Category Archives: Insurance coverage
What the Election Means for Health and Health Care… The Country Needs More Providers, Better Mental Health and Elder Care, and an End to Poverty
Carolyn Montoya, RN, MSN, CPNP, is a fellow with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Nursing and Health Policy Collaborative at the University of New Mexico. A PhD Candidate, Montoya serves on the New Mexico Medicaid Advisory Committee, an advisory body to the Secretary of the state’s Human Services Department and the Director of the Medical Assistance Division Director. The RWJF Human Capital Blog asked scholars and fellows from a few of its programs to consider what the election results will mean for health and health care in the United States.
Human Capital Blog: Do you think there will be fewer challenges to the Affordable Care Act and more attention to how to implement it?
Montoya: Now that the election is over, the reality is that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will not be repealed. As we go forward with the ACA in place, a strong emphasis should be placed on evaluation. Outcome measures, such low rates of diabetes complications or increased immunization rates, will be essential in terms of being able to establish what aspects of the ACA are working and which ones need to be revised.
What the Election Means for Health and Health Care… The Re-Election of President Obama Curtails the Likelihood of Major Medicaid Reductions
Frank J. Thompson, PhD, is a professor at the School of Public Affairs and Administrations and at the Center for State Health Policy at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Thompson is a 2007 recipient of a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Investigator Award in Health Policy Research, studying Medicaid: Political Durability, Democratic Process and Health Care Reform. The RWJF Human Capital Blog asked scholars and fellows from a few of its programs to consider what the election results will mean for health and health care in the United States.
Human Capital Blog: What do you think the election will mean for the country’s health care system?
Thompson: It means that the country can go forward with implementing the Affordable Care Act (ACA). My research focuses on Medicaid—the federal grant program to the states that insures some 65 million low-income people. Under the ACA, Medicaid is slated to cover most people with incomes up to 133 percent of the poverty line as of 2014. In the recent election, the differences between the two parties on the ACA and Medicaid were stark. The Romney-Ryan ticket pledged not only to repeal the ACA but to convert Medicaid to a block grant and to cut funding for the program by more than 30 percent over ten years. The degree to which a Romney administration would have achieved these objectives remains an open question. But the reelection of President Obama curtails the likelihood of major Medicaid reductions over the next four years.
The United States will need 52,000 additional primary care physicians by 2025 to meet demand that is growing due to three trends: population growth, population aging and insurance expansion. That is a key finding from a study published in the November/December issue of the Annals of Family Medicine. The researchers estimate that population growth will account for the majority of the needed increase in primary care doctors.
Given the current number of visits to primary care physicians and an expected population increase of 15.2 percent, the researchers predict that office visits to primary care physicians will increase from 462 million in 2008 to 565 million in 2025. This trend will be especially evident among people 65 and older, a segment of the population that is expected to grow by 60 percent. Population growth will require an additional 33,000 physicians, the study says, and aging another 10,000.
Insurance expansion under the Affordable Care Act will also require additional physicians, the researchers find. Eight thousand physicians will be needed to meet that growth.
The 52,000 additional primary care physicians would represent a 3 percent increase in the workforce.
Voters across the country were presented Tuesday with more than 170 ballot initiatives, many on health-related issues. Among them, according to the Initiative & Referendum Institute at the University of Southern California:
- Assisted Suicide: Voters in Massachusetts narrowly defeated a “Death with Dignity” bill.
- Health Exchanges: Missouri voters passed a measure that prohibits the state from establishing a health care exchange without legislative or voter approval.
- Home Health Care: Michigan voters struck down a proposal that would have required additional training for home health care workers and created a registry of those providers.
- Individual Mandate: Floridians defeated a measure to reject the health reform law’s requirement that individuals obtain health insurance. Voters in Alabama, Montana and Wyoming passed similar measures, which are symbolic because states cannot override federal law.
- Medical Marijuana: Measures to allow for medical use of marijuana were passed in Massachusetts and upheld in Montana, which will make them the 18th and 19th states to adopt such laws. A similar measure was rejected by voters in Arkansas.
- Medicaid Trust Fund: Voters in Louisiana approved an initiative that ensures the state Medicaid trust fund will not be used to make up for budget shortfalls.
- Reproductive Health: Florida voters defeated two ballot measures on abortion and contraceptive services: one that would have restricted the use of public funds for abortions; and one that could have been interpreted to deny women contraceptive care paid for or provided by religious individuals and organizations. Montanans approved an initiative that requires abortion providers to notify parents if a minor under age 16 seeks an abortion, with notification to take place 48 hours before the procedure.
- Tobacco: North Dakota voters approved a smoking ban in public and work places. Missouri voters rejected a tobacco tax increase that would have directed some of the revenue to health education.
