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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

FL Gov Rick Scott - Prime Example Of GOP Absurdity

Category: Health Care
Posted: 05/06/15 19:05

by Dave Mindeman

It is frustrating to watch the absurdity that Republican office holders use to make health care a political punching bag rather than moving it toward its intended purpose - helping people with their medical needs.

The latest absurdity comes from Gov. Rick Scott in Florida. He has a budget problem and it comes from health care for the uninsured.

He blames the Federal Government:

"The federal government should not just completely cut off a federal program for low-income families that has been working for years," he said.

What Scott is talking about is....

At a meeting on Wednesday, Scott urged Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell to keep federal funds flowing for a "Low Income Pool," a $2.2 billion program that uses local tax funds to draw down $1.3 billion in federal funding.

This pool was a temporary measure. And the solution was that this pool of uninsured people would be eligible for the expanded Medicaid provision in the ACA. The Feds would pay for the program - all Rick Scott had to do was accept it.

But because Florida Republicans wanted to make the ACA a front and center political issue, they refused the expansion. They were going to show Obama that they would not yield.

Only they miscalculated because without that money their budget was going to get worse and worse until the present time when Rick Scott is out there begging for Federal help.

He could still solve his problem and accept the Medicaid expansion, but now he has to deal with a rigid Republican legislature which won't budge. They adjourned without fixing the problem and now Scott has to call a special session with no agreement in the works.

If Rick Scott refuses the Medicaid expansion solution, he expects the Federal Government to renew a program that they have already cancelled and to do it with new money - rather than the already appropriated money that would come from activating the ACA provision on Medicaid.

This is absolute stupidity and stubborness.

But that is the method of Republicans these days - rather than do what is in the best interest of their constituents, they would rather play partisan political games that mess with the real lives of real people.
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The ACA: More Than Helping The Uninsured

Category: Health Care
Posted: 04/02/15 10:41

by Dave Mindeman

When it comes to the Affordable Care Act, we tend to focus on the broader goal of the law - to get affordable insurance for those who do not have it.

But there are other aspects of the law that have improved health care and have not been brought to public attention.

This is one -

The Affordable Care Act is "a major reason why we've seen 50,000 fewer preventable patient deaths in hospitals." - President Obama (March 25, 2015)

That statement got some attention and a fact checker looked into it....

The 50,000-number is derived from a study, released on Dec. 2, 2014, by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, an arm of the Department of Health and Human Services. The study looked at the impact of the Partnership for Patients, a $460-million program funded by the health law which ties together 3,800 hospitals in 27 "health engagement" networks, with the goal of reducing ten categories of "patient harms," such as adverse drug events, pressure ulcers and catheter-associated urinary tract infections. The networks work together to identify possible solutions to common problems and then circulate those ideas among the various hospitals, with the goal of reducing preventable hospital-acquired conditions (HACs) by 40 percent and 30-day hospital readmissions by 20 percent.

Preventable deaths in the hospital has been a problem for many years. And a lot of it is due to a lack of coordination among hospitals and the lack of information transfer. The ACA addressed that - and it looks like it did so successfully.

Largely relying on more than 30,000 medical records, the study looked at how many fewer patient-related problems had taken place in hospitals--the study calculated 1.3 million fewer incidents over three years-and then used that to determine how many lives might have been saved. In general, the researchers used mortality estimates from other research...."There is some uncertainty about these estimates," one official said. "In some cases, the literature [on excess mortality] is better than others. But it is quite conceivable that 1.3 million fewer people are being harmed."

That number (over 3 years) is an impressive improvement in health care. Hospitals have fewer adverse incidents and fewer uninsured patients. Not only is that improving health care in general but it has a positive effect on the hospital bottom line.

The ACA has been a controversial bill and the changes to health care in the United States have been extensive. But the improvements are real and tangible.

If the Republicans really want to return to pre-ACA health care, they will have to take away all of its benefits in the process.
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MNSure Critic And Non-Supporter, Rep. Mack Says She Will Fix It?

Category: Health Care
Posted: 03/22/15 01:14

by Dave Mindeman

Rep. Tara Mack voted against the creation of a health care exchange. She worked to delay its implementation. When the state hurried its way into making an exchange, she offered no suggestions or help. When MNSure had its rollout problems, she was quick to criticize but offered no solutions. When the exchange successfully enrolled 183,000 Minnesotans, she focused on the software issues and glitches. When studies showed that Minnesota's uninsured rate declined by 40%, she said nothing.

But now we are supposed to believe that Rep. Tary Mack is going to work on fixing the system and "make it better".

Rep. Tara Mack, R-Apple Valley....sponsors House File 5, which would direct the commerce commissioner to ask the federal government for a 1332 waiver under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The waiver would allow qualified health plans to be sold outside of MNsure -- but eligible consumers would still receive federal subsidies. We should expand choice without making insurance purchasing as "frustrating, awkward and inconvenient" as MNsure has made it, Mack said.

In other words, Mack is working to give the power back to the insurance companies.

If, as Mack suggests, we take enrollment outside of MNSure, then insurers would have to have access to eligibility data to allow for tax subsidies. That would require them to have IRS data. Some have suggested that MNSure could still determine eligibility, but that outside insurers could then offer the plans with the subsidies. If we just let insurers get access to our private financial data, how can our data be protected? And if we use MNSure to determine that eligibility, then why would we even need the fix? The determination of eligiblity has been the main problem for MNSure from the beginning. Once the eligibility has been verified, MNSure becomes a simple shopping exchange.

Frankly, we have already been working to fix the initial problems that plagued MNSure - an IT nightmare. During the second enrollment, many of those problems went away. We still have things to fix, but what Rep. Mack is proposing is to make another major change in how this system operates....and what guarantee do we have that more software and data privacy issues don't occur?

Having our own state exchange has increased importance as the Supreme Court makes its determination on the ACA language involving those exchanges. We need to protect the Minnesotans that now have health insurance that they couldn't get before the ACA.

Rep. Mack is not going to give that protection. And her past record on MNSure has never been involved with support for the exchange - it has always been an effort to destroy it.

How can we trust someone like that to offer new legislation on this issue?
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