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ACA’s Medicaid Expansion: Not Good for Your Health

in Economic Liberty, Healthcare, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

ACA’s Medicaid Expansion: Not Good for Your Health

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In 2010, just a few weeks before Congress passed the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama said that taxpayers “end up subsidizing the uninsured when they’re forced to go to the emergency room for care…. You can’t get … savings if those people are still going to the emergency room.”

healthcarePart of what the current administration’s signature health law was supposed to do was to increase cost savings so visits to the ER weren’t as common. After helping to pass the law, then-Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi claimed that “the uninsured will get coverage [so they are] no longer [being] left to the emergency room for medical care.”

Six years have passed since those who supported ACA and its main provisions promised to bring the number of ER visits down and yet, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that assuming ACA would lower the number of ER visits was a mistake.

With the expansion of Medicaid in states like Oregon, ER visits increased. But the increase is not the only consequence of Medicaid expansion. When compared to 2015, this year’s Medicaid expansion spending is 49 percent higher per enrollee than what government had expected.

In order to expand Medicaid in Oregon, officials used lottery to expand Medicaid benefits to a limited number of lower income, non-disabled adults.

According to the study’s authors, “Medicaid’s value to recipients is lower than the government’s costs of the program, and usually substantially below,” perhaps because, researchers found, expanded Medicaid coverage “resulted in significantly more outpatient visits, hospitalizations, prescription medications, and emergency department visits.”

When it comes to how Medicaid expansion pushed individuals to the ER, researchers explain that, during the past 15 months, Medicaid increased ER visits by 40 percent.

Researchers found that even if patients have Medicaid, there’s “no evidence that Medicaid coverage makes use of the physician’s office and use of ERs substitutes for one another.”

What many choose to forget is that Medicaid expansion was made possible because of ACA. And according to the government’s own projections, each Medicaid enrollee cost the taxpayer roughly $6.366 in 2015, 49 percent higher than past predictions. This cost spike is mostly due to the fact the federal government reimburses 100 percent of state spending on enrollees who were added after the expansion was launched.

When ACA became law, states were given enough incentives to pay insurance companies high payment rates so new enrollees were cared for, but the high payment rates could only be covered by the federal taxpayer. Since many physicians are leaving the system altogether, preferring to not accept new Medicaid enrollees due to lower rates, patients continued to use ER at a high rate, even higher than years past. So coverage, in this case specifically, did nothing to help patients in need. The result is higher cost to the taxpayer. Instead of making people healthier and helping individuals who are unable to afford medical care, researchers found that the result has been the exact opposite, invalidating ACA apologists.

Will they continue to ignore these results?

Drug Prices Are High Because Government Protects Monopolies

in Healthcare, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

Drug Prices Are High Because Government Protects Monopolies

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Ever since the EpiPen scandal hit the public like a ton of bricks, many outlets contended that greed, not cronyism, was to blame.

pillsBut when looked closely, EpiPen is just another example of corporate influence and lobbying shaping public policy. The ones who benefit are always the same individuals who pressed for changes in the first place.

In an article for the Fiscal Times, Mercatus Center’s Marc Joffe contended that the drug price problem could be fixed by targeting the Food and Drug Administration. But not by giving the agency more regulatory power. Instead, Joffe argues that, stripping the agency of its power would do America a world of good.

In the article, Joffe tells the story of how the FDA obtained its power, noting that it was a morning sickness pill that prompted the nationwide support for the Kefauver Harris Amendment, which “gave the [FDA] most of the power it now exerts in regulating drugs.”

As the FDA expanded its power, regulating every single piece of medication in America, drug prices increased considerably, while access to many life-saving drugs remains restricted. To Joffe, the “drug crisis” we now face as a nation has everything to do with the empowerment of the FDA, prompting the scholar to urge lawmakers to look at the free market for a solution if what they are truly after is to lower drug prices.

In a competitive market, Joffe writes, “price equals the marginal cost of production.” But even in an imperfect world, he contends that, when “prices [are] well above production costs,” firms see an incentive to compete. But if markets are restricted and companies are granted exclusive rights to produce and sell certain drugs, firms are unable to compete. Without competition, monopolies set the rules, making way to high costs and low effectiveness.

In his article, Joffe argues that, if Congress is serious about helping patients from all walks of life, they must stop considering the idea of passing laws to expedite the FDA’s approvals for new drugs. Instead, Joffe writes, “[allowing] multiple organizations to approve drugs, providing competition to the FDA … [or allowing] pharmaceutical companies sell whichever medications they believe to be safe and effective — with the understanding that patients can win large judgments if the companies fail to produce and market their treatments responsibly,” would both be better options that would deliver better, and more effective results.

Freedom, after all, is the answer to most of our problems. And that’s why governments often contend the opposite.

Nurse Practitioners Want to Help Patients, but Stifling Rules Stand in the Way

in Economic Liberty, Healthcare, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

Nurse Practitioners Want to Help Patients, but Stifling Rules Stand in the Way

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

The fight to serve Americans freely, offering low income patients the option of having access to affordable care, has been an important battle for nurses in certain states.