Peter Ubel, MD, is a physician and behavioral scientist. He is the Madge and Dennis T. McLawhorn University Professor of Business, Public Policy and Medicine at Duke University, an alumnus of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Generalist Physician Faculty Scholar program, and the recipient of an RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research.
I come from an ardent Republican family. Suspicion of government, you could say, runs in my genes. No surprise then that the first time my parents and siblings heard about Obama’s individual health insurance mandate, they were against it.
I live in a college town. Suspicion of Republicans, you could say, lurks in my ‘hood. No surprise then that in the 1990’s, when the Republicans were proposing alternatives to President Clinton’s health care reform efforts, people in my neighborhood were against it. Funny thing though: that Republican alternative was based, in part, on the idea of an individual health insurance mandate, an idea my current Chapel Hill neighbors largely support.
That’s right, in a previous life the individual mandate was a Republican idea and now, in most people’s minds, it is a Democratic one. Indeed, mere mention of the policy elicits strong emotion from people, even though public opinion polls have consistently shown that the majority of Americans do not understand how the mandate works, or why both parties have, at one time or another, viewed it as a good idea.
So I decided to make a video with my twelve-year-old son, an unscripted discussion about health insurance (what twelve-year-old wouldn’t want to have that conversation?), to see how easily a middle schooler could understand the rationale for incentivizing people to buy health insurance.
This is part of a series in which Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, grantees and alumni offer perspectives on the U.S. Supreme Court rulings on the Affordable Care Act. Michelle Scott recently graduated from Rowan University and is an intern at RWJF, working with The Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action.
I’m 22 and uninsured. I’ve only had health insurance for the four years I went to college, and now that I’ve just graduated, I no longer have that luxury. I survived the first 18 years of my life without it, but thanks to the Affordable Care Act, I don’t have to live without it for the rest of my life.
The day I received my college health insurance card in the mail, that flimsy piece of laminated paper with my name on it, I vividly remember thinking, “Wow. I’m allowed to be sick.” During my time at college I never got sick, nor injured in a serious accident of any kind where I actually needed medical attention. There was a brief period where I thought I smashed my hip and orbital bone in a skateboard incident my senior year of college, but after sitting on the ground at the skate park for a minute, and contemplating whether my family could afford to patch me up, I decided to walk it off. From my very early childhood, that’s how I learned to treat any kind of issue: Walk it off, or rest up until you can walk it off.
In late January, the nation’s second-largest health insurer announced a new initiative designed to improve care and reduce costs by raising reimbursements for primary care. WellPoint will provide additional revenue to primary care providers for “non-visit” services that it does not currently reimburse, such as preparing care plans for patients with multiple and complex conditions. The new program is designed to build and expand on WellPoint’s existing medical home program.
“Primary care physicians who are committed to expanding access, to coordinating care for their patients and being accountable for the quality of care and the health outcomes of those patients, will get paid more than they do today, and we’re committed to helping them achieve these quality and cost goals,” Dr. Harlan Levine, WellPoint executive vice president, Comprehensive Health Solutions, said in a statement. “Primary care is the foundation of medicine, and it can and should be the foundation of our members’ health.”
WellPoint predicts the program will reduce overall medical costs by as much as 20 percent by 2015. The program will launch in select markets later this year.
A study published in the August 2011 issue of Health Affairs finds that physician practices in the United States spend significantly more time and money interacting with payers than their counterparts in Canada. For nurses and medical assistants, the disparity is huge.
The new study finds “substantial” costs in time and labor to work with multiple insurance plans, especially for small practices with just one or two physicians. Nursing staff and medical assistants in the United States spend nearly ten times more time than their counterparts in Ontario interacting with health plans. Nurses and medical assistants here spend 20.6 hours per physician per week interacting with health plans, compared to 2.5 hours per physician per week spent by Ontario nursing staff.
The study, based on surveys in both countries, estimates that overall, U.S. physician practices spend nearly four times more per physician per year in administrative costs interacting with health plans and payers than physician practices in Ontario. Canada has a single-payer health care system.
“If US physicians had administrative costs similar to those of Ontario physicians, the total savings would be approximately $27.6 billion per year,” the authors write.
Congratulations to RWJF Community Health Leader Judi Hilman (2008) for being named Families USA’s Consumer Health Advocate of the Year. Hilman is executive director of the Utah Health Policy Project, which assures quality, affordable, comprehensive health care coverage for all Utah residents through research, policy advocacy and civic participation activities.
The award, which recognizes outstanding contributions on behalf of our nation’s health care consumers, was presented to Hilman at Families USA’s annual Health Action conference last month.
Learn more about Hilman’s work.