Tag: health care

Column | Medicare Part D Keeps Doctor-Patient Control Alive and Should be Allowed to Continue

Suppose the Federal government has created a program that saves taxpayers money, promotes individual freedom, and gets a 90% satisfaction rating from the people who use it.  Should it:

(a) Bury the evidence and let nobody speak of it again;

(b) Effectively dismantle the program by adding lots of new bureaucracy and interfering with what made it work; or

(c) Learn from the success and try to duplicate it in other places?

If you chose answer (c), you’re probably a reasonable tax-paying citizen. But that won’t get you very far in Washington. All too often, what matters there isn’t results — it’s grabbing power wherever you can. You and I can see a clear case of this misdirected bureaucratic energy in the push to have the government micro-manage the lives of people who use Medicare Part D.

Part D is an endangered species: A government-sponsored program that works really well. Since it went into effect in 2006, Part D has done some remarkable things.

First, it has given patients a great deal of choice. Most states have between 20 and 30 different program plans available. Those choices give patients the wide-ranging benefits of competition for their business. It’s hard to think of any business where the quality of customer service doesn’t rise when there is more competition to serve the same customers.

The competitive forces driving private providers to serve these patients also means that Part D has consistently delivered budget savings, costing the government much less than initial expectations and keeping costs to patients well in line, too.

But the most important feature of all is that Part D puts individuals and their doctors in the lead to determine what will lead to the best health and quality-of-life outcomes for patients. It’s easy to overlook the fact that many prescription drugs are used to prevent pain, suffering, and discomfort down the road.

Whether it’s a therapeutic prescription for a condition like high blood pressure or high cholesterol, an anti-anxiety medication being used to enhance a patient’s mental health, or an antibiotic or anti-rejection drug used to help someone recover quickly and successfully from surgery, most prescriptions are used to keep bad things from happening. That saves money, which is good — but it also prevents a great deal of suffering.

For this to work, however, patients and their doctors need to be in control — not bureaucrats. The threat of growing interference by office-holders and power-seekers in Washington could topple all of the benefits that come from today’s well-functioning Medicare Part D. We have heard politicians call for government to set price controls and establish firm ceilings on how much can be spent on patient care. But the big picture is that bureaucratic manipulation of prescription prices is nothing but window dressing. Proposals to force Pharmaceutical companies to pay a ‘rebate’ of up to 40% of their drug sales to Medicare is nothing more than a tax that will drive up the cost of prescriptions and insurance for seniors.

Part D works because of competition, not Washington pencil-pushing. The more government seeks to manipulate and take command over the program, the less patients will benefit from the power of competition. The cure to health-care costs isn’t to drive more decision-making to government, but to stay out of the way of patients and their doctors so they can use whatever therapies make the most sense to prevent illness and disease. Today’s Medicare Part D does that. It should continue to do so tomorrow.

 

Nansen Malin is a political activist living in SW Washington State. She is the former Americans for Prosperity WA State Director and is active in social media.

 

[photo credit: alexraths, depositphotos.com]

Republicans Want Young Americans to Share Their Obamacare Stories | VIDEO

Are you a millennial? Are you troubled by the realities of Obamacare? If so, the Republicans in the U.S. House want to hear from you.

Oh, and they also want support for a bill known as the SIMPLE Fairness Act, a measure that would set aside the individual mandate penalty tax through the 2014 calendar year.

A video released Wednesday by House Republicans is one effort to start a direct dialogue with the millions of American young adults who may be confused, frustrated or simply grappling with the reality of Obamacare’s mandate. Younger people are encouraged to share their angst about the health care upheaval by visiting the GOP’s “Your Story” website, an ever-growing repository for tales of Obamacare-imposed hardship.

Using simple white-board animation, Republicans introduce young people to the new stalker in their life – a federal government that won’t take no for an answer when it comes to forcing them to buy something they might not want or need. Rough sketches and voice-over dialogue make the terms of Obamacare clear – either buy insurance for $300-400 a month or pay a minimum $95 tax.

Unfortunately, the video could be taken by some as a how-to instructional piece than a call to action. The reaction of many 18-25s to this video might be, “Is that true? I only have to pay $95 to make this go away and avoiding spending thousands of dollars a year more than I need to for health care? Done.”

Republican communicators will need to tinker with and improve ways of communicating with millennials on Obamacare, largely because they’re competing with a taxpayer-financed snake oil pitch that does the job of playing offense and defense for Democrats if no other source of information exists.

Daily Double-take: Gregoire Wants Unions to Re-negotiate Health Care Benefits

Tomorrow Governor Gregoire will be holding a press conference outlining her recommendations to address the state’s budget deficit. Today her budget director Marty Brown sent a letter to state unions informing them that the Governor was re-opening the 2011-13 health care benefits agreement “in order to negotiate a reduction in the employer premium contribution.”

Here is a copy of the OFM letter.

Last year the Governor and unions agreed to change the health-care ratio for state employees from an 88-12 split to 85-15. This was far below the 74-26 split the Governor had previously said was necessary.

Moving from the current 85-15 split to 75-25 could save as much as $30 million (preliminary numbers).

While this is an encouraging development, ultimately the Legislature should have full authority to make this change on its own.

Under the 2002 collective bargaining law, state unions no longer have their priorities weighed equally with every other special interest during the legislative budget process. Instead they now negotiate directly with the Governor, while lawmakers only have the opportunity to say yes or no to the entire contract agreed to with the Governor. Lawmakers can’t make any changes.

To put the Legislature back in charge of the budget so that all spending can be truly prioritized, the 2002 collective bargaining law should be repealed and replaced with something similar to what Indiana did in 2005.

One of the first things Governor Mitch Daniels did when he took office in 2005 was to issue this Executive Order which in effect ended any state negotiations with unions.

In response to my email asking about this action, Anita Samuel, Assistant General Counsel/Policy Director for Gov. Daniels, wrote:

“Employees are still able to pay union dues through payroll deductions. It is completely their choice. Union reps are allowed to represent employees in the grievance procedure. We expanded who was eligible to take a grievance through our State Employees Appeals Commission under this EO. Every employee, merit and non-merit below an executive level could file a complaint. The prior process only applied to merit employees.

The state does not negotiate with the unions on any issues. At times, the State Personnel Department will meet with the unions when requested. The state sets the compensation, pay for performance increases and benefits without negotiating with the unions. Governor Daniels put in place a robust pay for performance system starting in 2006. The first year the structure was 0% for does not meet expectation, 4% for meets and 10% exceeds.  The second year it was 0,3,8.5%. Employees were also given a 1.5% general salary increase that the legislature called for. I think that most employees were pleased with this system.”

Unions exist to fight for their members, not to advocate for policy that is in the best interest of taxpayers. This why it is incumbent on the Legislature to have the authority to weigh all spending requests equally in the context of the priorities of all taxpayers and citizens and not be cut out of budget decisions totaling millions of dollars.

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[Reprinted from the Washington Policy Center blog; photo credit: BC Gov Photos]

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