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Accountable Care Act Unconstitutional? The Fate Of Americans’ Health

A Florida’s judge’s ruling that the Accountable Care Act (ACA) is unconstitutional doesn’t resolve the underlying constitutional issue (which will ultimately have to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court) but it has introduced new uncertainty for the $2.3 trillion health care industry, and emboldened the law’s critics to push even harder for repeal (not that they weren’t trying already).

The Wall Street Journal’s (WSJ) health blog reports that “states and companies that are supposed to be implementing the law trying to figure out what to do next. The WSJ reports that the 26 states that are parties to the suit are considering whether to ask the Supreme Court to take up the case now, before it has fully wended its way through the legal system. The New York Times (NYT) quotes the governor of Florida as saying that until the fate of the law is clear, “we’re not going to spend a lot of time and money” to implement it. Other states, even if part of the suit, will move ahead,” the NYT says. The WSJ also reports that most health care companies plan to “stay the course” and continue to plan for the law’s implementation. Meanwhile, the Obama administration says that the judge’s ruling will have no effect on the implementation of the law or the requirement that states (including those who brought the suit) comply with its mandates and claims that most constitutional experts agree with the administration.

Now, I am not a lawyer, so I don’t have any expertise on the legal arguments over the ACA’s constitutionality. For those of you who want to hear more about the constitutional questions from people who might actually know what they are talking about, I recommend this Health Care Blog post from attorney Mark Hall, a critic of the Florida judge’s ruling. He notes that “at least half of the relevant part of the opinion is devoted to discussing what Hamilton, Madison, Jefferson and other Founding Fathers would have thought about the individual mandate” (Judge Vinson concluded that they would not have approved of it) but “the same Founders wrote a Constitution that allowed the federal government to take property from unwilling sellers and passive owners, when needed to construct highways, bridges and canals.” The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein — a supporter of the Affordable Care Act — has posted an excellent overview of what legal experts are saying about the ruling, pro and con, including a link to a posting that argues Judge Vinson ruled correctly. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The ACP Advocate Blog by Bob Doherty*

How Bad The Government Is At Selling Insurance (Or Is It?)

Did you know there is actually a “public option” in the health care reform law?  It’s true — it’s called the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP), and it’s designed to cover people who who have been unable to get insurance because of a pre-existing condition. To hear the stories about how big of a problem this is in America, you’d think a product like this would be a big hit. Except it’s been a big flop.

How big of a flop? Well, according to the Washington Post, they missed their sales targets by 98 percent:

Government economists had projected that people turned down by private insurers would flock to the new Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan, with 375,000 expected to sign up this year. But as of this week, a little more than 8,000 had enrolled, officials said.

According to the Post, it seems the government has figured out what they think the problem is: “sticker shock.” The price was too high. So they’re dropping the price by 20 percent and significantly enhancing the benefits. But can that really be the problem? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*

Health Insurance: New Survey Reveals Record Number Of Uninsured

Last month the U.S. Census Bureau released its annual survey on health insurance coverage. The results were startling, yet few politicians seemed to take notice:

– The number of people with health insurance declined for the first time ever in almost two decades. In fact, as reported by CNN this is the first time since the Census Bureau started collecting data on health insurance coverage in 1987 that fewer people reported that they had health insurance: “There were 253.6 million people with health insurance in 2009, the latest data available, down from 255.1 million a year earlier.” The percentage of the population without coverage increased from 15.4 percent to 16.7 percent.

– Almost 51 million U.S. residents had no health insurance coverage at all, a record high, and an increase of almost five million uninsured from 2008.

– Fewer Americans received health insurance coverage through their jobs, continuing a decade-long trend. The number covered by employment-based health insurance declined from 176.3 million to 169.7 million, reports the Census Bureau. Based on the Census numbers, the Economic Policy Institute observes that “the share of non-elderly Americans with employer-sponsored health insurance declined for the ninth year in a row, down from 61.9% in 2008 to 58.9% in 2009, a total decline of 9.4 percentage points since 2000.” Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The ACP Advocate Blog by Bob Doherty*

Healthcare Reform: Motivating Self-Responsibility In Patients

Last week I heard a lecture about Accountable Care Organizations by a physician leader working for one of the major hospital systems. His discussion made me realize that large physician organizations and hospitals are spending lots of time solving problems of quality medical care. In my opinion quality medical care has not been adequately defined.

A working definition right now is to decrease hospital stays, efficient medical care for a disease at lower cost, avoidance of medical errors in the hospital, and avoidance of hospital acquired infections. These are important goals. They must be attached to monetary incentives. Many of these problems can be solved now.

The solution demands the development of processes of care. An important question is how much money will process improvement save? I estimate that this process improvement could save an estimated 7 to 10% of the healthcare dollar.

The real question should be focused on how to repair the healthcare system by decreasing costs while improving the health of Americans. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Repairing the Healthcare System*

Be A Primary Care Doctor In Just 3 Years

It’s well documented on this blog that the primary care shortage will only worsen once most of America has access to affordable health insurance.

As I wrote in a recent op-ed, not only will there a shortage of primary care physicians, but nurse practitioners and physician assistants won’t alleviate the problem either, mostly because they are also enticed by the lucrative allure of specialty practice. Enter the three-year primary care physician. Apparently, the fourth year of medical school was deemed expendable. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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