Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report Examines Recent Health Reform Developments
Summaries of several developments related to health care reform appear below.
- Rising costs without reform: A failure to overhaul the U.S. health care system could result in 66 million U.S. residents being uninsured and individual and family spending on health care increasing by 68% by 2019, according to a recent study prepared by the Urban Institute, CQ HealthBeat reports. The study, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, examined three different scenarios that could occur if the U.S. does not reform its health care system. The study assumed that 49 million U.S. residents currently are uninsured, based on 2007 figures adjusted for coverage losses from the recent rise in unemployment. Under the best-case scenario, 53.1 million people would be uninsured in 2019 and individual and family spending would increase by at least 46%. The 66 million uninsured U.S. residents and the 68% increase in health spending were estimates under the worst-case scenario. In addition, inaction on health care reform could nearly double government expenditures as more U.S. residents become eligible for programs such as Medicaid and CHIP, according to the study. According to RWJF, the total costs from uncompensated care also would increase, thus "putting a tremendous strain on health systems, hospitals, providers of clinical care and local municipalities" (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 5/21). The study is available online.
AARP: AARP on Thursday called for health care reform legislation to include provisions to close Medicare Part D's so-called "doughnut hole" coverage gap, CQ HealthBeat reports. In addition, the group said that efforts to lower prescription drug costs should address increased spending on biologics, such as vaccines or blood serums, which often are difficult and costly to produce as generics. AARP said older U.S. residents particularly are affected by the increased spending on biologics because such treatments often are prescribed for conditions such as cancer, arthritis and multiple sclerosis. CQ HealthBeat reports that Congress is expected to take up a bill this year that would accelerate approval for generic biologics through the FDA (CQ HealthBeat, 5/21).
- Insurance market: Liberal advocacy group Health Care for America Now on Wednesday released a report that found that few insurance companies dominate the market in several states and that the concentration of insurers has led to an increase in the cost of premiums, the Raleigh News & Observer reports. According to the report, premiums on average rose by 75% from 2000 to 2007, while personal income rose only by 14% during the same period. The report also profiled marketplace conditions in several states using 2007 data from the American Medical Association. According to the report, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina and UnitedHealth Group control 73% of North Carolina's private insurance market (Avery, Raleigh News & Observer, 5/21). In Florida, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida and Aetna control a 45% share, the report found (Quintero, Orlando Sentinel, 5/20). In addition, BCBS and UnitedHealthcare control 68% of Texas' insurance market. According to the Houston Chronicle, the report states that a government-sponsored public plan would not undermine the private insurance market (Ackerman, Houston Chronicle, 5/21). The report is available online.
- Reform forum: Four "political heavyweights" on Wednesday participated in a forum on health care reform at the Georgia World Congress Center as part of a biotechnology conference, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. At the session, former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said that a government-sponsored health insurance plan would hamper innovation and competition and lead to tax increases. Karl Rove, former chief adviser to former President George W. Bush, added, "A public plan is a government-run plan. And a government-run plan is bad." However, Howard Dean, former chair of the Democratic National Committee, said he supported a government-sponsored public insurance plan that would not eliminate the private sector. Dean said, "We need a public insurance option to give people a choice." Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) said that a public plan would lower health care costs, adding that U.S. residents want Congress to "get something done" on health care and "are very concerned about the implications if we do nothing" (Schneider, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 5/21).
- Faith-based campaign: Faith-based groups Faithful America and Cover All Families have launched a campaign on Christian radio stations advocating for health care reform, the Wall Street Journal's "Washington Wire" reports. The ads, titled "Abundant Life," feature a voice saying, "All Americans should be able to get the care they need for their families, when they need it. God desires abundant life for all people. It's time we step up, ask our politicians to move the debate forward, so we can get the reform we desperately need." The campaign also urges listeners to contact their congressional representatives about health care reform. The ads are running in seven states -- Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri and Nebraska -- which have "representatives and senators who may well determine the fate of health reform," according to CAF (Mundy, "Washington Wire," Wall Street Journal, 5/21).