According to Watchdog.org, nurse practitioners in Pennsylvania are beginning to question the straining and oftentimes useless requirements they must meet in order to help their patients.

MedicIn many states, nurses with advanced degrees and special certifications are allowed to perform several functions primarily performed by physicians. While giving these nurse practitioners the freedom to help patients without access to expensive health insurance is important, many states limit their effectiveness by forcing nurses to seek the approval from doctors before being able to help patients in need.

To the thousands of patients who benefit from having access to nurse practitioners, the process may seem confusing. But they are not alone, healthcare providers also share their frustration.

To nurse Jerry Driscoll, a nurse practitioner running Primary Homecare, doctors “are signing paperwork on patients they’ve never seen,” making their job extremely difficult. After all, nurses like Driscoll “can order their insulin, but not their shoes” he said.

In an interview with Watchdog.org, Driscoll explained that issuing prescriptions or even ordering medical devices such a simple walker or orthopedic shoes is impossible for nurse practitioners in Pennsylvania, forcing organizations such as Primary Homecare to spend thousands of dollars yearly to maintain collaborative agreements with local physicians.

If Primary Homecare didn’t have to spend $25,000 a year due to the state’s laws, Driscoll explained, he would be able to give his patients much better care. Some of the pieces of equipment Driscoll’s company would be able to afford if laws were different include mobile imaging equipment and other technologies used for blood tests. On top of that, not having to spend so much on agreements with physicians could also lower the cost of care to patients, making access to direct healthcare much more affordable.

Last year, lawmakers in the state sought to put an end to this problem by introducing legislation that would have ended the mandatory collaborative agreements between physicians and nurse practitioners.

While the last attempt had failed in the previous session, the bills introduced in the State House and Senate last year are currently languishing in legislative committees. If at least one passes, Pennsylvania would be the 22nd state to allow “full practice” models, giving nurse practitioners the freedom to practice more broadly but still within the scope of their training.

But before nurses are able to obtain the freedom they require to better care for their patients, they must fight the crony capitalists at the Pennsylvania Medical Society, who are opposing the bills currently under review.

According to the medical association, physician oversight of nurse practitioners is essential. The idea that the arrangement between physicians and nurse practitioners is just a formality is far from the truth, said Karen Rizzo, the president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society.

But according to recent studies, the notion that patients get better care from nurse practitioners in contact with physicians is nothing but a myth.

Nurse practitioners, the five studies conclude, improve patient outcomes while also reducing healthcare costs by as much as 29 percent. One of the studies has also suggested that patients who have access to nurse practitioners have lower hospital admission rates.

As Pennsylvania struggles with 155 areas in which patients have little to no access to adequate health care, loosening nurse practitioner’s requirements could help to give more patients access to quality care at a lower price.

What are lawmakers waiting for?​

Wouldn’t It Be Nice…

in From Me To You, Healthcare, Liberator Online, Personal Liberty by Brett Bittner Comments are off

Wouldn’t It Be Nice…

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Last Friday, I had surgery for the first time.

Don’t worry… It’s nothing major, and I’m back at work already. Kinda.

The pain from the incisions and the stitches, both internal and external, is the worst part. To help me manage it, I was prescribed a narcotic painkiller.

In addition to pain management, I was warned about the nausea that often follows anesthesia. The opiates did nothing for me in that regard, and I spent virtually the whole trip home with my head out the window to combat the nausea I experienced.

Unfortunately, I live in Indiana, where legislators are slow to accept that cannabidiol, a compound found in marijuana, can be used to alleviate pain in place of opiate narcotics, as I was prescribed.

Cannabidiol can also alleviate nausea. With the prospect of vomiting being among the worst things that could happen after abdominal surgery, it would have been great not to worry about it.

The side effects of the opiate I was prescribed include lightheadedness, dizziness, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, upset stomach, drowsiness, constipation, headache, mood changes, blurred vision, ringing in your ears, dry mouth, and difficulty urinating. My biggest struggles are with concentration and train of thought.

When I take them, I don’t have the ability to follow the plot of a sitcom. Seriously, I wanted to binge-watch the 4th season of House of Cards during my downtime, but I wasn’t able to concentrate on the 6 episodes of Fuller House (and mindless sitcoms backed up on my DVR) that I watched instead. I’ve also found that I am likely to be trying to have a conversation, only to trail off mid-sentence and be unable to complete the thought or return to it.

Wouldn’t it be nice if my doctor and I could find the BEST way to manage my post-op pain and nausea without the concentration issues that may have made this post unintelligible?

White House Sacks the Treasury in the Name of Corporate Welfare

in Economic Liberty, Healthcare, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Taxes by Alice Salles Comments are off

White House Sacks the Treasury in the Name of Corporate Welfare

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Friday, one day before the President’s day holiday weekend, the Barack Obama Administration announced that $7.7 billion of taxpayer dollars would be allocated to Affordable Care Act insurers through the law’s reinsurance program.

From the Americans for Tax Reform website:

“For 2015 Obamacare reinsurance, the administration will pay out $6 billion raised from a fee on private health insurance and an additional $1.7 billion that under federal law belongs to the Treasury department.”

