Tag: health insurance

Bioethics Blogs

Is Your Medical Bill “Eligible for Sharing?” New research on Christian Health Care Sharing Ministries (HCSMs)

By Aobo Dong As the future of Affordable Care Act (ACA) hangs in the balance amid political deadlock in Washington, more Americans are signing up for Christian health care sharing ministries (HCSMs) – a growing alternative to traditional health insurance. … Continue reading

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

In Survey, Docs Say Unneeded Medical Care Is Common

September 7, 2017

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A national survey of more than 2,000 doctors across multiple specialties finds that physicians believe overtreatment is common and primarily perpetuated by fear of malpractice, as well as patient demand and some profit motives.

A report on the findings, published today in PLOS ONE, highlights physicians’ perspectives on unnecessary health care practices and the potential causes and solutions.

“Unnecessary medical care is a leading driver of the higher health insurance premiums affecting every American,” says Martin Makary, professor of surgery and health policy at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the paper’s senior author.

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The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

A Surprising Way Health Insurance Might Save Your Life

Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) speaks with members of the media at Trump Tower December 12, 2016 in New York. / AFP / KENA BETANCUR (Photo credit should read KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images)

Back in May, an angry constituent asked Congressmen Raul Labrador why he voted for the Republican House Healthcare Bill, that the constituent claimed would cause people to die for lack of Medicaid funding. The Freedom Caucus member shot back with a now infamous retort: “Nobody dies because they don’t have access to healthcare.” Amidst backlash over what he now describes as an inelegant statement, Labrador tried to clarify his remarks: “I was trying to explain that all hospitals are required by law to treat patients in need of emergency care regardless of their ability to pay, and that the Republican plan does not change that.”

But Labrador forgot to mention that, although hospitals are required to treat emergently ill patients regardless of ability to pay, they are also allowed to bill those patients for that care. That means people without insurance often find themselves either avoiding emergency rooms altogether, or driving long distances to hospitals known for being more forgiving of medical debt. Labrador overlooked the life-threatening risks that financially strapped people take to keep out of medical debt.

Insurance sometimes saves lives by enabling people to get emergency care close to home, without fear of financial insolvency.

This travel-and-die phenomenon is not what most insurance enthusiasts think about when they say insurance improves health. Instead, they talk about how insurance makes people more likely to receive the primary care that prevents life threatening illnesses – mammograms and colonoscopies; blood pressure pills and flu shots.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

A Start-Up Suggests a Fix to the Health Care Morass

August 16, 2017

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In Congress, a doomed plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s health care law, has turned into a precarious effort to rescue it. Meanwhile, President Trump is still threatening to mortally wound the law — which he insists, falsely, is collapsing anyway — while his administration is undermining its being carried out.

So it is surprising that across the continent from Washington, investors and technology entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley see the American health care system as the next great market for reform.

Some of their interest is because of advances in technology like smartphones, wearable health devices (like smart watches), artificial intelligence, and genetic testing and sequencing. There is a regulatory angle: The Affordable Care Act added tens of millions of people to the health care market, and the law created several incentives for start-ups to change how health care is provided. The most prominent of these is Oscar, a start-up co-founded by Joshua Kushner (the younger brother of Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner), which has found ways to mine health care data to create a better health insurance service.

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The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Topsy-Turvy Brand Name Drug Pricing?

On August 7, 2017, The
New York Times
with ProPublica
(an independent, non-profit investigative new agency) reported
that some drug companies have struck deals with insurers to require that
prescriptions be dispensed for the more expensive brand name drug rather than
the less expensive generic alternative! Has the world turned upside down? What
has happened? Perhaps one could respond: Follow the money.

