fitness, and exercise” related services, including sports activities, as qualified medical expenses, allowing coverage for up to $500 of qualified sports and fitness expenses ($1,000 for family coverage).

The bill also would increase employee HSA contribution limits substantially — to $6,900 (from today’s $3,450) for individual coverage, and to $13,300 (from $6,900) for families. …  
If the measure ultimately becomes law, employers would have to opt to take advantage of the liberalized provisions; they would not otherwise be available to employees.
Full story here.  

'Medicare for All' Plan Would Cost Federal Government $32 Trillion

Not Even Doubling All Federal Individual and Corporate Incomes Taxes Would Fully Fund the Proposal

From Chad Reese at Mercatus:
A “Medicare for all” proposal would cost the federal government more than $32 trillion over the course of ten years. That’s according to a new study by Charles Blahous, Mercatus Center senior research strategist and former public trustee for Social Security and Medicare. 
Dr. Blahous analyzed the “Medicare for All Act” (M4A), legislation introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) last September, in an effort to determine how much such a proposal would cost the federal government. 
Here are the numbers:
  • M4A total cost over its first ten years: $32.6 trillion
  • Federal spending on healthcare by 2031: 12.7 percent of all economic activity in the United States
Other studies aimed at estimating the cost of providing Medicare-like coverage to all Americans had similar findings. 
  • A 2016 Center for Health and Economy (CHE) study of the same proposal estimated more than $27 trillion more in federal budget deficits
  • Kenneth Thorpe, a professor with Emory University, also estimated that the proposal would require nearly $25 trillion in federal financing
  • If you consider the same time frame and the same set of benefits, the estimates in these studies are similar to Dr. Blahous’s results
Financing such a massive cost increase would be extremely challenging. Even doubling all federal individual and corporate income tax collections would fall short of fully funding the plan. 
You can find the full study here.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

How Socialized Medicine Creates Dependence

From David Henderson:
"A few years ago, an acquaintance who moved here from Canada told me that under Canadian’s single-payer system, his wife was in a years-long queue to get her foot operated on. This was a big deal because one of his and his wife’s regular pleasures was to go walking together after dinner and her foot problem made that difficult. 
Once they arrived here, he got good health insurance from his employer and his wife quickly got the surgery. The surgery worked, and he and his wife started doing their evening walks again. And their out-of-pocket expense for the surgery, which cost a couple of thousand dollars, was a little over $200. 
All good news, right? That’s what I would have thought. Can you see what’s coming? His wife complained bitterly about the $200." 
Full story