Seal According to pro-taxpayer organization, at least $1.7 billion of the $7.7 being used to cover insurers is being funneled illegally.

Doug Badger of the Galen Institute explains that ACA’s reinsurance program works by silently taxing every individual in America with health insurance. In 2015 and 2016, each individual with insurance is being allegedly taxed a total of $107. According to Badger, the program is designed to “prop up insurers that have agreed to sell Obamacare policies in the individual market.”

While the administration continues to claim that ACA is working, insurers that participate are losing money. But since the reinsurance program exists to cover the losses of the insurers, the administration seems to think keeping corporations happy with the deal is more important than following the law.

With the failure of the system, and with a growing number of consumers referring to alternative methods to have access to care, the administration is having to get creative.

According to the New York Post, not one dollar out of the $7.7 billion being promised to insurers should be taken from the Treasury under ACA law.

From the New York Post:

“The law states a fixed share ‘shall be deposited into the general fund of the Treasury of the United States and may not be used’ to offset insurance companies’ losses.

But the administration gave all of it to the insurance companies last year, and got away with that heist. So now they’re trying it again.”

While the administration projected it would be raising $12 billion for the ACA reinsurance program in 2014, it was $2 billion short. In order to handle the situation, the administration decided to keep the money from the Treasury, using it instead to hand it over to the participating companies.

The administration isn’t a stranger to this type of move. According to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, at least $8.5 billion in taxpayer money has already been illegally funneled to ACA’s corporate welfare programs.

Another initiative designed to shield insurers enshrined in ACA also seeks to secure the investment of insurers. The initiative is known as the Risk Corridor program, and it has also been tied to scandals in the past.

In 2014, insurers requested $2.87 billion in “risk corridors” payments, but the administration only offered 12.6 percent of that value.

The risk corridor program works by redistributing funds from insurers that make money with the Obamacare exchange to insurers that don’t. Not knowing how sick their customers were going to be due to the new healthcare law and its mandates, insurers were not being able to set premiums realistically, making it hard for companies to turn a profit.

Despite falling short on the risk corridor payments, the administration decided to bail out insurers that weren’t making money off the exchanges last year. ACA chief Andy Slavitt, who’s also the former Vice-President for United Health, made the announcement in December of 2015, saying the federal government was going to bail out insurers and offer them the amount they had previously asked. Later, however, Congress blocked the $2.5 billion “risk corridor” payment. The effort was championed by several conservative and libertarian organizations that came together to urge Congress to act.

If nothing is done this time around, taxpayers will have to foot the bill and cover the $7.7 billion the administration has vowed

ACA’s Bureaucratic Requirements Force Patients to Lose Access to Care

in Economic Liberty, Healthcare, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

 ACA’s Bureaucratic Requirements Force Patients to Lose Access to Care

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

The Affordable Care Act has become a joke among conservatives and libertarians.

Since the passing of the law, mandates concerning enrollment requirements pushed the cost of health care up, forcing countless to not only find themselves uncovered, but also unable to have access to the care they had before Obamacare.

DoctorWhile the overregulation of health care in America is nothing new, ACA accelerated a process that was well under way before President Barack Obama took office. Unfortunately, officials didn’t pay attention to the market signals. What the current administration decided to do instead was to focus on pushing laws based on hopes and aspirations, ignoring the potential consequences.

The story of Walt Whitlow is the perfect example of why politicians should always consider the short and long-term consequences of their policies.

According to the Associated Press, Whitlow was under treatment for cancer when he learned that his financial assistance had gotten slashed under ACA. With a premium costing four times what it cost prior to the passing of the new health care law, his deductible went from $900 to $4,600.

Patient Ana Granado also suffered due to the bureaucratic nature of the law.

Granado had undergone a breast cancer surgery and was waiting to undergo breast reconstruction procedures when she was notified that her coverage had been canceled. Under ACA’s new rules, her immigration status became an issue, which forced her insurer to drop her. While lawyers were able to resolve the issue promptly, her financial assistance for premiums were suspended.

Under ACA, Lynn Herrin’s tax credits for premiums were also questioned by the IRS, forcing her to pay $700 to the taxman. Having issues to find a doctor, Herrin decided to cancel her plan, which left her without any assistance when she later found out she had oral and neck cancer.

As countless Americans and residents ditch their plans or pay more for their previously affordable plans because of complex paperwork requirements, many believe that the law was never written to make health care access affordable.

By adding more roadblocks and mandates, ACA forced many Americans to rely on the government for subsidies so they can afford health care. Under a free market system, they would be dealing directly with insurers and providers instead.

By making the cost of insurance an issue, the federal government created a monster that costs the taxpayers and leaves millions of patients without access to quality care when they need it the most.

Currently, 12.7 million people are covered thanks to subsidies created by ACA. But about 470,000 people had their coverage terminated through September 30, 2015 because of complex paperwork requirements. Another 1 million of households had their financial assistance “adjusted” due to what the government calls “income discrepancies.”

