Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Day Two of Three Edition

Two more days -- I know we can make it! But first, the news:

The supercommittee waited until after the markets closed yesterday to announce that they would not be able to come up with a deal by tomorrow. We, the people, are disgusted, but not surprised. As you know, the law had a trigger, so if the supercommittee failed, there would be an automatic $1.2 trillion in cuts taking effect in 2013, after the election. The President had faith that the GOP would never agree to the revenue raisers that a real deficit cutting plan requires, so he decided to leave it up to the voters. And now, we get to see the blame being cast in both directions. World markets tumbled, so hold onto your hats for the US market reaction today.

The supercommittee's failure doesn't mean there will be no more talk of Medicare and Medicaid cuts; it means the discussion has to be different -- but brace yourself, because it's going to happen.

The next battle? Stimulus provisions that will expire at year end. You may not remember this, but you've been paying less in FICA tax this whole year. If Congress doesn't act, you'll go back to your usual tax rate, which will increase your taxes about $1000 over the year. In addition, the extension of federal unemployment benefits will expire.

And then there's the "doc fix." Medicare payments to doctors are set to decrease by about 30% at the end of this year. This cut has been postponed many times. Will it be postponed again? Not a lot of time to figure this out.

Insurers are worried -- rightly -- that the Supreme Court will strike down the individual mandate, but leave the rest of the law intact. As I will keep explaining until I'm blue in the face, if you want to cover people with pre-existing conditions -- expensive people -- you need a pool that also includes healthy people, which is why the individual mandate was creates. And to have an individual mandate, insurance must be affordable, which is why subsidies were created. Everybody agrees pre-existing conditions should be covered. But you can't be for that and against the mandate. You just can't.

Being thankful improves health, so teach your kids to be grateful. There's your Thanksgiving gift from me (and WaPo).

Some are looking to Medigap plans to try to curb Medicare spending. They believe that people with supplemental plans that pay their copays use more health care than they need. As miserable as it is to get involved with the health care world these days, I don't believe this for a second.

More employers are using high-deductible health insurance plans. That just means more people will go without health care, moving us in the wrong direction. Indeed, health costs are falling due to the recession.

AIDS deaths are new infections are down worldwide. Wonderful!

New clinics are a real alternative to the emergency room.

A judge in the Bronx has devised a model that he hopes will fast-track medical malpractice cases, making them less expensive.

The elderly get less pain medication in emergency rooms.

Patients turn to the internet to raise money for health care. While I think it's a shame that it's come to this, I'm heartened by the fact that people do give.

Truckers working on their health. Next thing you know, they'll be serving tofu at truck stops! But seriously, I think it's great.

Thin people are at greater post-surgery risk. Hmmm. The researchers don't know why.

And that's today's news. Have a great day! Jennifer

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