‘Twas the night before reform when all in the House…

I wrote this piece last year on the eve of the healthcare reform legislation.  It seems that the only thing tha has changed over those twelve months are the twelve months.

 

‘Twas the night before reform when all in the House

Were Tweeting and blogging and squawking like grouse

Their bill filled with zeroes and commas and flair

In hopes that the Senate would soon be there

The voters were restless, and in need of good care,

And they whined and they pleaded and they yelled ‘don’t you dare’

“Don’t sidestep this issue, don’t do it for votes”

“Don’t kowtow to payors or we’ll be at your throats.”

With Pelosi and her Botox, and while Reid took his nap

Didn’t care if the people put up with their (you rhyme it, I’m pretending to be neutral)

The docs sat on the sidelines, bemoaning their fate,

While payors dressed like succubi caroled “ain’t this great?”

On the lawn of the White House there arose such disdain

As the public fought reform from ‘Frisco to Maine.

MSNBC, neigh now Comcast, buttressed their base,

And Fox, aka Rupert, said it was all a disgrace.

The words on the pages of the newly printed bill,

Hid nuance, erudition, obfuscation, and swill,

Do not read the details, adjectives and signs,

Do not worry how it impacts your bottom lines.

We are here to pretend we did that of import,

To Hell with Medicare, Medicaid, and the sort

It’s voters we want, It’s our doxology, our mantra,

And this year silly people, this year WE are Santa

On Boxer, on Biden, on Fienstein they came,

And we chortled, berated, and chided by name.

“What about seniors, and sick people” we cried?

“What about uninsured, don’t you care if they die?”

“This is about people you meet on the street.

People who must choose between their meds and to eat

It’s about Lipitor, Xanax, Prozac and Viagra,

It’s about doing what’s right; do what’s right or we’ll bag ‘ya”

And then in a twinkling I heard in my head,

The gnawing and chiding of Congress, who said,

We cavorted and sucked up, the best we knew how,

We spent bucks, made big payoffs, and said change healthcare now.

Festooned all in new regs from NHS to VA

There were those who suggested, this is not going to play,

HITECH and ARRA are not making it fun,

RHIOs and RECs will soon come undone,

We’re paying the hospitals to do EHR

We know it seems silly, like we lowered the bar

If that doesn’t work we will tax them instead,

Make them spend gobs of money, make their budgets bleed red.

Spend it, refund it, and print new money now,

Buying Canada would be cheaper and easier but wow

They want to sign something, sign it soon, sign it fast,

But don’t assume that they’ve read it from first page to last,

We could’a been more like France, like the Swiss or the British

Make us more European, make our rich people skittish,

The tall socialist exclaimed as the dems shifted right,

Will Obamacare fail, have I lost all my might?

The effect of healthcare reform on others

Somebody had to do this, so it may as well be me.  Sometimes to bring clarity to issues, it helps me if I dumb-it-down.  Which got me to wondering, how would the whole healthcare reform debate play out with Mother Goose?  Here’s what I was able to learn from my interviews.

Jack & Jill went up the hill, Jack fell down, and learned Mother Goose’s insurance wouldn’t cover him because he’s not a real boy.  Having recovered, Jack was soon found not so nimbly jumping over the candlestick.  His charred wooden body is being sanded in an effort to heal the burns.  Not only is Jack not a real boy, he’s also not a candidate for Mensa.

They sent the Little Old Woman who lived in the shoe home with a can of Desenex because her AARP insurance had expired and Medicare told her she already used her share of the money.  Afterwards, she was interviewed by Planned Parenthood for an episode of “I didn’t know I was pregnant.”

And remember that tuffet upon which Little Miss Muffet sat?  It wasn’t the spider who frightened her away, it was the deductible she’d hay to pay to cover the rash she got.  She tried sussing out her own treatment using social media on WebMd.

Jack Sprat could eat no fat, but he forgot to disclose that when he completed his insurance application.  He now suffers anemia anonymously as his not so lean wife left him.

How about Peter Peter Pumpkin eater?  All that fiber blocked his colon—a little personal prevention could have saved him a lot of time posed in the Thinker position.

Mary and Little Bo-Peep had a little mutton for dinner which after having sat on the counter all day produced various toxins which were absorbed into their bloodstream.  This resulted in them being rushed to the Mother Goose Clinic with a case of food poisoning.

