HCAO News

Note from Wes Brain, Health Care for All--Rogue Valley

Rep. Peter Buckley

Rep. Peter Buckley

July 29, 2015

Representative Peter Buckley cannot attend Southern Oregon's "Medicare 50" celebration event tomorrow, although he did send the following statement which will be read at the 6pm press conference.

“July 30, 2015--Thanks to all of you for being here to celebrate Medicare and our shared commitment to make sure everyone in our country receives the care they need. In spite of ferocious opposition—an opposition that continues to this very day—Medicare is a tremendous success story. In our state alone, over 600,000 Oregonians receive vital care through Medicare, and over 500,000 Oregonians receive care through Medicaid.  This is who we are as a state and a country. We care for our families and our communities, and we will not rest until every single person in Oregon and in the U.S. has access to high quality, affordable health care. The voices of opposition are on the wrong side of history. We need to build on 50 years of saving lives, 50 years of strengthening our families and our communities, and expand Medicare. There is no going back, only going forward. I’m grateful for the generations of Americans who have brought us progress in healthcare for our families, and it’s up to us to expand that progress for decades to come.”

--Oregon State Representative Peter Buckley, District 5.

Zombies Against Medicare

     Paul Krugman

     Paul Krugman

New York Times Opinion Page, July 27, 2015
by Paul Krugman

Medicare turns 50 this week, and it has been a very good half-century. Before the program went into effect, Ronald Reagan warned that it would destroy American freedom; it didn’t, as far as anyone can tell. What it did do was provide a huge improvement in financial security for seniors and their families, and in many cases it has literally been a lifesaver as well.

But the right has never abandoned its dream of killing the program. So it’s really no surprise that Jeb Bush recently declared that while he wants to let those already on Medicare keep their benefits, “We need to figure out a way to phase out this program for others.”

What is somewhat surprising, however, is the argument he chose to use, which might have sounded plausible five years ago, but now looks completely out of touch. In this, as in other spheres, Mr. Bush often seems like a Rip Van Winkle who slept through everything that has happened since he left the governor’s office — after all, he’s still boasting about Florida’s housing-bubble boom.

Actually, before I get to Mr. Bush’s argument, I guess I need to acknowledge that a Bush spokesman claims that the candidate wasn’t actually calling for an end to Medicare, he was just talking about things like raising the age of eligibility. There are two things to say about this claim. First, it’s clearly false: in context, Mr. Bush was obviously talking about converting Medicare into a voucher system, along the lines proposed by Paul Ryan.

And second, while raising the Medicare age has long been a favorite idea of Washington’s Very Serious People, a couple of years ago the Congressional Budget Office did a careful study and discovered that it would hardly save any money. That is, at this point raising the Medicare age is a zombie idea, which should have been killed by analysis and evidence, but is still out there eating some people’s brains.

But then, Mr. Bush’s real argument, as opposed to his campaign’s lame attempt at a rewrite, is just a bigger zombie.

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Happy Birthday, Medicare

Robert Reich

Robert Reich

Next week, Medicare turns 50—originally signed into law on July 30, 1965. While Medicare is so popular, it continues to be blamed for America’s present and future budget problems when actually it's the greatest solution.

July 25, 2015 | NationofChange | Op-Ed
by: Robert Reich

Medicare turns fifty next week. It was signed into law July 30, 1965 – the crowning achievement of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. It’s more popular than ever.

Yet Medicare continues to be blamed for America’s present and future budget problems. That’s baloney.

A few days ago Jeb Bush even suggested phasing it out. Seniors already receiving benefits should continue to receive them, he said, but “we need to figure out a way to phase out this program for others and move to a new system that allows them to have something, because they’re not going to have anything.”

Bush praised Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan to give seniors vouchers instead. What Bush didn’t say was that Ryan’s vouchers wouldn’t keep up with increases in medical costs – leaving seniors with less coverage.

The fact is, Medicare isn’t the problem. In fact, it’s the solution.

