Wednesday, April 30, 2008

John McCain's Health Care Plan and the Uninsurable--There Are Better Fixes Than the Ones He's Proposed

John McCain spoke about health care in Tampa on Tuesday and tried to answer many of the questions that have been raised about his health care reform plan.The most pressing question is how would people with preexisting conditions get health care coverage in his plan? The worry is that his plan emphasizes tax incentives for consumers to purchase coverage in the individual health insurance market

Monday, April 28, 2008

HMO Executive Earnings Are the Subject of Criticism--37 Execs Paid $277 Million in 2007

I have had two different emails today on the subject of health plan executive compensation.The first cited a link to an article in the Baltimore Sun that reports the $17.65 million severance settlement with the former CEO of CareFirst (Maryland Blue Cross) is under scrutiny by the State of Maryland.The second was a reference to an Industry Radar post that compares HMO executive compensation from

The Genetic Discrimination Bill Shows Us Just How Hard Health Care Reform Can Be

About 1990, I was a member of something called the Task Force on Genetic Testing at the then Health Insurance Association of America (HIAA). The health insurance industry realized that, with the Human Genome Project in its early stages, we weren't far away from genetics being a part of everyday health care and the Orwellian implications on us as insurance underwriters were not lost.The task was

Friday, April 25, 2008

What Good Has Private Medicare Done for Shareholders?

Wall Street seems to have lost faith in publicly traded HMOs.When the Medicare Modernization Act was passed in late 2003, it was seen as a major boon to the health plan business. Without a doubt the revenue and profits that have accrued from the privatization of Medicare have been more than substantial.But what good has Medicare privatization done for shareholders?The first week of January 2005,

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Health Care Reform Will Be a Long Shot in 2009

Many people, me included, have compared the recent resurgence in calls for health care reform with the big debate we had in 1993 and 1994 and the expectation back then that we would see major health care reform. Of course, all of that focus on the issue ended with the failed Clinton Health Care Plan derailing health reform for at least 15 years--and counting.Each of the remaining candidates for

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Wall Street Continues to Be Disappointed in Managed Care--Just Where Did They Think It Was Headed in the First Place?

United Health's earnings and revenue grew by 7% this quarter year over year and the stock fell by almost 10% yesterday.I'd hate to see them really screw up.United is the first to admit that they have some service and persistency issues but the fundamentals of their business continue on track.Wellpoint followed with another disappointing report today.Wall Street finally seems to be figuring out

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Obesity and Smoking--One Step Forward and Two Steps Back

Young Americans risk being the first generation whose health status will be worse off then the last.I have repeated that prediction many times but today it looks like tomorrow is here.A study by the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Washington and published in the journal PLoS Medicine now tells us that the overall of life expectancy of many Americans has actually been in

Is the Bush Administration in Favor of Provider Transparency and Accountability or Aren't They?

Brian Klepper has shared an open letter he and Michael Millenson have written to HHS Secretary Leavitt regarding the issue of provider information transparency and the Department of HHS's apparent contradiction with its own policies.An Open Response To HHS Secretary Michael Leavittby Brian Klepper and Michael MillensonA few months ago, the two of us – both long-time advocates for transparency and

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Provider Payment "Food Fight"

For some time I have been saying that we are about to have a "food fight" between health care providers over who will sustain Medicare payment cuts--HMOs, docs, hospitals, nursing homes, durable medical equipment, and others.But even I was surprised by a recent email from the AMA that included this connection between provider payments and food:“While it’s unusual to think of farmers and hospitals

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The "Frontline" Report on International Health Care, "Sick Around the World," is Worth an Hour of Your Time

Last night the PBS program, "Frontline" gave us an hour long tour of the health care systems in Great Britain, Japan, Germany, Taiwan, and Switzerland and asked what can we Americans learn from them.When I heard about the program, I was dubious that an hour long report covering five different systems could possibly be helpful. But this hour long tour de force accomplished a great deal and I came

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

McCain Would Increase Medicare Part D Premiums for High Income Seniors--A Small Step in the Right Direction

As part of his broader speech on economic issues John McCain today called for high income seniors to pay more for their Part D drug coverage. Couples making more than $160,000 a year would pay higher premiums.This is a good idea and a down payment on something I believe is ultimately unavoidable--means testing for entitlement programs.It isn't news that the cost of senior programs--Medicare,

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Nonprofit Hospitals Hardly Unprofitable––A Bad Time to Find Out Hospitals Are Making Big Money

Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) has for years been complaining that non-profit hospitals have lost their way--that the tax benefits they get, originally intended to help pay for their charity care, simply aren't going to charity care anymore.Last Friday, the Wall Street Journal ran a front page story on the enormous profits many of the nonprofit hospitals are recording. The article made a number

Monday, April 7, 2008

Elizabeth Edwards Criticizes John McCain's Health Plan--He Needs to Fill in Some Important Gaps

In my detailed analysis of John McCain's health care reform plan, I said that he needs to fill in some very important gaps in order that voters have confidence that his market-based solution will cover them.During the Republican primaries it was important for McCain to present a conservative and traditional Republican approach to health care reform. His outline for a health care system controlled

Friday, April 4, 2008

Health Plan Stock Prices Hard Hit Recently--Then There is John McCain

The recent hit HMO stocks have taken in the market has come because Wall Street has the jitters over revised earnings outlooks. Many health plan stocks have fallen by 50% in recent weeks.The Street is right to worry that the health plans are going to have difficulty pumping out more of the great and predictable earnings we've seen from them in recent years. But they also continue to miss a very