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Health insurers press for high-deductible, low-benefit policies

by Wendell Potter for the Center for Public Integrity

As we head into the final stretch before next week’s midterm elections, Americans continue to have wide-ranging views of Obamacare, but even many who have an unfavorable view of it say they would rather see Congress improve it than get rid of it.

In fact, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s most recent tracking poll of public opinion about the law, released last Tuesday, almost two-thirds of the public would rather see their member of Congress work to make the law better than to repeal and replace it.

The big, unanswered question, though, is what to fix and how to do it.


Studies look into financial burdens faced by cancer patients.

AMA Morning Rounds, Oct. 23, 2014

MedPage Today (10/23, Bankhead) reports that research presented at a press briefing prior to the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s inaugural Palliative Care in Oncology Symposium indicates that one-third “of cancer survivors reported financial or work-related hardships that persisted well beyond treatment of their disease.” Investigators surveyed nearly 1,600 cancer survivors. The researchers found that “one in four (27%) survey participants reported high debt, bankruptcy, and other financial difficulties, and 37% of the patients said they had to modify work plans, which included extended periods of leave and delayed retirement.”


Approve health care study funding

Letter to the Register Guard  Oct. 22, 2014
by Jerry Silbert, Eugene

More than $25 billion will be spent on health care in Oregon this year. Of that, more than $8 billion will be spent by the state and local governments.

The cost of health care is taking up an increasingly greater part of spending. About 17 percent or our economy is devoted to health care, and the percentage has been growing each year.

We must reduce the cost of health care, but we must not do it in a way that makes the reductions fall on the backs of middle- and lower-income citizens.

A number of proposals have been made to decrease the cost of health care. In 2013, the Legislature passed House Bill 3260, which proposed to study four major options for funding a comprehensive, universal and affordable health care system in Oregon. The information from such a study would be critical if legislators are to deal with the issue.


Public Health Can Reframe Debate about Minority Healthcare

Minorities get less adequate care, participants learn at Oregon Public Health Association conference.

Jan Johnson, for the Lund Report, 10-23-14

Minorities in the U.S. get less and less adequate care than non-minorities Margarita Alegria, director of the Center for Multicultural Mental Health Research and a professor at Harvard Medical School, told the Oregon Public Health Association’s annual conference.  To address the problem, public health needs to re-frame the debate.

“We’ve concentrated on race and ethnicity too long,” said Alegria.  “I think it has to do more with being a minority and how people react to you as ‘the other’.”

She cited research on patient and clinician interaction that shows “who saw you mattered on what diagnosis you got,” adding that bias happened both ways.  Patients thought providers earned more than they do.


Oregon Mess: Subsidies Key Defect In Obamacare

Op-Ed by Paul F. deLespinasse, Ph.D.,
Submitted to the Corvallis Gazette-Times Oct. 17, 2014

Two medical stories are headlined in recent  newspapers.  One is local,  but with national implications.  The other is national,  but with local implications.  A common denominator lies beneath both stories.

In Oregon,  more than ten thousand people got inflated tax credits when buying insurance through the exchange set up under Obamacare.  The excess credits may exceed $100 per month, so some people will have to pay substantial amounts back to the federal government.  

The national news is the death of Thomas Duncan from Ebola and the infection of several people who treated him.   Duncan was sent home, when he first visited a  hospital’s emergency room, despite highly suspicious symptoms.  After giving conflicting answers to embarrassing questions raised by this situation, the hospital has hired a public relations firm and allegedly has prohibited staff members from talking to the press. 


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We Are All Underinsured

The Many Faces of UnderInsurance
by davidgimlett Retired Family Physician and advocate of health care reform (not dated)
For The Health Care Reform Blog

As the Affordable Care Act (ACA) kicks in we are moving into an era where a larger and larger percentage of our population will be unable to afford medical care and we will see an increase in an already high number of medically preventable illnesses and deaths and medically related personal bankruptcies. This will result from lack of control over medical inflation and a tidal shift of medical insurance policies into a lethal pattern of underinsurance. The ACA is predicted to decrease the number of uninsured Americans to about 30 million. (1)  Lack of medical insurance leads to at least 55,000 unnecessary deaths a year in the United States. But inadequate medical insurance also takes its toll and it is likely that this problem will worsen dramatically over the next few years in response to the ACA.

 Definitions of Underinsurance
By the common definition, individuals are considered underinsured if their out-of-pocket expenses are more than 10 percent of their income  (5 percent if they were low-income) or deductibles are more than 5 percent. By current definitions 44 percent (81 million) of adults ages 19–64 were either uninsured or underinsured in 2010. 29 million of these adults were underinsured.