Its costs are being pushed upward by the rising costs of health care overall – which have slowed somewhat since the Affordable Care Act was introduced but are still rising faster than inflation.

Medicare costs are also rising because of the growing ranks of boomers becoming eligible for Medicare.

Medicare offers a way to reduce these underlying costs – if Washington would let it.

Let me explain.

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Feds Say 7.5M Paid An Average Penalty Of $200 For Not Having Health Insurance

From The Lund Report, July 21, 2015
Source: Phil Galewitz, Kaiser Health News

About 7.5 million Americans paid an average penalty of $200 for not having health insurance in 2014 — the first year most Americans were required to have coverage under the Affordable Care Act, the Internal Revenue Service said Tuesday.

By contrast, 76 percent of taxpayers checked a box indicating they had qualifying insurance coverage all year. Counting another 7 million dependents who were not required to report their coverage but also filed returns, the proportion rises to 81 percent, the IRS said.

The government had estimated in January that from 3 million to 6 million households would have to pay a penalty: 1 percent of their annual income or $95 per adult in 2014, whichever is greater.

Final figures for the tax year aren’t available. The IRS has so far processed about 135 million of the estimated 150 million returns expected. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said the agency was reporting preliminary figures because it has received “numerous requests” from members of Congress.

In addition to penalty totals, the IRS reported Tuesday on tax subsidies the health law provided for people who were buying coverage through the state or federal online exchanges and who qualified based on income. People had a choice of filing for credits in advance — money the government paid to their insurers — or when filing tax returns.

About 2.7 million taxpayers claimed approximately $9 billion in subsidies, reporting an average subsidy of $3,400. About 40 percent claimed less than $2,000, 40 percent claimed $2,000 to $5,000, and 20 percent claimed $5,000 or more.

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Universal Healthcare Expert to Visit Oregon, Tout Single Payer Plan

Efforts are underway in Colorado and Oregon for universal healthcare.

T.R. Reid

T.R. Reid

by Shelby Sebens for The Lund Report
July 21, 2015

T.R Reid is hoping that Colorado is the first state in the nation to provide a healthcare system that covers everyone. But he’d still be happy if Oregon got there first.

“Some state has to get this going and prove that it will work and then it will spread,” Reid said.

An author and chairman of the Colorado Foundation for Universal Health Care, Reid will be in Oregon this weekend touting healthcare for all. Advocates in Colorado will put a measure on the 2016 ballot. Though the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, was intended to get every American insured, the Congressional Budget Office predicts 31 million people will still be uninsured as of 2025.

“The Obamacare solution doesn’t get us there,” said Reid, who has traveled the world studying universal healthcare in other countries. “It’s a national disgrace that we would have 31 million people uninsured in the world’s richest country.”

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N.Y. Law Offers Model For Helping Consumers Avoid Surprise Out-Of-Network Charges

by Michelle Andrews
Kaiser Health News, July 14, 2015

It’s a situation that occurs all too often: Someone goes to the emergency room and doesn’t learn until he gets a hefty bill that one of the doctors who treated him wasn’t in his insurance network. Or a diligent consumer checks before scheduling surgery to make sure that the hospital she plans to use and the doctors that will perform it are all in network. Then she learns later that an assistant surgeon who she didn’t know and who wasn’t in her network scrubbed in on her operation.

“If we’re mandating that people buy insurance coverage it seems we should also protect them from surprise medical bills,” says Mark Rukavina, from Community Health Advisors in Chestnut Hill, Mass.

If an out-of-network doctor or other provider doesn’t have a contract with a health plan that determines how much they get paid for services, they may bill the patient for any charges not covered by insurance. In those instances, the consumer could be on the hook for the rest of the bill, a practice known as “balance billing.” Although there’s no federal protection, about a quarter of states have laws on the books against balance billing by out-of-network hospitals, doctors or other providers in at least certain circumstances such as emergency care

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