Perdue Cold Cuts

Here at Georgia Health Insurance we like to stay on top how the state is spending our tax dollars. Like most states, and the federal government, we are looking at steep budget cuts to keep from going under. All areas are subject to the knife. Roads, schools and even Medicaid are trying to find ways to keep rolling on less money.

When you cut Medicaid, everyone loses, both rich and poor.

Governor Perdue has proposed a 10% cut in Medicaid funding to hospitals. This translates into a loss of almost $81 million.

The proposed Medicaid cut is expected to be magnified since hospitals will lose $2 in federal matching funds for every $1 in state Medicaid money that gets cut, said Kevin Bloye, spokesman for the Georgia Hospital Association.

“When you add the federal matching dollars,” Bloye said, “hospitals could lose an additional $120 million.”

Most hospitals lose money serving Medicaid patients, so this only makes it worse.

The Medicaid cuts could be the “last straw” for some hospitals in the state, industry insiders said.

Hospitals are suffering from rocketing unpaid medical bills, a decline in high margin elective procedures, and the growing rolls of uninsured.

So what happens when hospitals refuse to accept Medicaid patients?

Everyone loses.

“We can see hospital closures, we can see major damage to large hospital systems and we can see individual physicians who are getting out of the business, all because we didn’t take the stimulus package money and use it directly for Medicaid,” hospital lobbyist Jimmy Lewis said.

Oh yeah. About that Spendulus money.

The stimulus money doesn’t come “close” to offsetting the tax revenue hit facing Georgia, Brantley said.

So even Obamaman can’t save us.

Having fun?

Pig Farts and COBRA

LBJ conceived the Great Society to eliminate poverty and racial injustice.

George H. W. Bush created the No Child Left Behind to provide quality basic education to all children.

Obama is promising there will be No Patients Left Behind as part of his master plan to save the USA from economic collapse.

We still have poverty, racial inequity and students in public schools are still failing. So will the Spendulus Bill with promises to end inequity in health care and provide universal coverage succeed? Will there be No Patients Left Behind?

Let's see what Cassandra Kelsey has to say about that.

Cassandra lost her job with Verizon in January.

Kelsey walks with a cane and lists a litany of ailments, including degenerative arthritis and hypertension. For her, going without health insurance is unthinkable.

COBRA became law in 1986 and provided, among other things, a way for employees to continue their group insurance plan for up to 18 months (in most cases), providing them a way to bridge over to their next job with benefits. For the last 22+ years employees have had an option to assure they would not be without health insurance after leaving their job. So how many have prepared for that situation?

Very few.

Outside a District of Columbia career center on a recent morning, Kelsey clutched copies of her COBRA invoice, clippings from a newspaper about the stimulus bill, and a form letter she received from the White House after writing to President Obama.

Kelsey knew about the reduced premium and said it would bring her COBRA costs below $200 a month. But when she called her benefits department, she was distressed to learn that she would not be able to get the reduced cost immediately, probably not until May.

"I can't take advantage of it now, which I think is totally unfair,"

Unfair? As much as I empathize with Ms. Kelsey I fail to see how this burdensome new program from the O.G.M. (Office of Government Meddling) is unfair.

As part of the Spendulus Bill, employers are now required to subsidize 65% of the COBRA premiums for severed employees for up to 9 months. Supposedly they will get a credit against future payroll taxes to offset this cost but the program has only been in the air for a few weeks and already some employers are considering dropping their group coverage as a way of avoiding the financial burden of paying for benefits for laid off employees.

A $25 billion provision in the stimulus plan aimed to cut COBRA's price tag, reducing its cost 65 percent for workers laid off as far back as Sept. 1.

That's $25 billion out of $787 billion to spendulate the economy. If Congress really wanted to help those out of work you would think they would allocate more to COBRA subsidies and find a way to make it less onerous for employers who are already struggling.

Instead, Congress deems it better to spend $1 million on Mormon Crickets in Utah, a total of $41.5 million to renovate libraries for 3 dead presidents, and another $1.8 million for Swine Odor and Manure management.

In the big scheme of things, when you are talking about spending billions of taxpayer money, allocating $300,000 for GoGirlGo is not a lot of money. But somehow I don't think Ms. Kelsey will agree that it is better to support mormon cricket research and pig farts is more noble than helping out people who are unemployed.

Star Chamber Medicine

The Star Chamber was a  English court of law where sessions were held in secret, with no indictments, no right of appeal, no juries, and no witnesses.

If Washington has their way, we may see something similar in our health care system.  In a recent editorial at Bloomberg.com, Betsy McCaughey offers this view of the Spendulus Bill.

The bill’s health rules will affect “every individual in the United States” (445, 454, 479). Your medical treatments will be tracked electronically by a federal system. Having electronic medical records at your fingertips, easily transferred to a hospital, is beneficial. It will help avoid duplicate tests and errors.

Nothing insidious about that, right? But it get’s worse. [Read more…]

PeachCare

PeachCare is the Georgia version of SCHIP . . . the State Children’s Health Insurance Plan. PeachCare is funded through taxpayer dollars, with roughly a third coming from federal taxes.

In addition to medical care, the PeachCare plan cover’s dental benefits for qualified children up to age 18. In addition to funding issues, Peachare (and any other taxpayer funded health care plans) face major hurdles for accessability.

Many providers are refusing to service PeachCare/Medicaid patients due to the low reimbursement rates. In 1999 roughly 260 dentists accepted PeachCare/Medicaid as a form of payment. The state agreed to increase reimbursement rates which led to an increase to 1800 dental providers over the next few years.

That number is now down to less than 600 participating dental providers.

Every time a PeachCare/Medicaid patient is treated, the dental provider loses money unless they are running some kind of scam. Georgia is not the only state with disappearing providers. Here is a letter to the editor from a dentist in California. [Read more…]