Friday, February 6, 2009

Expanded Health Care Coverage: Blessing or Curse

Have you heard? Under the economic stimulus package, expaned health care coverage is on the way.  Question is, for how long? Is it hard to believe that 4 million children in the United States have no type of health coverage at all.  Well it brings me some comfort to know that at least half of 4 million children will receive coverage under the SCHIP (State Children Health Insurance Program). Under the two-year economic stimulus package released last week by House Democrats, recently laid-off workers could receive health coverage assistance through an $8.6 billion expansion in medicaid or $30 billion in federal COBRA subsidies. 

House leaders said that under the proposal, the federal government would pay in full all benefits and administrative costs for all unemployed medicaid beneficiaries through 2010.  My question is after 2010 when this coverage has run its course, what type of plan or program is to take place of this one?  The proposal would allow states to choose whether to extend medicaid coverage to unemployed residents, and it would allow states to determine who whould qualify for the program.  States would have the option of expanding medicaid benefits to people using or who have exhausted unemployment benefits, no matter what their income is; unemployed people who qualify for food stamps, which in many states are available to residents whose incomes are too high to qualify for medicaid and people who have been laid off and have incomes up to 200% of the federal poverty level who otherwise would not qualify for medicaid.  

We know most private practices and specialist in the health care profession would not even bother to look at a person that has medicaid.  Let's not even talk about charity care.  That's another blog writting in itself.  Getting back to the issue at hand, House leaders said that under the COBRA proposal, health insurance premiums would be subsidized.  Let's examine this closely shall we.  COBRA subsidize their health insurance premiums?  Are they SERIOUS!  Seven out of ten Americans are filing bankrupcy every year on account of high medical expenses.  The COBRA proposal is this, health insurance premiums would be subsidized up to 65% for one year for recently laid off workers.  According to legislative sources, the level of assistance could change depending on the results of congressional budget analyses.  I wonder if the folks on Capital Hill ever thought about what would happen after the funds run out and the aid of this expanded health care coverage program ended in 2010?

Conservative health care policy experts are critical of expanding an entitlement and are predicting that states would have a hard time shutting the spigot of help once the federal money stopped.  It's almost like putting a band aid on a bullet wound.   It will be like trying to rinse soap out of your eyes only to find out that there is no more running water.  "Nina Owcharenko, an analyst at the Heritage Foundation's Center for Health Policy Studies, said that states will feel mounting pressure to maintain the Medicaid expansion when the federal funds run out in two years otherwise, it's seen as kicking people off the program. If  that happens, where is the cushion to break the fall?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Doctors Going South

Has the issue of health care really gone too far?  A critical element for enabling all of these reforms to provide real relief and to help all Americans get access to better and more affordable health care is curbing excessive litigation.  

Most of us are feeling the effects of the down spiraling economy.  We see it every where, in the news, on the internet.  More importantly, we feel it in our wallet.  Have you ever stop and wonder about how those who are in the professional field of health care such as doctors, dentists are feeling?  Many have had to leave their profession doing something else other than what they started out doing in the beginning.  

We now face another litigation crisis that has made insurance premiums unaffordable or even unavailable for many doctors, through no fault of their own.  This is making it more difficult for many Americans to find care and threatening access for many more.   Nevada is facing unprecedented problems in assuring quick access to urgently needed care.  The University of Nevada Medical Center closed its trauma center in Las Vegas for ten days last year.  Its surgeons had quit because they could no longer afford malpractice insurance.  Their premiums had increased sharply, some from $40,000 to $200,000.  The trauma center was able to re-open only because some of the surgeons agreed to become county government employees for a limited time, which capped their liability for non-economic damages if they were sued. 

Overall, more than 10% of all doctors in Las Vegas are expected to retire or relocate their practices by mid year.  There was a female doctor, age 41 who closed her decade-old obstetrics and gynecology practice in Las Vegas because her insurance premium jumped from $40,000 to $150,000 a year.   Other states are facing the same problem.  A doctor in a small town in North Carolina decided to take early retirement when his premiums went through the roof from $7,500 to $38,000 per year.  His partner, unable to afford the practice expenses by himself may now be forced to close the practice and work at a teaching hospital.  

Many physicians in Ohio saw their malpractice premiums triple in 2001, and some are leaving their practice as a result.  An Akron Urologist decided to retire.  Had this Urologist continued to practice, he would have spent seven months of his yearly income to cover the $85,000 premium. In New Jersey, 65% of the hospitals report that physicians are leaving because of increased premiums  (over 250% over the last three years). 

Litigation system does not accurately judge whether an error was committed in the course of medical care, physicians adjust their behavior to avoid being sued.  A recent survey of physicians revealed that one-third shied away from going into a particular specialty because they feared it would subject them to greater liability exposure. 

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Future of Health Care

Most of us that have jobs would normally have some kind of health care coverage right?  You would think so especially those who have large families.  What about those who don't?  As health cost increase, employers that offer health coverage are finding it harder to compete with companies in countries that have universal coverage and with non-union employers here in America that don't offer benefits.  

