A warning against Medicare for all

SUMMARY: President Obama said “Even as we push the envelope and we are bold in our vision, we also have to be rooted in reality and the fact that voters — including Democratic voters and certainly persuadable independents or even moderate Republicans — are not driven by the same views that are reflected on certain, you know, left-leaning Twitter feeds or the activist wing of our party.” He added that “the average American doesn’t think we have to completely tear down the system and remake it.”

It isn’t an editorial opinion to say this rhetoric is inherently discouraging. The New York Times interpreted Obama’s remarks as a warning to presidential candidates such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren ahead of Wednesday night’s debate, the fifth of the cycle, but it’s not a departure for the former president: Obama has been sounding this note for a while now.

Americans are sick of seeing their raises negated by rising health insurance costs and they don’t like going to the hospital and getting unexpected bills they thought would be covered by insurance. When you go to the ER are you really going to ask the doctor “are you in my network?”

Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders want to tear down the system and replace it but that’s an extreme measure. Instead, we need a panel comprised of all the players to sit down and look for ways to reduce healthcare costs. Is it obscene that some insurance CEOs are making tens of millions of dollars in compensation? Of course, but these are public companies and shareholders need to step up and say enough is enough.

Medicare-for-all, in the purest sense, largely would replace private health insurance with a single, government-run program covering most everyone. It would be similar to traditional Medicare, the current federal health insurance program for most adults over 65 and young people meeting federal disability requirements, hence the name.

A public option cannot save reduce healthcare costs. It will only add one more choice of insurance provider to the current complex mix. Most of us neither know nor care which company provides our insurance. The choice we really care about is choice of doctors and hospitals. Most private insurers restrict that choice to maximize profits. They also restrict our access to healthcare by imposing deductibles and co-pays, which many of us can’t afford. Medicare for All offers free choice of doctors and hospitals, with no deductibles and co-pays. What more choice can anyone want?

Then there are PBM’s.

The relationship between PBMs, pharmaceutical manufacturers and insurance companies is complex, multi-faceted and has direct impacts on the delivery of patient care in this country. PBMs were originally formed to alleviate the administrative burden and process prescription drug claims cheaper and faster than insurance companies. However, their role evolved to negotiating prices with drug companies, offering rebates when drugs were included in insurance formularies and implementing Medicare’s part D prescription drug program.

The already-complex relationship with PBMs becomes harder to demystify and potentially cost multiplier because the rebate process is not transparent to physicians or patients. If PBMs are consistently causing increases in drug prices, delaying treatment and limiting options for patients, why are they part of our health care system?

Millennials are going to cost us all

Troubling health habits among millennials could have alarming consequences for the U.S. economy, according to a new study released this month.

Millennials, who now account for the largest share of the U.S. population and labor force, are seeing their health — including both physical and behavioral health conditions — decline faster than the previous generation as they age, according to a report published by Moody’s Analytics, based on data from Blue Cross Blue Shield.

As a result, millennials, or individuals born between 1981 and 1996, will likely see more expensive health care costs in the year ahead. If the trend continues at the current rate, millennial treatment costs are still projected to be close to $4,500 annually, roughly 33 percent higher than those of Generation X at a comparable age, by 2027. That’s about $375 per month.

Analysts found that millennials’ poor health could have serious ramifications on the broader U.S. economy, too: It could result in higher unemployment and slower income growth, likely affecting areas that are already struggling economically while potentially exacerbating instances of income inequality.

There are no simple answers to rising healthcare costs but though a thorough analysis we can reduce costs. It has to start by examing every aspect and by asking people “what do YOU want in healthcare?” The answer may surprise politicians grandstanding.