policy

Why Medicaid Is Important

President Trump’s budget proposal reveals that his administration plans to cut a whopping $610 billion from Medicaid funding over the next ten years. Including the additional $839 billion that the American Health Care Act plans to slash from Medicaid, the total cuts to the largest health insurance program in the U.S. could round up to nearly $1.5 trillion. That’s an enormous cut. But, it’s expected from a Republican-controlled government that prides itself on fiscal conservatism (sometimes at the expense of people’s livelihood). Medicaid is often criticized, for reasons other than how expensive it is to fund. The main criticisms are that it is an entitlement program that actually provides bad coverage. Some of these criticisms are fair. For instance, individuals on Medicaid have limited access to providers, while providers are reimbursed at low rates for treating  patients—both of these factors sum up to bad coverage. But, criticisms seem to ignore the essence of why Medicaid is important in the first place—it provides coverage to individuals who otherwise wouldn’t be able to access health care. In fact, studies show that its expansion may actually have a positive effect on health care by improving affordability and access. A report by the United States Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) found that 78 percent of Medicaid expansion enrollees indicated that they wouldn’t have been able to access or afford care prior to its expansion....

Pros and Cons of The California Single Payer Bill

The California state Senate passed SB 562 on June 1. The California Single Payer Bill would put an end to private health insurance, as well as Medicare and Medicaid, and replace it with a single-payer health care system. Under a single-payer system, all California residents will be eligible to receive health insurance from a single state-sponsored insurance system called Healthy California. All funding for insurance will come from the state government, which means that there are no out-of-pocket costs for consumers. Single-payer health insurance systems are widely used in European countries, and they have been lauded by Democrats in the United States because they guarantee health insurance for all. In many ways, a single-payer system seems like a dream come true—everyone is covered and consumers don’t have to pay a dime! But, like every health care system, a single-payer system has it’s drawbacks. To better understand what the The California Single Payer Bill will look like, here’s a list of pros and cons: PROS California Single Payer Bill Means Insurance for everyone! This is perhaps the greatest and most palpable benefit of a single-payer insurance system—everyone is eligible to enroll in Healthy California. Under Obamacare, California’s uninsured rate dropped from 17 percent in 2013 to 7 percent today. This is a dramatic improvement, but there are still roughly 3 million people in California that are uninsured. This problem of access will be eradicated completely...

Trump’s Education Budget Cuts Mental Health Money For Schools

President Trump’s new education budget proposes to dedicate no money—that’s right, zero—to fund mental health services and other student support services for public schools. Previously, the government provided schools with $1.65 billion in funding for various initiatives, including mental health services. But, in an attempt to reduce the federal government’s role in education, Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have decided it’s best to cut all funding for these important student services. Lack of funding is a serious issue for a number of reasons. According to the NIH, just over 20 percent of children have had a seriously debilitating mental disorder either currently or at some point in their life. Nonetheless, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, only 21% of children with mental health issues actually receive services. There is a disparity between ill children and treatment received, and this gap may grow if funding for school-based mental health services is slashed. The disparity may become an even greater challenge for students who live in areas where community-based mental health services are scarce or too expensive—without school-based services, these children’s options are severely limited. The new education budget’s lack of concern for mental health services may harm children’s health in the long run. A child’s mental disorder may worsen and continue into adulthood if not treated early and appropriately. That’s why school services are vital and even preventive—they...