Here is something you should know.  Premium costs are rising three times faster than wages or inflation.  The average premium for family health insurance coverage today is more than $12,000 and its expected to double by 2016 unless we do something.  Are you aware that every 30 seconds, someone files for medical bankruptcy?  As costs rise, more people are uninsured.  With the number of corporations large and small finding it more difficult to stay afloat,  the effect of the economy has proven to be disastrous. Unemployment is at it's highest in the last 14 to 17 years.  

Today, 47 million people living in our country have no health coverage.  If you think that's shocking, think about 8.7 million children and these numbers are going up.  In the next four years, if we don't change things, 56 million of us will be uninsured.  Retirees especially are losing employer sponsored health care as well.  Only half the employers who provided retiree health coverage in 2000 are still providing it today.  There has been 50% drop in 7 years.  The United States spends much more on health care than other countries.  U.S. health care spending totaled 2 trillion in 2005, representing 16% of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP).  Health care spending accounted for 11.6% of the GDP in Switzerland, 10.7% in Germany, 9.8% in Canada and 11.1% in France.  (Kaiser Family Foundation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development).   

Do you know health care costs contributes to an estimated 25% of housing problems.  Unless there is a health care system in place that is proven to be effective, than we must be careful about the choices we make when choosing a health care plan that would be beneficial to you and your family.  

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Abuse Of Prescription Drugs

How many of you really take the recommended dosage of medication prescribed to you? No matter how bad we may feel, we always manage to increase the dosage thinking we would feel a little bit better if we did.  Well, I have to tell you that it will not make you feel any better.  In fact, increasing your medication will only further lead to complications.  

Over excessive use of prescription and non-prescription drugs may not be a good trade off of feeling better if not used properly.  In some cases, the over use of prescription and non-prescription drugs may lead to temporary to permanent damage to certain internal organs such as the liver, kidney, bladder and even reproductive system.  Here is the downside of the mis-use of prescription drugs.  Unfortunately, people from all walks of life are dying by the thousands across the U.S. due to prescription drugs.  

When the handsome, talented young actor Heath Ledger died last winter, the New York City Medical examiner's autopsy report revealed his death was due to an unintentional life ending cocktail of prescription drugs, including anti-anxiety medications alprazolam, diazepam and lorazepam, sleeping pill zopiclone and the sedative temazepam which is also used for insomnia.   So you think this is just one of those rare tragedies that mostly happens to troubled or hard living Hollywood movie stars, right?  Wrong!  The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has released data showing that at least half of all Americans take one prescription drug and 1 in 6 of us takes three or even more prescribed medications.   How many times a day, I could not begin to tell you.  

Any kind of medication should be taken with the use of precaution.  Especially if there are several kinds of prescription drugs taken for different types of illness.  Please read the label to see what active ingredients are in it and the instructions on how and when to take them.  Don't take more than you have to regardless of how you may feel.  You wouldn't want to cause more harm than good to yourself.  That even goes for young children as well.  Be very careful when giving medication to infants and toddlers that are in the stage of teething or infected with an ear infections which in some cases, parents will reach for acetaminophen for young children rather than seeking proper medical advice from their Obstertrician.  

Make sure when taking precription drugs, pay close attention to "Warning" sign.  It is there for a reason.  

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Exploding Health Care Expenses In The United States

Let's take this back a bit starting from 1960, about 48 percent of health care expenses were paid out-of-pocket by individuals and the balance came from insurance and government programs. I can say this statement is true. Thinking back of when my mother and I use to talk about the story of when she had given birth to her three daughters and how much my father complained about the hospital bill.

After the birth of the last daughter which was myself, the bill total was $60.00. You may not think of it as being much but for my parents, it was a lot. Keep in mind that I'm referring back to the 60s'. Today, the Federal Government decided to drive down the 22 percent uninsured rate to zero by creating two massive programs. In 1965, Congress created Medicare to pay for health care for those who are 65 or older. Than they created Medicaid to purchase health care for those considered to be low-income. Immediately thereafter, health care spending had spiraled higher at double digit rates.

In 1965, Congress predicted that by 1990, Medicare spending would spike to $9 billion a year. Instead, Medicare spent $57 billion in 1990. I think who ever made that prediction was looking through a defected crystal ball. More than $408 billion was spent in 2006 alone. This is what happens when health care is "Free" or nearly Free to those who use its services. By trying to solve the health care crisis of the 1960s, Congress created the health care crisis of the 1970s, so it created what we all know to be Health Maintenance Organizations (HMO).