By making the process more bureaucratic than it should be, ACA forced countless of consumers to rely on the government for health care. Elizabeth Colvin of Foundation Communities says people have been panicking when they “get that bill for a full-price plan.” This issue is undermining ACA’s insurance markets, simply because the cost to obtain coverage through the government is too high.

As more and more Americans look for alternative ways to have access to health care, the future of ACA is uncertain. Will the next administration take these matters into account when thinking about reforming US health care law?

State of The Union Address: What this Administration Got Wrong About Obamacare

in Healthcare, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

State of The Union Address: What this Administration Got Wrong About Obamacare

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

During President Barack Obama’s final State of the Union address, this administration’s signature healthcare law was seldom brought up. As a matter of fact, little time was dedicated to healthcare overall. But the few references to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have been mostly ignored, suggesting that little to no attention is dedicated to healthcare law as the media focuses on the 2016 presidential election.

But to Brian Blase, Senior Research Fellow with the Spending and Budget Initiative at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, the administration’s claims deserve a second look.

In an article for Forbes, Blase looks at how the current programs are performing. With the hopes of helping Americans have a better understanding of ACA and its consequences, the scholar analyses the administration’s claims and reports on his findings.

cooperative

According to the current administration, ACA was designed to fill “the gaps in employer-based care so that when you lose a job, or you go back to school, or you strike out and launch that new business, you’ll still have coverage.” To Blase, however, things aren’t that simple.

If the administration had made the portability of coverage a main priority, the law would not have to be as complex as it is.

Blase also argues that portability as a main goal would have prompted a piece of legislation that would have attracted considerable bipartisan support. Why? Because most healthcare experts on the right and center have always advocated for increased portability, urging lawmakers to severe the ties between insurance and employment.

To Blase, the primary purpose of ACA couldn’t be to keep Americans covered through the several changes they experience if the law standardizes health insurance and ups the requirements concerning coverage levels. By implementing a complicated tax and subsidy system to support ACA, the Obama administration forced consumers to fall prey to distorting price controls that make insurance coverage actually less affordable.

If the administration’s main goal with ACA was to keep people covered no matter what, the law wouldn’t also have been written in a way that increases gross premiums so radically, making low-income earners less likely to get good coverage.

While Blase spent a good deal of time focusing on this particular claim, another subject also caught his eye.

During the address, president Obama claimed that ACA has helped businesses to create jobs, not eliminate them. To Blase, this particular claim is troubling mostly because it’s not necessarily wrong. It’s misleading instead.

Claiming jobs were created because of the enaction of ACA is not a fact, since job growth naturally increased after the deep economic recession the country had just been recovering from when ACA became the law of the land. During the recession, millions of people were kicked out of their jobs, but as confidence grew, more jobs were inevitably created. That’s just a natural consequence of the labor market dynamics and is not at all connected to the enactment of ACA.

If the current administration is, indeed, concerned with how its healthcare programs are performing, Blase suggests, its review of ACA would lead to its repeal. Why? Because ACA is actually a negative pull on the economy.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, ACA will actually shrink the labor market in America. If the congressional projection is correct, two million full-time jobs will be lost due to ACA alone.

Increasing Costs Tied to Obamacare Make Healthcare Ministries More Appealing Than Insurance Providers

in Economic Liberty, Healthcare, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

Increasing Costs Tied to Obamacare Make Healthcare Ministries More Appealing Than Insurance Providers

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

As the country is distracted by the presidential election, issues that aren’t getting as much air time as Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton become a side show.

With reports concerning the ineffectiveness of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, hitting the news but being ignored by major news channels, crusaders take it to the Internet to discredit Obamacare critics. As new reports argue that Americans are fed up, smaller publications seek to downplay some of the fears brought up by conservatives and libertarians all along. When faced with evidence that shows ACA is making healthcare less affordable, will these pro-Obamacare crusaders back down?

Health Care

Exactly two days before Christmas, the New York Magazine ran an article tailored to take conservative-leaning Americans to task. The subject? One of the left’s most adored achievements (and one of the right’s biggest, and most disputed, creations): Obamacare.

According to Jonathan Chait, the author, the NY Mag piece was conceived in order to debunk arguments presented by Ross Douthat, who wrote a column on Obamacare for New York Times earlier that same week.

While the piece discusses the number of covered Americans before and after the enactment of Obamacare and other points made by Douthat, it’s when Chait focuses on the cost of healthcare before and after the enactment of ACA that things get interesting.

In the NY Mag piece, Chait introduces a seemingly detailed blueprint of how ACA has bent the overall healthcare cost to the average consumer. Yet he ignores actual evidence proving that no, Obamacare hasn’t helped to keep the cost of healthcare low. As a matter of fact, the constant meddling with the insurance business and the healthcare industry in the past has done nothing but to increase the overall cost of health care. Now, those who lost their previous plans and who are unable to sign up for insurance after Obamacare went into full force are being cornered. As a result, they are choosing to pay the IRS fee instead of getting coverage.

Even those who supported President Barack Obama’s signature law are getting desperate.

But as a number of consumers lose their hope, a report recently published by the Wall Street Journal shows that things might have just gotten worse.

