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11 Healthcare Predictions For 2011

Here are 11 things that are absolutely going to happen* in 2011 (they’re in no particular order….or are they?):

1.  There will be no big compromise between President Obama and the Republicans on healthcare reform. Why? Because the law is such a massive collection of, well, stuff, that it is pretty much impossible to find pieces of it that you could cut a deal on, even if you wanted to. And no, the federal district court decision on the individual mandate doesn’t change my mind…and in fact may breathe new life into other parts of the law). State governments, insurance companies, and private businesses have made all kinds of important and hard to reverse choices based on the law as is. There’s not much of an appetite outside of people trying to score political points for making big changes.

2. No major employer will drop their health benefits. No major employer is going to outsource their healthcare benefits to the government any time soon. Employers — particularly the big self-insured employers that pay for healthcare costs as a bottom-line expense — see their benefits as an integral part of their business and competitive strategies. As Congress looks at this issue more closely, they will learn this.

3. Time that doctors spend with patients will be less in 2011 than earlier years. It’s a long-term trend, and the factors that create this problem aren’t getting better. The latest government data show that the average doctor visit features face to face time with the patient of 15 minutes or less. With an aging population, increasing numbers of people getting health insurance, and no influx of new doctors, this problem will keep getting worse. Read more »

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

Employee Health: The First “Benefits Package” Blog Carnival

Welcome to The Benefits Package — the very first employee benefits blog carnival. After healthcare reform, employee benefits move to center stage as one of the most important issues facing Americans.

So what are employers, insurers, and the government really doing to rein in healthcare costs, get their employees to live healthier lives, and improve healthcare quality?

The Benefits Package is the first-ever blog carnival dedicated to these issues. With benefits executives starting to make the leap into the blogosphere, The Benefits Package will highlight the best insights and opinions on this important subject. You will discover new blogs, learn new things, and hopefully think about issues a little differently. I’ll host the first couple of Benefits Packages, and then others will take their turn.

Below you’ll find a terrific set of posts by some true thought leaders. If you like what you see, please submit a post of your own next time. Enjoy the first Benefits Package!

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At the Health Business Blog, David Williams explains why mini-med plans aren’t as bad as some people would have you believe.

At Hank Stern’s Insure Blog, Mike Feehan explains how the federal government makes private coverage more expensive in a way that makes its own coverage cheaper.

Jen Benz of the Benz Communications Blog explains that companies who fail to put their benefits information online are making a big mistake. Read more »

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

“Healthcare Diplomacy” And A Night At The White House

It’s not often you get invited to the White House. I had my chance this week, when I was a guest at the White House’s Hanukkah party. Now, when I say “guest,” I mean I was a guest of the president — of Hadassah, that is.

My mother, Nancy Falchuk, is the president of one of the largest Jewish charitable organizations in the world, Hadassah. Her organization sponsors many different charitable activities, particularly related to healthcare (here she is in Jerusalem speaking at the ceremony lighting the walls of the Old City pink in honor of the Susan G. Komen Foundation.)

One of the terms she uses a lot is “healthcare diplomacy” — the idea that part of the solution to intractable problems of war and peace is building bridges through something that we all share — the need for healthcare. Her organization does incredible work to realize this mission. She has been a regular guest at this annual event at the White House. Read more »

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

Workers Compensation: A Model For The Future Of American Healthcare?

There’s a country with an unusual healthcare system. In it, you often spend about as much time with your lawyer as you do your doctor. There are special courts set up to decide what kinds of treatment you are allowed to have. And doctors have to be careful that they don’t say or do the wrong thing, or else they risk being blackballed by insurance companies.

The country:  The United States of America.

You may not realize it, but if you hurt your back at work you end up in a different healthcare system than if you hurt your back at home. Sure, you may end up with similar doctors or hospitals, but your experience of healthcare will be completely different. Here’s why.

If you get hurt at work, you’re covered by the “workers compensation” system. That system has its roots over a century ago, when employers didn’t do much to take care of workers. So the system is based on laws that mandate employers to take care of injured workers, often for the rest of their lives. In exchange for this very comprehensive coverage, employers and their insurers get a great deal of control over what care workers get and where they get it.

Does the workers compensation system represent a model of how a future American healthcare system might work? It might. Read more »

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

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*

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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