Category Archives: healthcare

Americans suffer while drug companies make a fortune because FDA isn’t timely approving generics

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last year had 4,036 generic drug applications waiting for approval. In October 2012, there was a backlog of 2,868 drugs. It now takes a median 47 months to approve a generic drug by the FDA – nearly four years.

What does this mean to the healthcare consumer?

drugsalesFirst, it allows a drug company to continue selling their “brand name” drug because there is no replacement on the market. Brand name drugs are sold at incredible prices, pushed up by obscene profits, as well as constant advertising, plus promotion of drugs by medical professionals. To many in the health business, brand name drugs are the real money makers.

By comparison to the United States, the European FDA – the European Medicines Agency (EMA) – has just 24 generics awaiting approval. It takes about a year to get approval in Europe, one quarter the time of the U.S.

Why would it be faster to approve generics in Europe than here? The answer is that patients in America pay for their drugs, either directly or through health plan premiums. In Europe the government negotiates drug prices, because they are working to lower costs to benefit their citizens and reduce spending. It’s the difference between healthcare for profit or Continue reading →

Fracker’s friend frets that you might retire and get your Social Security, instead of working to death

When Libertarian Gary Johnson proclaimed that Americans should not get their Social Security until age 72, he was actually condemning many to death before receiving any of their “earned benefits.”

garygoofyThat’s because the average life expectancy of a Black male in the U.S. is 68 years, meaning death four years before Gary would grant retirement security. While the average life expectancy for men in general is 76.9 years, men in the middle and lower income levels die five years sooner, or at 71.9. With a 72 retirement age, most men would die before that first Social Security check.

As an aside, male life expectancy in this country, where we work so long and hard, is ranked 32d in the world, behind such places as Costa Rica, Chile, Greece, Slovenia and Korea, as well as most members of the EU. We did tie with Cuba – for what that’s worth.

David Barton, another Johnson/Tea Party type, personified the big business view of Continue reading →

Gary Johnson wants to cut 43% from Medicare and the Defense Dept., end the senior drug benefit, eliminate student loans, and stop taxing the rich

GoofyGary

Is the grass always greener?

It was a simple question to Gary Johnson in a 2012 interview, while running for President as the Libertarian candidate: How do you stop the deficits and out of control spending?

The answer from Johnson, who is currently managing 6% to 10% voter support in national polls:

A: Well, cutting $1.675 trillion from the federal government. You got to start out by talking about (cutting) Medicare and Medicaid by 43 percent. They could block grant the states, 50 laboratories of innovation. Give it to the states to deliver health care to the poor and those over 65 and do away with the strings. Do away with that regulations; let states handle it. There would be best practices emerge. Other states would emulate the best practices. They’re be failure. States would avoid the failure.

Johnson also wants to eliminate the Federal Income Tax, which would require huge program cuts in the federal budget to pay for it. His revenue solution would be a national 23% sales tax, plus virtual elimination of the earned Medicare benefit (now paid for by workers with a payroll tax). Continue reading →

How a Medicaid divorce can save you millions.

Leave it to the scions of Washington D.C. to break up middle class marriages.

Under current law if your spouse enters a nursing home, both of you are obligated to pay for care. With an average Social Security check at about $14,000, the cost of a nursing home is impossible to pay out of current income. Most folks dip into savings.

But even a family with say, $400,000 saved over a lifetime, will see that money rapidly disappear because nursing home care is not covered by Medicare. You have to pay 100% of the costs.

To give you better sense of these expenses the states with the most expensive median annual rate for a single person’s private room bed in a nursing home:

  1. Alaska – $259,515
  2. Connecticut – $158,775
  3. Massachusetts – $139,430
  4. New York – $136,510
  5. Hawaii – $135,050

The states with the least expensive median annual rate for a single person’s private room bed in a nursing home:

  1. Oklahoma – $60,225
  2. Missouri – $60,955
  3. Louisiana – $62,050
  4. Kansas – $65,700
  5. Arkansas – $65,700

Double all the above numbers for two persons.