According to the WSJ, the cost of health insurance is such a heavy burden for those who lost their insurance plans after ACA became the law of the land that many consumers are now turning to healthcare ministries to cover their medical expenses.

That’s right. Health insurance costs are so out of control that consumers are turning to ministries, which operate outside the insurance system, in order to get access to the health care they need.

Instead of functioning as an insurance provider, these ministries provide health care cost-sharing arrangements to those who share the same religious beliefs.

Ministries now count with about 500,000 members nationwide thanks to ACA. Previous to the law, there were about 200,000 members enrolled in the system. But things could get crowded soon, making it hard for ministries to take in more members.

While ACA gives these ministries an exception to the law, only groups that have operated continuously since at least December 31, 1999 are eligible. Without the possibility of expanding the number of participating ministries, helping those in need could become too heavy of a burden.

When the exception was added to the law, it hoped to satisfy a relatively small number of groups that argued that nonparticipation was a matter of religious freedom. Now, ministries are being sought after as a matter of survival. And as ministries become crowded, insurance commissioners begin to complain, claiming these groups operating outside ACA are hurting consumers.

But with ministries costing about 30 percent less than private insurance, consumers who choose the more affordable path can’t be blamed for taking the easier way out.

Claiming to have the consumer’s best interest at heart, insurance commissioners from Kentucky, Washington, and Oklahoma have, in the past, decided to take action against ministries in their states. Thankfully, legislatures blocked the efforts. But as the cost of care continues to grow and the number of uninsured only shrinks because of the threat associated with non-compliance, other states may attempt to put an end to faith-based healthcare providers again, hurting thousands of consumers if they succeed.

In light of this report, will NY Mag’s Chait finally agree that Obamacare is making healthcare less affordable? Probably not. Nevertheless, ministries may have to fight yet another battle to stay open if membership growth remains steady.

Will Republicans Allow an Obamacare Bailout?

in Healthcare, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Jackson Jones Comments are off

Will Republicans Allow an Obamacare Bailout?

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

One of the few bright spots in the government-funding bill passed last December was the inclusion of a provision that barred the Obama administration from using taxpayer dollars to bailout a little-known Obamacare program. Known as “risk corridors,” the program receives contributions from health insurance companies that make money from plans sold on the exchanges required by the law and redistributes it to those that experience losses.

Health Care

Congressional Republicans had targeted the program for repeal. In November 2013, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., introduced legislation, the Obamacare Bailout Prevention Act, to do just that. “The American people are sick of Washington picking winners and losers, especially since the chosen losers often end up being taxpayers who foot the bills for Washington’s mistakes,” Rubio said at the time. “Washington’s bailout culture must end, and eliminating Obamacare’s blank check for a bailout of insurance companies is a common sense step to protect taxpayers when Obamacare fails.”

Lobbyists for insurance companies worried about congressional action against the program, which, according to the administration’s propaganda, is supposed to be deficit-neutral. Without the program, insurers’ lobbyists said, premiums would rise and drive consumers away from the exchanges, possibly leading to a dreaded “death spiral.” While the bill didn’t see any action in the Senate, Rubio reintroduced it in January at the beginning of the new Congress.

The language prohibiting the use of taxpayer funds for the risk corridors program that was included in the government-funding bill applied only to fiscal year 2015. It would have to be inserted into the bill for fiscal year 2016 for it to continue to apply. This is where it gets interesting. Insurers have filed more in claims than money that’s available in the program.

“On October 1, 2015, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced the total of collections and payouts under the risk corridor premium stabilization program for 2014. CMS announced that insurers have submitted $2.87 billion in risk corridor claims for 2014. Insurers only owe, however, $362 million in risk corridor contributions,” Health Affairs reported in October. “Thus payments in 2015 for 2014 will be paid out at 12.6 percent of claims, assuming full collections of contributions owed.”

In other words, the risk corridors program faces a more than a $2.5 billion shortfall. The only way to fill the gap is to transfer funds – i.e., taxpayer money – to cover the payments owed to insurers.

The House of Representatives is in the midst of working on the government-funding bill for fiscal year 2016. The current funding agreement expires on Friday, though lawmakers will likely pass an extension to give themselves more time to hammer out a framework. But without a specific language prohibiting the administration from using taxpayer money to make the risk corridors payments, taxpayers could be on the hook for what is, ostensibly, a $2.5 billion Obamacare bailout.

Kentucky ObamaCare Cooperative Will Close

in Economic Liberty, Healthcare, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Jackson Jones Comments are off

Kentucky ObamaCare Cooperative Will Close

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Kentucky’s health insurance cooperative will close by the end of the year, leaving approximately 51,000 looking for coverage from other insurers that offer plans on the state’s insurance exchange. The Kentucky Health Cooperative is the latest of its kind to close down due to financial difficulties.

Health Care

Nonprofit insurance cooperatives are an integral part of the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare.” But this type of health insurance provider has hit significant snags. According to a recent report from the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General, 21 of the 23 cooperatives created under the 2010 health insurance reform law are losing money and 13 aren’t meeting enrollment projections.

