Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tuesday Tidbits

 Health insurance for Olympians.  Not all you might think it would be.

If your insurer did not meet the medical loss ratio rules (spending 80-85% of premium dollars on health care, they have to pay rebates by August 1.  Over $1.3 billion in rebates will have been paid this year.  You still don't think health reform is starting to deal with cost?

As in Massachusetts, the idea was a two-phased approach to health reform,with phase I focused on increasing coverage and phase II on cutting costs.  Massachusetts is as stage II, and the legislation is now awaiting legislative action.  It would key health care spending to a percentage of the gross state product (GDP but for states), create an oversight agency to collect data and help establish health policy.  We need to watch this carefully -- what happens in MA may well happen nationally, eventually. 

So if states like Texas opt out of health reform's Medicaid expansion, who covers the cost of care for the poor in Texas?  The taxpayers of the State of Texas, of course.  Even more evidence that the only reason to pass up the Medicaid expansion is spitefulness towards anything President Obama does -- it's  certainly not because it's in the economic interest of Texans since the Medicaid expansion would cover at 100% federal funding for the first couple of years, and then gradually decrease to 90% federal funding.  Thanks, Samir, for the link.

Still, the GOP is all about cutting Medicaid.  They want to convert it to block grants, which would mean drastic cuts in some states.  That's because the feds enforce certain coverage requirements; without those requirements, states could cut costs -- and care -- greatly.  Not exactly a good thing in my book.

Meanwhile, the insurance industry is trying to get rid of the fees (they say tax) they have to pay to help finance health reform.  Highly unlikely to happen with the rest of health reform intact.  Yet another reason to worry about repeal under a GOP-led White House and/or Congress.

How can you help to control health care costs?  Here are a bunch of tips from Consumer's Reports.  Know your coverage.  Stay in network if you can.  And if you go out of network, do your homework on the cost ahead of time.

A few weeks ago, we learned that Florida closed the only tuberculosis hospital in the state amidst a tuberculosis outbreak.  Now, we learn that patients with tuberculosis were sent to a hotel instead.  Not a licensed medical facility.  No ongoing medical attention.  A hotel.  How is this not a scandal?

Remember the debt collector that was showing up in ERs wearing scrubs, hassling people about their bills before they even saw a doctor?  They settled with Minnesota for $2.5 million.  If you ask me, that's a gift.

There were a lot of stories last week coming out of the international AIDS conference that took place in Washington.  The stories were optimistic; some even see a cure in sight.  We need to be reminded, though, that we're not there yet -- there's still a long way to go.

Women live longer than men, but their brains deteriorate earlier -- possibly due to increased stress.

Gradual exposure to food allergens may overcome allergies.  But please, talk to your doctor before you try this.  You don't want to send your kid into anaphylactic shock!

Massage may have significant benefits for both physical pain and mental ills.  Can you get it covered by insurance?  If it's performed by a physical therapist and coded as physical therapy, maybe!

And that's it for now.  Have a great day.  Jennifer

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