The table below shows the range of costs by state in 2015 of the daily rate for a private room. Continue reading →

Heritage hates Obamacare – plans “Impoverishcare”

Healthcare.gov has my email address, because I once searched for plan information on the site, and now the artificial intelligence – or just perhaps an algorithm – has decided to pester me to sign up or pay a penalty. Having fooled the system (because I can’t get Obamacare since I passed my 65th birthday), I checked some prices to see the cost of  plans for my neighbors, assuming a family of two parents and two teenage children.

Cruz-at-Heritage-Foundation

Rafael Edward “Ted” Cruz

It’s not a pretty picture. Without premium subsidies, all of the so-called Obamacare Bronze plans cost about $900 a month, or $10,800 a year. All of them have a deductible of about $12,000, which adds up to a total cost of $22,800 – before you receive one penny of health insurance. It’s all on you – just put pennies in the jar each January and set aside 2,280,000 as your personal Copper plan. Actually, someone should call the coppers for allowing such a ripoff junk health plan.

The missing ingredient in this analysis is that the government (middle class taxpayers) provides a subsidy to our average $50k-a-year household of four, amounting to $800 or so per month. That money goes directly to the insurance company. You pay the difference in premiums and you also pay all that $12,000 deductible. It seems insanely expensive – between contributions from taxpayers and subscribers – and some might say a windfall for insurance companies, a deal that was negotiated by Chicago’s current mayor under assault, who is also a former investment banker.

The Democrats may have bowed to the healthcare industry, prostrated their principles, humiliated party members, destroyed the President’s legacy and may even made Valerie Jarrett unhappy, but things might get even far worse.

Enter the GOP and its brainiacs at the Heritage Foundation. They have a plan that makes Obamacare look like heaven with 72 virgins (persons, of course) and unlimited six packs of Continue reading →

Medicare age hike to 68 is Heritage GOP plan

With the exceptions of Mike Huckabee and Donald Trump, all of the Republican candidates for President want to change Medicare so that it costs you much more, but guarantees profits for campaign-funding insurance companies.

The details are in the Heritage Foundation plan to replace Medicare with a “premium support” plan in which you buy Medicare on the open market and the government reimburses you, based on the lowest price from solicited private bids:

During the first five years of the premium-support program, the government’s contribution is based on the weighted average premium of the regional bids of competing health plans. After the first five years, the government contribution is based on the lowest bid of competing plans in a region.

Last week, I blasted the foundation for its miserable plan for Social Security. Their suggestions for Medicare are just as bad. What would such a plan cost, and what would be gop-no-ideas2its benefits to seniors? An examination of a typical Obamacare plan for a single 64-year-old may reveal some answers.

We couldn’t compare plans for 70 or 85-year-olds, because Obamacare won’t allow them for anyone past their 65th birthday. Since someone in their 90s requires more care than the average 64-year-old, whether Heritage blends rates (one rate for all) or age adjusts like Obamacare, premiums could easily be twice as much. What’s the difference, you might ask, if the government pays all the premium cost? Keep reading and learn why.

The cheapest (Bronze) Obamacare plan in Montgomery County, PA this morning was $533 a month for a single person, or $6,396 a year. Under the Heritage plan for Medicare this seems like a likely low-ball comparison – many co-pays, no dental or hearing aids, etc. In addition, there is a

Continue reading →

$6,000 healthcare deductible lowers birth rate in the U.S. and keeps many from marrying

Some pundits have recently commented on other blogs that the birth rate seems to be declining among middle class citizens.

