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HEALTH CARE: Cover the Uninsured Week. Or Else

March 15, 2010
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For the last eight years, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has designated one week in March as "Cover the Uninsured Week." This time, this week, Congress might actually do just that ... Cover the Uninsured.  At last.

If not, RWJF says, the consequences will not be pretty. Skyrocketing costs. Millions more uninsured.

The foundation updated its forecasts on costs and coverage trends (if reform fails) with help from Urban Institute researchers, and it all looks even gloomier than the last set of predictions. Without comprehensive health reform, the amount a typical U.S. family will spend on health will soar -- up a third by 2015, by 79 percent by 2020. The number of uninsured could grow by 10 million in just five years. Government spending on health care for the poor could double within a decade. None of us can afford this, the middle class least of all.

COSTS: Uncompensated Care to Increase without Reform

March 11, 2010

What happens if reform fails? Billions and billions in uncompensated care.

What happens if reform passes? A whole lot less uncompensated care. About half, according to an Urban Institute report this week.

According to the study, there were 49.1 million uninsured Americans in 2009, and uncompensated care reached $62.1 billion -- or $1,264 per uninsured person.

Without comprehensive health reform, which would cover more than 30 million uninsured Americans, the number of uninsured will likely grow to more than 57.0  million (at best) or 65.7 million (at worst) over the next 10 years. In this scenario, the cost of uncompensated care is estimated to reach between $106.6 billion and $141.4 billion in 2019. However, with comprehensive health reform, the study shows that uncompensated care costs will fall to $54.0 billion in 2014 and $46.6 billion in 2019. That's still a lot of money -- but the trend goes in the right direction.

IN THE STATES: Cuts, Cuts and More Cuts

March 8, 2010
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We are a broken record about how the cost of doing nothing on health care reform is dire for everyone -- individuals, families, businesses, the federal budget. But states too will suffer enormously in the absence of federal reform. Just ask the governors -- who held their big winter meeting recently and couldn’t stop talking about health reform. National Governors Association Vice Chair West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin III explained:

States cannot afford to sustain our existing level of health care spending. Governors recognize that it is a critical priority in ensuring the economic viability of our states and the quality of life for our citizens that we work tirelessly to address the current healthcare delivery challenges states are facing.

IN THE STATES: Lawsuits for Everyone

March 5, 2010
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We're bracing for the inevitable jokes: heard about the new jobs bill for lawyers? Health care reform.

Whether it's state governments’ attempt to preemptively block a federal individual mandate to purchase insurance, the creation of health courts to address medical malpractice woes, or legal immigrants in Massachusetts suing over coverage -- lawyers don’t need to worry about where their next meal is coming from.

We were struck, though, by the Massachusetts class action lawsuit challenging a state law that prohibits certain legal immigrants from accessing health insurance coverage available to citizens of the Commonwealth. Struck by the irony, that is, of how the one state in the union that has attempted to provide  coverage for everyone is getting sued by a group that is not covered. What a contrast to the states like Virginia  that are prepared to fight against having anyone force insurance coverage on their citizens through a mandate.

COST: Safety-Net Hospitals in a Financial Crunch

March 2, 2010
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The economic recession has not been good for anyone’s wallet. Between June 2008 and June 2009, the number of Medicaid enrollees grew by 3.29 million, or 7.5 percent.

Medicaid spending jumped 4.7 percent between 2007 and 2008. Millions of Americans joined the ranks of the uninsured, increasing 1.4 percent between 2008 and 2009.

So who’s feeling the punch? Everyone. Just because you're insured, doesn't mean you're off the hook.

HEALTH CARE: A Grim Reminder About the Cost of Doing Nothing

March 1, 2010
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"Hands off my health care," is, as the New York Times' Reed Abelson noted in a Week in the Review piece, a rallying cry of the foes of reform. But what if Congress did keep their "hands off" and let the health care system continue on its current path with just a bit of government tinkering around the edges? What if, as the Times put it in the headline -- we've been known to say more than a few times ourselves -- is the Cost of Doing Nothing?

What happens? Not the status quo -- because health care is not static. The price of doing nothing is soaring costs. Millions more uninsured. A deepening deficit, affecting Medicaid and Medicare and just about everything else. A doubling of insurance premiums in a decade. A health care system strained to the breaking point -- affecting all of us, insured and uninsured alike.

HEALTH REFORM: "Be Not Afraid"

February 24, 2010
Health Reform Horror

Today, on the eve of the White House health reform summit, I published an essay in the New England Journal of Medicine. I called it, “Be Not Afraid.”

"Voters are angry and distrustful of Washington. Democrats have lost their nerve. Republicans, sensing weakness, are closing in for the kill. We have seen this health care reform horror movie before.

Our leaders in Congress and the White House face a fateful fork in the road. They can follow the public’s fear and confusion down the path of perpetual inaction. Or they can lead."

HEALTH REFORM: The AntiTrust Exemption

February 24, 2010
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We at the New America health policy program haven't focused all that much of our work on the antitrust exemption, and we aren't convinced eliminating it will have as much impact as some supporters believe. But President Obama has endorsed it, the House is voting on it, so we thought we'd at least share a bit of what we've been reading. A few of these articles are a bit old -- remember the House vote was set for earlier this month, but got delayed by the snowstorms. (Major League Baseball also has an exemption -- maybe what we're seeing at Anthem and other insurers is the health insurance equivalent of price hikes on steroids?).

HEALTH POLITICS: Our Favorite Summit Sentence of the Week

February 24, 2010
Studio Light

"Lights. Camera. Traction."

That's from John Fritze and Richard Wolf of USA TODAY, summing up what President Obama wants from Thursday's televised White House bipartisan summit on health policy. Beyond that brilliant lead, the article is a pretty good overview of where we are, and likely post-summit scenarios.

HEALTH REFORM: Take it to the Streets!

February 17, 2010
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If it’s February 17th, then Health Care for America Now is taking the fight for health care reform to the streets!

Events are happening today and over the coming weeks all across the country, encouraging Congress to act on health care reform now. There are marches, rallies, vigils and protests in California, Massachusetts, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina, New Jersey, Illinois, Maryland, New York, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Oregon, Virginia, Washington.

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