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National Institute for Health Insurance Reform

One little guy - one big goal - fix a broken system. mailto:rereason@hotmail.com

Thursday, July 07, 2005

News Tidbits

June 23, 2005: Hospital Fair Competition Act of 2005

Congress Ponders Action to Counter Free Market Forces

Legislation introduced by Senators Chuck Grassley and Max Baucus seeks to further regulate the delivery of health care to correct problems created by the way Medicare and Medicaid pay for hospital services.

Of course, if the delivery of health services were truly free market, the issue would not arise. But the chaos of state sponsored monopolies, uninsured individuals, and hospital obligations to give care creates economic distortions.

Doctors, driven by the profit motive, are diving into one such distortion. They are opening "specialty hospitals" such as the Heartland Spine and specialty Hospital in Overland Park, KS, or hospitals that do only certain heart surgeries, or even just liposuction. The specialty hospital skims the best patients - rich or well-insured - leaving general hospitals with more Medicare, Medicaid and uninsured patients. With fewer insured patients subsidizing the others, profits are squeezed and hospitals are crying "foul" to lawmakers.

Problems from nursing shortages to falling profits are being cited as the result of the creation of specialty hospitals.

A partially successful moratorium against building new facilities or expanding old ones technically expired on June 8, 2005. The moratorium, enforced by the Center for Medicare Services, works only on facilities that plan to take Medicare patients. The liposuction center which opened in Kansas in June, 2005, aims at a different market. Thus, it can ignore any meddling by congress in the doctor's pursuit of profits.

The whole fiasco is a case in point for a more rational system. Since we as a nation would not want our medical care ruled totally by the drive to make money, a system of Universal Care with a single payer insurance is the only workable solution.

June 16, 2005: Senators Bill Frist and Hillary Clinton stood shoulder to shoulder this morning on national television (Good Morning America) to announce a proposal for a universal system of health records. The proposal will allow any qualified medical professional with the need to know to examine the records of any person needing treatment. This will result in better diagnosis, eliminate duplicate tests, and save money. Senator Frist called the increase in medical costs the number one problem facing America today.

This is certainly a step in the right direction.

June 11, 2005: A large national health insurance company will give price breaks on co-pays to clients who buy extra-strength medicine and cut the pills in half. (Reported in the Kansas City Star.)

One has to wonder -- just how much of the cost of a prescription consists of the actual medicine and how much is marketing?

June 11, 2005: The average pay for physicians in the United States is $160,000 annually. (Reported in the Kansas City Star.)

Interestingly, the minimum wage of $5.15, or $10,712.00 for a full-time worker, has not increased in almost 10 years. The median income for a family of four is presently about $65000.

I was able to find very old figures that said physician's pay in other G7 countries averaged about 4 times the median.

Doctors hold your life in their hands. So does the guy who fixes the brakes on your car; and the guy who maintains the signals on the railroad crossing; and the inspector who checks your drinking water quality; and the nurse who calls the doctor when needed; and the pharmacist, etc., etc.

June 9, 2005: The Kansas City Star reports in an editorial that about $1500 of the cost of a GM vehicle represents health care costs for workers. For foreign competition, the amount is about $425. (On page B6.)

June 9, 2005: In the same issue, the Star reported on a study that found people with insurance pay an average of $922 in increased premiums annually to cover the costs of medical services for the uninsured. This amount is the remainder after government payments, losses to the service provider, etc. Families USA sponsored the study.