In my opinion much of this terrible trend is caused by economics – newly minted healthcare insurance plans that no longer just require co-pays, but have a huge first contribution.
When a family has to pay the first $6,000 in healthcare costs in a year – having a baby is suddenly a very expensive proposition, especially if you are below the median $32,000 annual earnings level.
It doesn’t impact Medicaid pregnancies for the poor (virtually no cost), nor do the rich consider $6,000 much more than chump change.
A single plan doesn’t cover any costs of pregnancy. And if you get a family plan when already pregnant, it doesn’t cover childbirth or its complications, if any.
So, it is not just inequality of income that is threatening to destroy the middle class, it is the extreme costs of having a baby, even with insurance.
Another result of this high healthcare pregnancy cost is its affect on marriage rates. A single woman with no income qualifies for Medicaid, which pays for her childbirth at no real cost to her. If married most women would find that their husband’s income raises their family to a level that does not qualify for Medicaid. Not surprisingly, folks figure out what is best for their finances and don’t get married, as shown by declining marriage rates.

New Democrat Coalition team votes against the public and optional plan for healthcare insurance

The five members of the New Democrat Coalition on the Senate Finance Committee all voted against the healthcare public option today, because they belong to a “Third Way” movement that is supported by corporations, just as their campaigns are beholden to contributions from big companies. This is the same movement that opposes cramdowns on mortgages, limiting credit card interest, card check and a host of other traditional value Democrat Party efforts. They are really the moderate Republicans now missing from that less than GOP.

The traitors to the American people were: Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.).

Conrad was especially annoying today as he attempted to push his moronic co-op plan when the committee was debating the public option. He cited France as a place that has a good healthcare program, but ignored that 94% of the people receive coverage from a government regulated plan at no charge. What a nitwit, or what a liar, but what’s the difference to the outcome.

Wendell Potter rips Baucus healthcare framework

Wendell Potter, a former vice president of communication at Cigna, has ripped Democratic Senator Max Baucus’ health care reform bill in an interview with reporters Monday, calling it an “absolute gift to the industry.”

Potter also testifed on Tuesday before the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee:

Thank you Madam Speaker for the opportunity to address the House Steering and Policy Committee. Madam Speaker and Members of the Committee, my name is Wendell Potter, and I am humbled to be here today to testify about the need for meaningful and comprehensive reform and about the efforts of an industry I worked in for many years to shape reform in ways that will benefit it at the expense of taxpayers and policyholders.

In the weeks since my June 24 testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, I have expressed hope at every opportunity that this indeed might be the year Congress will enact legislation to reform our health care system in ways that will truly benefit Americans for generations to come.

But I have also expressed concern that if Congress goes along with the so-called “solutions” the insurance industry says it is bringing to the table and acquiesces to the demands it is making of lawmakers, and if it fails to create a public insurance option to compete with private insurers, the bill it sends to the president might as well be called the Insurance Industry Profit Protection and Enhancement Act.

H.R. 3200, America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, encompasses a omprehensive set of reforms that address the critical need for expanded coverage, lower health care costs, and greater choice and quality. Other legislative proposals, including the “Baucus Framework” being considered by the Senate Finance Committee’s “Bipartisan Six,” would benefit health insurance companies far more than average Americans.

The practices of the insurance industry over the past several years have contributed directly to the growing number of Americans who are uninsured and the even more rapidly growing number of people who are underinsured.

H.R. 3200 would go a long way toward making many of the standard practices of the industry illegal while providing much-needed assistance to low and moderate income Americans who cannot afford the overpriced premiums being charged by the cartel of large for-profit insurance companies that now dominate the industry.

H.R. 3200 would provide premium and cost-sharing assistance through the Health Insurance Exchange it would create. It would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish a defined package of “essential health services” that all plans, public or private, would have to cover.

It also would prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage or basing premiums on pre-existing conditions, gender or occupation. It would eliminate deductibles or co-pays for preventive care as well as the lifetime limits currently common in health insurance policies. The bill also would set an annual cap on out-of-pocket expenses that is more reasonable than in other proposals.

As important if not more important than those market reforms, H.R. 3200 would also create a public insurance option to compete with private insurers. Contrary to the misinformation being disseminated by the health insurance industry and its allies, the public insurance option would not have a competitive advantage over private plans. It would have to meet the same benefit requirements and comply with the same insurance market reforms as private plans.