It made the crisis worse if not better. As spending continued its rapid growth and HMO and insurance premiums began to follow. This bring us to today and where we stand in the crisis of health care. By 2005, only 12.5 percent of health care was paid out-of-pocket. The government spent 45 percent of the health care dollar to buy services for 25 percent of the people. Most of the remaining 75 percent of the people had their health care expenses paid by someone else, primarily health insurance, usually purchased for them in part or in whole by their employers. How could this be? We were told there are 47 million uninsured (although the U.S. census Bureau confesses that it has been miscounting for at least five years). Health care spending has continued to soar to just more than $2 trillion a year representing 18 percent of the Gross Domestic Product. This kind of spending has driven the cost of health insurance higher.

There is an up side to all of this and that is the choices and decisions we make in life. When it comes to our health and the health of our children, we have to make sound decisions regarding whats best for the family. We can continue to pay out-of-pocket for services rendered at an emergency care unit or have you turned away because of the type of insurance you have that does not cover most procedures or treatments. So what's the solution you ask? With a newly Elected President in position, we can only wait and see in the next couple of years how the crisis of health care in the United States shall come to be.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

What's the Difference Between Dental Insurance vs. Dental Discount Programs?

You may ask so what’s the difference? Does one offer better coverage than the other? Will it cost me more or less than my current dental insurance? Before I explain the difference of both dental insurance and dental discount programs, here are some facts you should know first.

“In 2005, almost 1 in 10 people age 18 to 64 years old reported not being able to afford prescription drugs and almost 10 percent said they postponed getting the medical care they needed because of not having any kind of dental or medical insurance”. I just thought I leave you with that bit of information before I really get into informing you of the difference between dental insurance and a dental discount program.

Dental Insurance is utilized by large groups and businesses to cover their employees’ and their families as well. In some cases, some employees will have a certain amount of monies deducted from their check every pay period whether it is weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. Dental Discount Programs are available to anyone, anytime regardless of length of employment. “Traditional” Dental Insurance requires paying monthly premiums for coverage. Dental Discount Programs are designed to provide consumers access to dental networks at a reduced rate. “Traditional” Dental Insurance is not readily accessible to individuals and families unless provided by their employer.

Dental Discount Programs are affordable to join and are the most widely available dental programs for individuals and their families. You would not have to wait for an enrollment season to cover you and your entire family. “Traditional” Dental Insurance has an annual spending maximums, deductibles and waiting period for certain procedures and limitations and exclusions on care. Dental Discount Programs provide instant savings on most dental procedures. “Traditional” Dental Insurance involves tedious claims forms to fill out and submit. A Dental Discount Programs are on a member based providing coverage usually on an annual or bi-annual basis.

Dental Insurance usually covers the cost of preventive services (such as cleanings and exams) only after deductibles are met. With a Dental Discount Program, consumers pay a membership fee in exchange for secured discounts on most dental services like dental exams, routine cleanings, fillings, extractions, root canals, dentures, crowns and orthodontic treatment (braces). Dental Insurance deductible varies from $25 to $50 per covered individual depending on the policy. With health insurance premiums set to go up another 9%-10% in 2009, employers are going to once again be looking for ways to cut health benefit costs. Dental Discount Programs save members any where of about 20% to 60% on most dental procedures when visiting participating network providers.

In the long run, if you consider making the switch from traditional dental insurance to a dental discount program, you might want to go over the numbers to see what works more in your favor as far as your budget is concerned. In my opinion, I believe you might find having a Dental or Health Care Discount Program may be the way to go for this is the newest trend in health care nationwide.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Deductibles and Copays: Will Your Employer Raise Yours?

We all know how important it is to have Dental and Medical coverage. We also know how important it is to have a nest egg set a side for the future. With the rising cost of Health Care, managing our monthly expenses seems almost impossible these days. Let us examine the possibility of your health insurance deductible and copay increased by your employer.

I want all you readers to think about this question very carefully. What are the values of copays and deductibles of an employer-sponsored health insurance? I can think of serveral values but that was after I come to the realization of the true nature of why deductibles and copays are being raised. You see, Insurers and Corporations have a way of sneakily shifting the financial burden onto everyday Americans by driving memebers into high deductible, high copay plans that offer little protection when a person actually needs Dental or Medical Care.

The new Medicare drug plan and health savings accounts are two prominent examples of this effort to shift health care costs to members and both are contributing to the dissolution of what it even means to be insured. Lets look at the average cost of health care per person. In the United States, the average cost per person approximated $3,925 in 1997. In 2007, it has alomst doubled. From 1992 to 2002, the percentage of all enrollees in employer-sponsored health insurance who had a plan with a deductible increased from 43.91 percent to 46.63 percent. The average single deductible per single enrollee with a deductible increased from $335 to $409 per enrollee over this period.

I provide this information only to give readers insight to some of the pitfalls of Dental and Health insurance coverage. For those who can afford and feel comfortable with individual and family deductible limits ranging from $500 to $5,000 are usally okay with accepting those high deductibles and of course common. Why pay more when you can save thousands of dollars every year? Why not take the money you're saving with having a Discounted Dental and Health Care Program that will include your entire household at no additional cost to you and put it towards the nest egg you're building for the future.

You can start today by going to EveryOneBenefits.