Pharmaceutical companies have apparently cut a deal with
health insurance companies and pharmacy benefits managers for some drug
products so that middle men pay prices that are very competitive, at least as
competitive as the generic equivalents. In one arrangement for a particular
drug – Shire’s Adderall XR, used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity
disorder (ADHD) – UnitedHealthcare insured patients were provided a discount
coupon which lowered the cost of the brand name considerably, but a patient’s
family still payed about $50 more a month than for the generic. Consumers
clearly are bearing the increased costs.

A spokesman for United Healthcare defended the program: “By
providing access to these drugs at lower cost, we are able to improve
affordability for our customers and members.” Of course, the statement is true,
but it is a poor justification because in this instance have no choice in the
matter. Even if patients’ physicians write for the generic equivalent, the
doctors are told that they “had to specify that patients required brand-name
versions of the drug.” This may or may not be true depending on the health
insurers’ and pharmacy benefits managers’ formulary requirements; but it may be
a moot point if the band name drug is the only one available, or unless the
patient wants to pay full price for a drug product that is not listed in the
formulary.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

NIH Family Members Giving Back: Charlotte Phillips

Caption: Charlotte Phillips during a visit to a Missouri Mennonite community.
Credit: Richard Hillman

At 1 a.m., most people are fast asleep in their beds. But Charlotte Phillips sometimes finds herself up at that odd hour, waiting anxiously in a deserted Missouri parking lot far from her home. Phillips drives there to meet a contact for a very special delivery: a packet of cheek swabs and blood samples from a newborn Mennonite baby at risk of a life-threatening genetic condition called maple syrup urine disease (MSUD).

For more than two decades, Phillips, an NIH grantee at the University of Missouri, Columbia, has volunteered to ensure that the DNA in these swabs and samples is tested for MSUD within hours of a baby’s birth. If found to be positive for the condition, the baby can receive a needed special formula. Without it, the baby would suffer brain damage within days from its inability to break down amino acids in protein-rich foods, including breast milk and standard infant formula. Hurrying off at a moment’s notice isn’t always convenient, but Phillips, who is not Mennonite, feels a personal calling to do it. She wouldn’t want any babies to die.

MSUD is named for the sweet smell associated with the urine of people left untreated for the condition. The lifelong condition is exceedingly rare, affecting about 1 in 185,000 infants [1]. But, it’s relatively common among Old Order Mennonites, affecting about 1 in 380 infants. That’s because many Mennonites carry one copy of the mutated gene, meaning they won’t develop MSUD but can pass it on to their children if their spouse is also a carrier.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Whatever Happened to Long-Term Care Reform?

From the Trenches: A Prescription for Change

I have enjoyed looking at the pictures of protestors being arrested in our nation’s capital. I concur with many commentators who credit the civil disobedience of the protestors – many of whom are members of the disability rights activist group ADAPT – with the defeat of the Senate bill to abolish the Affordable Care Act. It’s also been fun because I know so many people in the photos.

The Affordable Care Act was a massive piece of legislation. The complexities and moving parts are best understood by people who have very closely followed or implemented the law. I generally think of the ACA as three things:

1. Reform of the private insurance market with the goal of providing greater access to insurance coverage;

2. Changes to Medicare, such as closing the prescription drug donut hole; and

3. Changes to Medicaid. 

Mike Oxford, Executive Director for Policy at the Topeka Independent Living Resource Center and a member of the national chapter of ADAPT, was one of many who protested against the Senate bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Community Services Optional?

The Medicaid issue that has drawn the most attention is the matter of expanding access, appropriately called “Medicaid expansion.” But the law contains other Medicaid provisions as well. It provides incentives for states to continue to “re-balance” their systems of providing long-term care. “Re-balance” is often mentioned in quotation marks because states were never in balance. Nonetheless, through the ACA, states were provided additional federal matching funds if they would transfer more long-term care to community services and away from institutions, such as nursing homes.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Whatever Happened to Long-Term Care Reform?