The report revealed that 21 cooperatives have lost $382 million combined. The Kentucky Health Cooperative ran the largest deficit, losing more than $50 million. Cooperatives were meant to compete on the exchanges with private health insurance. They were a compromise when leftists in Congress were unable to get the so-called “public option,” or single-payer, included in the Affordable Care Act.

The Kentucky Health Cooperative decided to shutter after finding out that it would receive a smaller than expected payout from the Affordable Care Act’s “risk corridors” program, according to The Hill. This program provides health insurers with payouts to cover some of the losses they incur for plans available on the exchange.

“It is with sadness that we announce this decision,” Kentucky Health Cooperative Interim CEO Glenn Jennings said in a release. “This very difficult choice was made after much deliberation. If there were a way to avoid it and simultaneously do right by the members, providers and all others that we serve, we would do so.”

“In plainest language, things have come up short of where they need to be,” he added.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., reacted to the news by noting that the closure of his home state’s cooperative is a sign of deeper problems with the Affordable Care Act.

“Barely a week goes by that we don’t see another harmful consequence of this poorly conceived, badly executed law,” McConnell said on Friday. “Despite repeated Obama administration bailout attempts, this is the latest in a string of broken promises with real consequences for the people of Kentucky who may now be losing the health insurance they had and liked twice within the past three years because of Obamacare’s failures.”

Five cooperatives have closed, including Kentucky’s. Others include New York’s Health Republican Insurance and the joint venture for Iowa and Nebraska, CoOpportunity.

Shouldn’t We All Vaccinate So We Don’t Endanger Others?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Healthcare, Liberator Online, Libertarian Answers on Issues by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 20, No. 9 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: Shouldn’t we all vaccinate so we don’t endanger others?Vaccination

MY SHORT ANSWER: My recent column “Should Vaccines Be Mandatory?” made a civil liberties argument for the right of people to make personal medical decisions like vaccination for themselves. Several readers expressed concern. They wondered whether people who didn’t vaccinate might endanger others with compromised immune systems who couldn’t vaccinate, such as the elderly or infants.

People with poor immune function are more likely to be exposed to the flu and/or pneumonia than measles from an unvaccinated person. Many thousands of Americans get the flu annually, while less than 200 people each year develop measles. The flu can lead to pneumonia also, making these two infections the 9th highest cause of death in the U.S.

The measures that compromised individuals take to protect themselves from these more common, deadly threats (e.g., avoiding crowds), would protect them from measles as well. These precautions are necessary, because the effectiveness of annual flu shots can be as low as 10%.

Contrary to popular opinion, the measles vaccine doesn’t always work, either. One-half of Canadian cases of measles come from vaccinated individuals; in the U.S., about one-third of people in a measles outbreak have received one or two doses of the vaccine.

Only about 25% of those vaccinated maintain measles immunity for 10 years or more; 75% of the vaccinated population loses their protection before that, although they often get a milder form of measles if infected.

As one might expect, the immune system doesn’t respond as strongly to a vaccine as it does when it mounts a full scale response to an actual infection. Only people who have had measles as a child can expect a lifetime of protection.

I had measles before we had the vaccine. Back then, some people purposefully exposed children to make sure they had immunity to measles, mumps, and occasionally other childhood diseases. Parents wanted to be sure that their girl children especially had immunity, as getting measles while pregnant could be detrimental to the unborn child. The good news is that many of our seniors probably still have immunity to childhood diseases, even if they haven’t been able to vaccinate.

In conclusion, universal vaccination for measles is unlikely to significantly protect compromised individuals, not only because the vaccine has limitations, but because other infections (e.g., flu, pneumonia) are the real threat. If an immune-compromised individual alters their lifestyle to avoid those more common, deadly infections, they are likely to avoid the measles too.

Inexpensive Vitamin A is currently being studied as a treatment and preventative for infections, including measles. If my immune system became compromised, Vitamin A supplementation is something I’d likely explore.

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LEARN  MORE: Suggestions for additional reading, selected by Liberator Online editor James W. Harris:

* “Vaccine Controversy Shows Why We Need Markets, Not Mandates“ by Ron Paul, M.D., February 8, 2015. Excerpt: “If government can mandate that children receive vaccines, then why shouldn’t the government mandate that adults receive certain types of vaccines? And if it is the law that individuals must be vaccinated, then why shouldn’t police officers be empowered to physically force resisters to receive a vaccine? If the fear of infections from the unvaccinated justifies mandatory vaccine laws, then why shouldn’t police offices fine or arrest people who don’t wash their hands or cover their noses or mouths when they cough or sneeze in public? Why not force people to eat right and take vitamins in order to lower their risk of contracting an infectious disease? These proposals may seem outlandish, but they are no different in principle from the proposal that government force children to be vaccinated.”

Who’s to Blame for Dangerous Prescription Drugs: The FDA or Big Pharma?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Healthcare, Liberator Online, Libertarian Answers on Issues, Libertarian Stances on Issues by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 19, No. 10 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: The pharmaceutical company is sometimes caught pressuring the FDA to approve drugs with dangerous prescription drugsside effects and the FDA does so. Who is the prime mover of aggression here, the FDA or the pharmaceutical cartel?