Simple Simon met a pieman who knew nothing of pasteurization.  Simple is sitting three seats away from Mary in the waiting room.  The Clinic has been unable to locate either of their records on their EHR which cost in excess of one hundred million dollars.

Old King Cole called for his pipe even though he had a severe case of sinusitis.  CVS was out of Z-packs, and home he went with just a tin of Prince Albert.

All the king’s men tried to make a meal out of Mr. Dumpty.  Several were to learn later that one can get Salmonella from eating a raw egg that had been tromped on by horses.

Pat-a-cake.  The baker’s man, not one for washing his hands before pattying his cakes, caused Tommy to be seen by an internist.  Apparently neither real men nor cartoon men wash there hands.

The Butcher, the Baker, and the Candlestick-Maker, were being treated for nontuberculous mycobacterial disease for poor hygiene having been found bathing together.

It was reported that Georgie Porgie who’d been kissing girls had made them cry when they discovered they had contracted the herpes simplex virus.  Their mother, embarrassed by the turn of events, reported to the school that her twins were out with the H1N1 virus.

The Three Blind Mice were found to have stitched themselves together after unsuccessfully trying to sew back on each other’s tails.  It was later discovered that the tails had been cut off by the Farmer’s wife with the Butcher’s knife.  The mice are suffering from septicemia.  The Crooked Man and Yankee Doodle are trying to ascertain why the Farmer’s Wife and the Butcher were later found hiding in the barn.  The Farmer’s wife is being treated with Effexor on an out-patient basis for clinical depression.  The Farmer was not available for comment.

It’s believed that Willie Winkie is suffering from a plantar wart after running through the town in just his nightgown.  Uninsured, he tried removing the wart with the knife he’d borrowed from the Butcher, only learn the knife had been recently use to amputate the tails of some handicapped mice.

Old Mother Hubbard, a spinster of questionable repute, upon learning that there were no bones in the cupboard for her dog Hannibal, began to get hungry herself.  She settled for a meaty broth, and fava bean soup, and a nice Chianti.  Polly was seen putting on the kettle.  The SPCA continues to look for Ms. Hubbard’s dog.

Is the term “Payor” healthcare’s oxymoron?

One of the great things about fall is that as I prune back the vestiges of my virtual garden I am able to collect basketful upon basketful of overly ripe metaphorical tomatoes, perfect for tossing at aberrant analogies and inappropriate idioms.

It’s a curious time.  We give away money to the middle class and rich so they can upgrade their BMWs on the backs of the poor.  The feds market that idea as though that pittance will either jump start the economy, or to hide the fact that that the administration has managed to budget for a nine trillion dollar deficit gap over ten years.

By now we know there are no quick fixes, no magic formulas for fixing the economy.  Finding a formula that works will be more difficult than learning how to neatly fold a fitted bed sheet.

“Is it the essential paradox of the age of Obama that we have to destroy the village in order to save it, bust the budget in hopes someday we’ll balance it?” Nancy Gibbs, Time, September 9, 2009.

“It takes an idiot to raze a village.” Paul Roemer, today.

Congress is trying to decide what the final bill will look like without ever having read the first draft.  How will we know when they have something that makes sense?  Do we watch the Congressional chimney to see if the smoke is white or black?  Does that mean we have a bill, or is it simply that the chef burnt the Peking Duck?

Then there are the payors.  Get me started, or don’t.  We all know that one of the driving factors for reform is the behavior of the payors.  A friend asks—for full disclosure I note that she is one of “them”—why do people view health insurers differently from auto, life, or home owners insurance.  She was serious.

Here’s my take on the answer.  If the health insurance firms provided life insurance they’d be exhuming the deceased and trying to prove they weren’t dead.  Car smashed, get a check.  House leaks, get a check.  Die, get a check.  Need surgery.  Not so fast.  Let’s see if you’re covered for that.  If not, whew.  If yes, let our doctors decide if you really need the surgery.  It won’t cost you a minute of your time as our doctors don’t even need to examine you.  You see how this plays out?

It happened to me after my heart attack, albeit with my disability payor, sort of the evil step sister of the health side.  My doctor put me on six months disability, naturally, the payor declined to pay.  There doctor, who never examined me decided I was fine, at least that’s what their letter stated.  How do we know these doctors even exist?  Have they ever been seen in the daylight?

Most Americans don’t believe that insurance companies are interested in helping people.  They like us fine when people are payors.  They are much less fond of us when people become patients.  It’s a simple matter of flow theory.  As long as the flow of cash is in-bound, all is well.  When people move to the dark side, from payors to patients, payors have no patience.