From the Trenches: A Prescription for Change

I have enjoyed looking at the pictures of protestors being arrested in our nation’s capital. I concur with many commentators who credit the civil disobedience of the protestors – many of whom are members of the disability rights activist group ADAPT – with the defeat of the Senate bill to abolish the Affordable Care Act. It’s also been fun because I know so many people in the photos.

The Affordable Care Act was a massive piece of legislation. The complexities and moving parts are best understood by people who have very closely followed or implemented the law. I generally think of the ACA as three things:

1. Reform of the private insurance market with the goal of providing greater access to insurance coverage;

2. Changes to Medicare, such as closing the prescription drug donut hole; and

3. Changes to Medicaid. 

Mike Oxford, Executive Director for Policy at the Topeka Independent Living Resource Center and a member of the national chapter of ADAPT, was one of many who protested against the Senate bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Community Services Optional?

The Medicaid issue that has drawn the most attention is the matter of expanding access, appropriately called “Medicaid expansion.” But the law contains other Medicaid provisions as well. It provides incentives for states to continue to “re-balance” their systems of providing long-term care. “Re-balance” is often mentioned in quotation marks because states were never in balance. Nonetheless, through the ACA, states were provided additional federal matching funds if they would transfer more long-term care to community services and away from institutions, such as nursing homes.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

How Much Should Your Boss and the U.S. Department of Labor Know About Your Opioid Prescription History?

As the
price of health care and uncertainty about health insurance coverage increases,
employers are taking more of an interest in their employees’ health. Indeed,
this is not a new trend as the United States health insurance system has been
employment-based since its creation. However, this trend may seem more
justifiable when the federal government also takes an interest in employees’
health.  From a public health
perspective, monitoring a society’s health is very important but it must be
balanced against the individual’s privacy interest as well as the harms and
benefits of that monitoring. There is also the issue of who/what is the most
appropriate entity to be doing the monitoring.

On June
27, 2017,
the
United States Department of Labor announced
it
will officially be
monitoring
use of opioid prescriptions by workers
under the
Federal Employees’ Compensation Act, which is the law surrounding the worker’s
compensation system.  The announcement
expressed a safety concern based on overdoses and addiction of opioids in the
midst of our current opioid crisis.

When an
employee files a worker’s compensation claim,
the
employer must be notified
and the employer
has access to the health records included in that claim
.
The employer’s access to health records is limited to whatever is included in
the claim and is justified based on the premise that the employer has an
interest in the worker’s compensation claim. However, this new monitoring
system means that an employer will now have access to its employees’ opioid
prescription history, as this is information the U.S. Department of Labor will
be monitoring as part of the worker’s compensation process.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

How Much Should Your Boss and the U.S. Department of Labor Know About Your Opioid Prescription History?

As the
price of health care and uncertainty about health insurance coverage increases,
employers are taking more of an interest in their employees’ health. Indeed,
this is not a new trend as the United States health insurance system has been
employment-based since its creation. However, this trend may seem more
justifiable when the federal government also takes an interest in employees’
health.  From a public health
perspective, monitoring a society’s health is very important but it must be
balanced against the individual’s privacy interest as well as the harms and
benefits of that monitoring. There is also the issue of who/what is the most
appropriate entity to be doing the monitoring.

On June
27, 2017,
the
United States Department of Labor announced
it
will officially be
monitoring
use of opioid prescriptions by workers
under the
Federal Employees’ Compensation Act, which is the law surrounding the worker’s
compensation system.  The announcement
expressed a safety concern based on overdoses and addiction of opioids in the
midst of our current opioid crisis.

When an
employee files a worker’s compensation claim,
the
employer must be notified
and the employer
has access to the health records included in that claim
.
The employer’s access to health records is limited to whatever is included in
the claim and is justified based on the premise that the employer has an
interest in the worker’s compensation claim. However, this new monitoring
system means that an employer will now have access to its employees’ opioid
prescription history, as this is information the U.S. Department of Labor will
be monitoring as part of the worker’s compensation process.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.