HCAO News

Health Cost Growth Is Down, Or Not. It Depends Who You Ask.

Mar 05, 2014 | Drew Altman for the Kaiser Family Foundation

Studies show that health care costs have been rising more slowly than at any time in the last fifty years, but the American people think they are rising faster than ever. Who’s right, the experts or the public? They both are, they just look at the problem from different perspectives.

The most recent government study of national health spending was published by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and found that health spending grew by a very modest 3.7 percent in 2012, the fourth straight year of historically low increases in spending.  Our annual survey of premiums for employer based health insurance in 2013 told a similar story. Premiums rose just 4 percent.  There is debate among experts about how much of the slowdown is due to the weak economy and how much is due to changes in the health care system but everyone agrees both factors have played a role.  The government report says the slowdown is mainly due to the economy.  Our own analysis also found that the economy explains most of the diminishing rate of growth but changes in health insurance and health care have also played a significant role.  There is uncertainty about when and how rapidly costs will accelerate when the economy improves, but no one disputes that the slowdown is real.

No one that is except the American people, who see health costs from a different perspective.  In our monthly tracking poll, almost sixty percent of the American people said “the cost of health care for the nation has been going up faster than usual in recent years”.  Less than a third say costs have been going up “about the same as usual” with just 4 percent saying they were growing “slower than usual”.  No one (correctly) said they were going down.

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Kitzhaber: State may sue Oracle in light of 'sobering' Cover Oregon report

by Dennis Thompson, Portland Business Journal, March 20, 2014

Gov. John Kitzhaber today accepted blame for the Cover Oregon debacle, while outlining steps he is taking to help Oregonians enroll in health insurance and to hold Oracle Corp. accountable for its work building the site.

Kitzhaber said the independent assessment by First Data “offers a very credible and sobering critique” of the mistakes that caused officials to think the Cover Oregon web site would launch on time Oct. 1.

Kitzhaber has discussed with Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum “the full range of legal options” regarding Oracle, the software company hired to develop the site.

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Dembrow’s Healthcare Study Imperiled by Lack of Private Funds

With less than a year before results are needed to inform the 2015 Legislature, an academic study to analyze the best means of providing universal healthcare to Oregonians has not begun and fundraisers are far short of their goal of $200,000 to $600,000 in private donations.

by Christopher David Gray for The Lunc Report 3-19-14

The universal healthcare study that the Oregon Legislature authorized in 2013 has run into roadblocks to funding, and if money for the study is not raised soon, a comprehensive analysis may be impossible before the 2015 session.

Sen. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland, told The Lund Report after a town hall meeting Monday that the study would need nine months to complete. With the next session just 11 months away, researchers would need to begin in May but fundraisers are nowhere close to their goal of $200,000 to $600,000.

Dembrow’s study, laid out in House Bill 3260, relies on private money organized through the Northwest Health Foundation on behalf of the Oregon Health Authority, which will then contract for the research.

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The state's Cover Oregon review is expected soon

The consulting firm hired by Gov. John Kitzhaber to review what went wrong with the Cover Oregon health insurance exchange debacle has completed its report, which should be released as early as Wednesday or Thursday, officials say.

As the public awaits the report, conducted by Atlanta-based First Data, here's some background on the Kitzhaber-initiated review of how the exchange went off the rails.

On Dec. 13, Kitzhaber's office announced "initial steps for an independent review of every stage of the development of the Cover Oregon website." 

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Obamacare subscribers: Beware of high deductibles

Wendell Potter

Wendell Potter

Commentary: Coverage 'not as affordable as many people need it to be'
by Wendell Potter
Public Integrity, March 17, 2014

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi last Thursday rejected the notion that Democrat Alex Sink’s narrow loss to Republican David Jolly in last week’s special election in Florida — in a congressional district that Republicans have held for half a century — was a referendum on Obamacare.

“I’m very proud of our House Democrats, not only how they’ve embraced the Affordable Care Act … but how proud they are of it,” Pelosi said. “I think the Republicans are wasting their time using that as their election issue and they will find that out.”

Pelosi went on to say, however, that, “there are some things (about the law) that need to be fixed.”

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Ranbaxy massive pharmaceutical fraud

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Leading generic drug maker faked test results for FDA approval

CBS NEWSNovember 6, 2013,

    Among the drugs prescribed to Americans, 80 percent are generic drugs, and 40 percent of drugs are now made overseas in countries such as China and India where U.S. oversight is weaker.

    Recently, CBS News' senior correspondent John Miller .

    Dinesh Thakur, an American-educated chemical engineer, was hired by Ranbaxy, back in 2003. He would later become a whistleblower, exposing massive fraud by the generic pharmaceutical giant, a company that sold Americans drugs like the generic version of Lipitor. His information led to Ranbaxy pleading guilty to seven felonies in a U.S. court in May, and pay $500 million in fines and settlements.

    Watch video HERE

    Health care's future the focus of Salem City Club panel

                             Michael Huntington

                             Michael Huntington

    Note from Michael Huntington:
    At the bottom of the left column Ms. Yoo’s syntax would lead readers to think that the ACA can drop doctors and services which is only indirectly true.  It’s the insurance companies which are already dropping expensive services (medically justified or not) and doctors (especially those who take on sicker patients) and in effect resurrecting the exclusion of people with pre-existing conditions problem.

    btySaerom Yoo
    The Statesman Journal, Business Section, March 8, 2014

    After a five-part series of Salem City Club forums on health care reform, attendees appeared to be generally optimistic about the future success of the Affordable Care Act and Oregon's health care transformation.

    At the end of the last program of the health care series Friday, City Club members and guests used yellow balls to wager on whether health care reform would meet all three of its main goals, two, just one or none at all.

    Fifty-six out of 83 people voted that health care reform either would meet all three or two out of three of the goals.

    The three objectives:

    • Provide better and broader access to quality health care
    • Result in better outcomes for health care
    • Lower the future cost of health care to citizens

    Before the vote, three experts weighed in with their own perspectives on the future of health care.

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    Worse Than the Mob: The Insurance Industry Is Organized Crime

    Many sstories here. You will need to get past the bad language to the endorsement of Single Payer.

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    Thursday, 06 March 2014 09:04 By William Rivers Pitt, Truthout | Op-Ed

    Nothing so thoroughly dominated the American political landscape over the last year more than the Republican assault on the Affordable Care Act, colloquially known now as "Obamacare." The GOP's eternal refrain that "Government is the problem" was used as a battering ram against the law, and House Republicans have voted to repeal or denude it exactly fifty times as of today. Ted Cruz and his cohort of wreckers shut down the government over it, and the Tea Party base broke out their Sharpies to make gloriously stupid protest signs that read "Government Keep Your Hands Off My Medicare."

    Amusing as all this was, the dark underbelly of it all is dangerously wrong. Yes, the ACA exchange website rollout was a train wreck, and yes, a small segment of the population has had problems with the new law. This is not in dispute. Websites can be fixed, however, and problems can be solved. None of this holds a candle to the awesome misery and financial pain inflicted upon the populace by the holy and sainted world of private business, known in this instance as the insurance industry.

    My own saga with these broad-daylight thieves began in late summer, when I moved my family to New Hampshire. We were living in Boston before the move, and had health insurance through my wife's employer. My wife has Multiple Sclerosis, and one of the big reasons we felt comfortable about moving was that, if she changed jobs after the move, she could not be denied health insurance due to her pre-existing condition, thanks to the ACA.

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