As I told Members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, insurance companies routinely dump policyholders who are less profitable or who get sick as part of their never-ending quest to meet Wall Street’s relentless profit expectations.

While the reforms proposed in various bills before Congress would seemingly restrict insurance companies’ ability to put investors’ needs over those of consumers, Members must realize that provisions of some proposals, including the Baucus Framework, would actually drive millions more Americans, including many who currently have access to comprehensive coverage, into the ranks of the underinsured.

An estimated 25 million Americans are now underinsured for two principle reasons. First, the high-deductible plans many of them have been forced into by their employers require them to pay more out of their own pockets for medical care, whether they can afford it or not. Second, more and more Americans have fallen victim to deceptive marketing practices and bought what essentially is fake insurance.

The insurance industry is insistent on being able to retain what it calls “benefit design flexibility.” Those three words seem innocuous and reasonable, but if legislation that reaches the president grants insurers the flexibility they claim they must have, and requires all of us to buy coverage from them, millions more of us will have little alternative but to buy policies that appear to be affordable but which will be prove to be anything but affordable if we become seriously ill or injured.

The big insurers have spent millions of dollars acquiring companies that specialize in what they call “limited-benefit” plans. Not only are the benefits extremely limited, the underwriting criteria established by the insurers essentially guarantee big profits.

H.R. 3200 would ban the worst of these policies. Other proposals, by providing financial incentives for employers to offer barebones plans with lousy benefits and high deductibles, would actually encourage them.

Unlike H.R. 3200, those proposals would not require employers to provide good benefits or even to meet minimum benefit standards. They also would permit employers to saddle their workers with the entire amount of the premiums in addition to the high out-of-pocket expenses, escalating the already rapid shift of the financial burden of health care from insurers and employers to working men and women.

The Baucus plan also would allow insurers to charge older people and families up to 7.5 times as much and younger people, impose big fines on families that don’t buy their lousy insurance, and would weaken state regulation of insurers.

As a consequence, these proposals would do little to increase affordable coverage for those currently insured, or stop the rise in medical bankruptcy. They would, however, ensure that a huge new stream of revenue–much of it from taxpayers who would finance the needed subsidies for people too poor to buy coverage on their own–would flow–“gush” might be a more appropriate word–to insurance companies. And much of that new revenue would ultimately go right into the pockets of the Wall Street investors who own them.

Over the past several weeks, I have repeatedly told audiences around the country that the public option should not just be an “option” to be bargained away at the behest of insurance companies who are pouring money into Congress to defeat substantial and essential reforms. A public option must be created to provide true choice to consumers or reform will fail to truly fix the root of the severe problems that have been caused in large part by the greedy demands of Wall Street.

By creating a strong public option and restricting the insurance industry’s ability to enrich executives and investors at the expense of taxpayers and consumers, H.R. 3200 will truly benefit average Americans.

The Baucus plan, on the other hand, would create a government-subsidized monopoly for the purchase of bare-bones, high-deductible policies that would truly benefit Big Insurance. In other words, insurers would win; your constituents would lose.

It’s hard to imagine how insurance companies would write legislation that would benefit them more.

Over the coming weeks, I implore each Member of Congress to put the interests of ordinary, extraordinary Americans–the people who hired you with their votes–above those of private health insurers and others who view reform as a way to make more money…

Public option not open to everyone

The so-called public option in the House bill is not an alternative for anyone offered an employer’s plan, or getting VA, Medicare or Medicaid. It is only allowed for people uninsured, and was one of many choices.

The public plan would have taken years to implement under the House Bill, and was really an extra alternative for the 47 million forced to buy insurance under this bill.

It would not reform healthcare because it would not bargain with the drug companies, and would probably be administered by insurance companies (just like Medicare, which outsources to insurers to add more “private” profits).

Private insurers would probably have virtually killed the public plan by running better ads, and the government would have weakened the public option by offering a lousy plan on purpose.

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