MY SHORT ANSWER: It’s the karmic circle. The American public allowed the FDA to regulate the pharmaceutical companies under the largely erroneous assumption that they were nefarious. In the beginning, the primary loss to the American public was fewer life-saving drugs, since more money had to be spent on development instead of discovering new drugs.

The regulations reshaped the industry in a way that encouraged graft, as the regulations got more onerous. The industry “fought back” with the Prescription Drug User Fee Act which lets companies pay about $1 million for a faster review. This co-opted the regulators, since about half of their budget now comes from such fees.

In addition to losing many life-saving drugs, the drugs that we get now are less safe. The biggest safety problem with drugs on the market today is that they are meant for long-term use, which amplifies side effects. That’s because only drugs for long-term use can recover the high cost of development that regulations have produced. Even with the high prices of drugs, only 3/10 recover their costs.

This is a lose-lose situation for the American public, the industry itself (which has become close to unsustainable), and even the regulators, who will one day die or watch their loved ones die from diseases that might have been cured without regulations.

LEARN MORE: Suggested additional reading on this topic from Liberator Online editor James W. Harris:

* “Abolishing the FDA: FDA Policies Keep People Sick and Create a False Sense of Security“ by Larry Van Heerden The Freeman, March 1, 2007.

Excerpt: “The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) started out as a bulwark against snake-oil peddling. It has since swung back and forth between hostility and subservience to the drug industry. The FDA seems indifferent to the many deaths its own intransigence has caused and imperious when forced to defend its actions in court, resulting in a system that withholds life-saving drugs from the market, approves dangerous drugs, and denies everyone freedom of choice. The time has come to seriously consider abolishing the FDA.”

Who would make health decisions about children in a libertarian society: parents or medical professionals?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Children's Rights, Healthcare, Liberator Online, Libertarian Stances on Issues, Marriage and Family by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 19, No. 9 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: I just read about Boston Children’s Hospital taking children away from their parents if children's health decisions in a libertarian societythey don’t agree to treat their children the way the doctors recommend. Would this happen in a libertarian society?

MY SHORT ANSWER: In a libertarian society, a child’s guardians, normally the parents, would decide whether the treatment was worth the risk. No treatment works for everyone and every treatment has side effects in some people. Parents might not always make the optimal decision for their child, but doctors won’t always either. If the doctor feels strongly about a certain treatment, he or she should take the time to convince the parents of its worth, rather than use aggression to enforce their recommendation.

The article you cited indicated that children are taken from their parents most frequently “when doctors diagnose the child with a psychiatric disease, but the parents think the condition is a physical one.” Mental problems can be caused by physical factors, such as diet, genetic abnormalities, and certain vitamin deficiencies, which blur the distinction between psychiatric and physical. These factors are often downplayed or totally ignored in physician training. Licensing boards determine the medical school curriculum and reinforce the status quo, rather than cutting-edge or “politically incorrect” knowledge. Emphasis is placed on drug treatment instead of prevention or nutritional therapy, primarily due to FDA regulations. Since children often respond more negatively to psychiatric drugs than adults, forcing children to take them can actually be detrimental.

In a libertarian society, medical practice would be more diverse, since doctors would be certified instead of licensed and prevention wouldn’t be hampered by FDA regulations. Consequently, our medical science would be more advanced. In a society accustomed to using persuasion, rather than coercion, parents are likely to become better informed by doctors and make the best decision for their children.

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Short Answers to Tough Questions - Dr. Mary RuwartGot questions?  Dr. Ruwart has answers! If you’d like answers to YOUR tough questions on libertarian issues, email Dr. Ruwart

Due to volume, Dr. Ruwart can’t personally acknowledge all emails. But we’ll run the best questions and answers in upcoming issues.

Dr. Ruwart’s previous Liberator Online answers are archived in searchable form.

Dr. Ruwart’s latest book Short Answers to the Tough Questions, Expanded Edition is available from the Advocates, as is her acclaimed classic Healing Our World.

Video: Hilarious Remy Take on “Working 9 to 5″

in Healthcare, Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 5 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

The great liberty-minded comedian Remy sings about working “9 to… hey, wait a minute!”

See how Obamacare shakes up Remy’s employment situation. And he’s not the only one…

Watch it, laugh, then share with friends. PS: Lyrics, with helpful info links, are at the bottom of this page.

The FDA Vs. the Health and Safety of Americans

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Communicating Liberty, Healthcare, Liberator Online by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

QUESTION: Which problem is the greatest: the FDA’s approving unsafe drugs, or the FDA’s delaying the approval of life-saving ones?

MY SHORT ANSWER: In 1992, Congress passed the Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA), allowing drug companies to voluntarily pay about $100,000 to get a speedier review. The money went to hire new reviewers.

The fee has grown steadily; it’s now over one million dollars per drug. The part of the FDA that reviews drug applications now receives about 50% of its funding from drug companies. FDA employees (e.g., Dr. David Graham, the whistleblower on Vioxx) have reported being told by supervisors that the drug companies — not the American public — are the FDA’s clients. This should be expected, as he who pays the bills makes the rules.