Trumpcare is Bad for Women’s Health

The American Health Care Act (AHCA), or Trumpcare, doesn’t seem to care for women’s health. The bill—which was narrowly passed by the House of Representatives on May 4th—allows states to withdraw from providing essential health benefits, which includes maternity and preventive care. Under Obamacare, all insurance plans are required to provide ten essential health benefits. This provision protects patients—it mandates insurance companies to cover the costs of important care, while also preventing them from selling barebones coverage to consumers. However, as the AHCA/Trumpcare permits states to waive coverage of essential health benefits, the cost of care will shift from insurance company to the patient. And, patients will be forced to pick up a huge tab out of pocket. This will disproportionately affect women who, without coverage, will have to pay high prices for treatment that’s vital to their health, including birth control, cancer screenings, and routine vaccines. Fortunately, the AHCA/Trumpcare isn’t the law yet. But imagine just how much women will potentially have to pay under its provisions! Amino, a healthcare transparency company, looked through their database of nine billion health insurance claims to uncover the astronomically high prices women patients may have to pay under the AHCA. Here’s a summary: About $1,000 for an intrauterine device (IUD). IUDs provide long-lasting birth control. Depending on the type, they need to be replaced every three to 10 years. $4,000 for...

Before You Board That Plane – Have You Had Your Measles Vaccination?

The  Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) shot is one of the many immunizations recommended by the CDC for healthcare workers and it is on the immunization schedule for children as early as 12 months. However, small outbreaks of Measles continue to occur in the US, with the vast majority of these infections coming from travelers returning from overseas trips. A highly contagious virus, Measles symptoms include high fever, cough and runny nose, followed by a red rash. In about 30% of cases there are serious complications, such as brain inflammation, blindness and pneumonia. Before immunization became common in the United States there were 3-4 million cases of measles each year, but as of 2016, the WHO declared that Measles was no longer endemic in the Americas. A new study from the Annals of Internal Medicine takes a closer look at pre-travel health consultations and the missed opportunities to establish measles immunity in adults travelling overseas. In association with the CDC’s Global TravEpiNet, researchers utilized data from 24 sites where adults born after 1957 filled out a survey regarding their pre-travel medical consultations. From an initial pool of 40,810 travelers, 6,612 travelers were deemed eligible to receive the MMR vaccination at the time of the consultation, meaning that they were in good health and did not report already having the MMR vaccination. Despite their eligibility, over 53% of patients did not go...

The Literal Price of Health Care

With all the dialogue on Obamacare, Trumpcare, the ACA, and the AHCA, Dr. Fizzy briefly reflects on the cost of health care.  Recently my daughter sprained her ankle. Because she’s a bit of a drama queen, I took her to urgent care after she refused to put weight on it for a day. The x-ray didn’t show a fracture and they gave her a crutch and an Aircast, which she used for exactly one day before she was better. A couple of months later, I got a bill for $150 for the crutch and Aircast that we barely used. Because of large deductibles and other reasons, we end up paying a lot of our outpatient healthcare expenses out of pocket. But the problem with that is that you have no idea what you’re going to pay until the bill actually arrives. If they had told me it was going to be $150 for that stuff, I never would’ve taken it. Think about how crazy it is. You would never go to a furniture store, buy a sofa, and just wait a few months until the bill comes to see how much you ended up paying for it. But that’s what I’m constantly doing with my healthcare bills. I can give multiple other examples. Recently, my own doctor ordered a lab test which I didn’t think was entirely necessary, but...

The American Health Care Act and its Effects on Healthcare

Repeal and replace has been the ongoing motto of the current administration with regards to the Affordable Care Act. Repealing has remained the easy task, but replacing is the hard part, the one filled with frustration of a system that is can swallow you whole.   While the Affordable Care Act is not without its shortcomings, it was a success in several ways. Mark Hall, JD, one of the leading scholars in the areas of health care law and public policy at Wake Forest University, made three clear points about the ACA at a town hall in Winter 2017: 1) it was never written to provide universal coverage; 2) most Americans have no idea that the uninsured rate is the lowest in decades; 3) the insurance laws were changed so that no one was uninsurable.   However, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), the replacement for the ACA, seems less likely a repeal and replace, and more like a repeal with no clear strategies to on improvement. And when it comes to health and lives of millions of Americans, an inadequate replacement is not good enough. The House Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means committees initially introduced the AHCA in March 2017, where it failed to pass. This bill as it stood in March would have repealed tax penalties for those without insurance, reduced Medicaid spending, incentivized states...