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Counter Point: Happy Birthday Health Reform

Who would have thought when we first looked upon you a year ago, barely formed, still somewhat embryonic, that you would have grown so much in just a year, and created so much, well, trouble? Yes, I’m talking about you, health reform. After all, aren’t you the reason for the sea change in Washington? Aren’t you behind several pending appeals that will get to the Supreme Court? Aren’t you the reason that the country is going to hell in a handbasket?

But wait. Let’s look at some other major milestones of the past year.

– You sent $250 checks to Medicare beneficiaries to help cover the “donut hole” in their drug coverage.
– You created special insurance pools designed to provide health care NOW to people with preexisting conditions who can’t get coverage.
– You allowed parents to keep their kids on their health insurance until the children turn 26, providing a major safety net.
– You did away with lifetime caps, enabling those with some serious medical conditions to continue receiving health insurance.

And that’s just in a year. Imagine what the next year and the year after that will bring. So I’ll say it again, Happy Birthday, Healthcare Reform. May you live to a ripe old age and only get better.

*This blog post was originally published at A Medical Writer's Musings on Medicine, Health Care, and the Writing Life*

Dr. Jon LaPook On CBS News: What Happened To Healthcare Reform?

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Why aren’t Americans in the streets, demanding reform of a health care system that is providing inadequate care for millions, wildly inefficient, and gradually bankrupting our country? A major reason: proponents of reform have lost control over the message because people think it’s too complicated to understand. Confused about important details of the proposals, the public is susceptible to misrepresentations by opponents. Read more »

Cost Shifting And Cheaper Drugs For Seniors

The drug makers have agreed to cover part of the costs of brand name drugs in the donut hole, that no man’s land of Medicare Part D where patients must pay for their own drugs.

As reported:

Obama said that drug companies have pledged to spend $80 billion over the next decade to help reduce the cost of drugs for seniors and pay for a portion of Obama’s health care legislation. The agreement with the pharmaceutical industry would help close a gap in prescription drug coverage under Medicare.

I see one problem with the assertion that drug companies will be “spending” $80 billion dollars to reduce the cost of drugs for seniors. Drug companies and by default, their board of directors have allegiance to their shareholders, not the the US government or the seniors of this country. I can assure you, this deal may look good on paper (for seniors) and it may benefit seniors a great deal (FREE=MORE) but it is also one step further to the promised land of the senior vote. And it will worsen access to drugs for everyone else. There is no free lunch in this world.

It may save seniors money, but it will not be revenue neutral. It will not save $80 billion dollars over 10 years or reduce overall costs of care. Somehow, someway, the costs will be shifted. It may mean higher drug costs for those privately insured or the uninsured. It may mean decreased access to compassion programs. It may mean higher costs to hospitals. Whatever the agreement means, it will not mean $80 billion dollars saved in the next decade.

Drug companies are not in the business of sacrificing their shareholders or bond holders for patriotic means. They are in the business of making money. And that means they have selfish interests to maximize their ROI for any agreement they make with the government.

The question isn’t really how wonderful this is for seniors. The question is how will buying off seniors affect the rest of America. And I’m telling you here, right now, you will see higher costs for everyone not lucky enough to bathe in a sea of FREE=MORE known as the Medicare National Bank.

*This blog post was originally published at A Happy Hospitalist*

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