Does this mean that the FDA now approves unsafe drugs? It depends on how you look at it. Withdrawal rates (the percent of approved drugs removed from the market) from 1962-1992 and 1993-2013 are virtually identical at about 3%. As time goes on, however, more drugs approved during 1993-2013 are likely to be withdrawn. The differences may be small, though, as most withdrawals occur quickly. On the other hand, Vioxx, approved post-PDUFA, was by far the biggest drug disaster in history.

Does the FDA still delay approval of life-saving drugs? Yes! It does so by demanding that companies perform studies taking an average of 13-plus years. Prior to 1962, the average time was about 4 years. I suspect that these delays are still more costly, in terms of lives lost, than approvals of unsafe drugs.

* * * * * * * * * *
Buy It Now!Got questions?  Dr. Ruwart has answers! If you’d like answers to YOUR tough questions on libertarian issues, email Dr. Ruwart

Due to volume, Dr. Ruwart can’t personally acknowledge all emails. But we’ll run the best questions and answers in upcoming issues.

Dr. Ruwart’s previous Liberator Online answers are archived in searchable form.

Dr. Ruwart’s latest book Short Answers to the Tough Questions, Expanded Edition is available from the Advocates, as is her acclaimed classic Healing Our World.

THEY SAID IT…

in Drugs, Healthcare, Liberator Online, Victimless Crime by James W. Harris Comments are off


JAY LENO’S LAST STAB AT OBAMACARE:
 “And the worst thing about losing this job, I’m no longer covered by NBC. I have to sign up for Obamacare!” — Jay Leno on his last day as host of The Tonight Show, Feb. 6, 2014.

RAND PAUL TAKES ON NSA: “The Fourth Amendment states that warrants issued must be specific to a person, place or task and this provision of the Bill of Rights exists explicitly to guard against the notion of a general warrant,where government can plunder through anyone’s privacy at will. The NSA’s metadata collection program is a general warrant for the modern age, reflecting the same kind of tyranny our nation’s founders fought a revolution to make sure would never happen again. … It’s time to trash the NSA’s mass surveillance of Americans, for good.” — Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), “The NSA is still violating our rights,” The Guardian, Feb. 20, 2014.

THE UNCONSTITUTIONAL WAR ON MARIJUANA: “The truth is that the federal ban on marijuana — unlike the federal ban on alcohol, which began and ended with constitutional amendments — has no basis in the powers granted by the Constitution, at least insofar as it purports to reach purely intrastate activities.” — syndicated columnist Jacob Sullum, “Let 50 Cannabis Flowers Bloom,” Jan. 29, 2014.

YES, THE GOV’T CAN KILL AMERICAN SUSPECTS ON AMERICAN SOIL: “The truth emerged only in 2013 when Senator Rand Paul asked point-blank whether the president could authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against an American citizen in the United States. Attorney General Eric Holder fired back that while the question was ‘hypothetical,’ the real-world answer was yes. Holder said he could imagine ‘an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the president to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States.’ … They’ve thought about it. They’ve set up the legal manipulations necessary to justify it. The broad, open-ended criteria the president laid out for killing suspected terrorists exposes the post-Constitutional stance our government has already prepared for. All that’s left to do is pull the trigger.” — journalist Peter Van Buren, “How to Build a Post-Constitutional America One Killing at a Time,” February 17, 2014.

WHY TRUST THE GOV’T: “The United States has been lying to its people for more than 50 years, and such lies extend from falsifying the reasons for going to war with Vietnam and Iraq to selling arms to Iran in order to fund the reactionary Nicaraguan Contras. Why should anyone trust a government that has condoned torture, spied on at least 35 world leaders, supports indefinite detention, places bugs in thousands of computers all over the world, kills innocent people with drone attacks, promotes the Post Office to log mail for law enforcement agencies and arbitrarily authorizes targeted assassinations?” — Prof. Henry A. Giroux, “Totalitarian Paranoia in the Post-Orwellian Surveillance State,” Truthout, Feb. 10, 2014.

THE FOUNDERS BETRAYED: “The bottom line is that we’ve betrayed much of the moral vision of our Founding Fathers. In 1794, when Congress appropriated $15,000 for relief of French refugees who had fled from insurrection in San Domingo to Baltimore and Philadelphia, James Madison rose on the floor of the House of Representatives to object, saying, ‘I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.’ Tragically, today’s Americans — Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative — would hold such a position in contempt and run a politician like Madison out of town on a rail.” — syndicated columnist and economist Walter Williams, “Concealing Evil,” Feb. 19, 2014.

Video: Coffeecare —The Affordable Coffee Act

in Healthcare, Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

You know how you buy a cup of coffee. You just go into the store, ask for what you want, and pay. End of story.

But… What if we had to buy our coffee like the government is now forcing us to buy health insurance? What if, like Obamacare, we had… Coffeecare?

This scathing and very funny animated video by RealityAlwaysWins show us. The result is a lot of laughs and a thorough indictment of the bitter brew that is Obamacare. All in just three and a half short and funny minutes.

Share it online with friends. It will open their eyes and let them smell… the Coffeecare.