Is there anyone who believes that there is a single payor in the country whose mission statement says anything about doing all we can to help those who need us?  Of course not.  Payors have claims adjusters.  What is their role?  It’s certainly not to adjust the payment higher.

Do payors incent their employees to pay out as little as possible?  I believe they do.  Do payors penalize or retrain people who pay out too much?  I believe they do.  Do they design the claims and dispute process so as to make it so cumbersome on patients and doctors that parties give up prior to settling?  I believe they do.

I believe the payor business model is not much different from that of tobacco companies.  For years tobacco firms claimed there was no public evidence to support the fact that nicotine was addictive.  It turns out they buried the evidence.  Payors claim they are not bad actors.  Some claim the moon landing was faked.

I am a firm believer that pictures can sometimes convey more than mere words.  To me, this link explains a lot about what’s wrong with healthcare.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z7Forzj5-O0 Start playing at 6 minutes and 40 seconds.

‘Twas the night before reform when all in the House…

‘Twas the night before reform when all in the House

Were Tweeting and blogging and squawking like grouse

Their bill filled with zeroes and commas and flair

In hopes that the Senate would soon be there

The voters were restless, and in need of good care,

And they whined and they pleaded and they yelled ‘don’t you dare’

“Don’t sidestep this issue, don’t do it for votes”

“Don’t kowtow to payors or we’ll be at your throats.”

With Pelosi and her Botox and while Reid took his nap

Didn’t care if the people put up with their (you rhyme it, I’m pretending to be neutral)

The docs sat on the sidelines, bemoaning their fate,

While payors dressed like succubi caroled “ain’t this great?”

On the lawn of the White House there arose such disdain

As the public fought reform from ‘Frisco to Maine.

MSNBC, neigh now Comcast, buttressed their base,

And Fox, aka Rupert, said it was all a disgrace.

The words on the pages of the newly printed bill,

Hid nuance, erudition, obfuscation, and skill,

Do not read the details, adjectives and signs,

Do not worry how it impacts your bottom line.

We are here to pretend we did that of import,

To Hell with Medicare, Medicaid and the sort

It’s voters we want, It’s our doxology, our mantra,

And this year silly people, this year WE are Santa

On Boxer, on Biden on Fienstein they came,

And we chortled, berated, and chided by name.

“What about seniors, and sick people” we cried?

“What about uninsured, don’t you care if they died”

“This is about people you meet on the street.

People who must choose between their meds and to eat

It’s about Lipitor, Xanax, Prozac and Viagra,

It’s about doing what’s right, do what’s right or we’ll bag ‘ya”

And then in a twinkling I heard in my head,

The gnawing and chiding of Congress, who said,

We cavorted and sucked up, the best we knew how,

We spent bucks, made payoffs, and said the time is now.

Festooned all in new regs from NHS to VA

There were those who suggested, this is not going to play,

HITECH and ARRA are not making it fun,

RHIOs and RECs will soon come undone,

We’re paying the hospitals to do EHR

We know it seems silly, like we lowered the bar

If that doesn’t work we will tax them instead,

Make them spend gobs of money, make their budgets bleed red.

Spend it, refund it, and print new money now,

Buying Canada would be cheaper and easier but wow

They want to sign something, sign it soon, sign it fast,

But don’t assume that they’ve read it from first page to last,

We could’a been more like France, like the Swiss or the British

Make us more European, make our rich people skittish,

The tall socialist exclaimed as the dems shifted right,

Will Obamacare fail, have I lost all my might?

Public option dead? Let’s lead with a solution

 

Who Will Lead

Who Will Lead

Dirk Stanley posted this link from the NY Times about the death of the public option.

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/13/health/policy/13plan.html?_r=1

Now, we can either bemoan this or we can try to lead.  Here’s my take on how to strat the discussion.

To insure the uninsured we don’t need a public option.  When poor people were denied access to banking and credit, the government did not create a public bank.  It regulated the banking organizations and made it illegal for them to redline the poor.

Can we not regulate the payors in the same fashion, requiring them to insure the uninsured?  Were not Medicaid and Medicare created in part because payors relined the elderly?

The government requires everyone to have automobile insurance, placing the onus on the individual.  Why not flip it?  If the goal of reform is to get people access to healthcare, which under the existing business model implies insurance, require the payors to provide it.  The government can subsidize the payors, or pay it in full, and it can do so without adding to the bureaucracy of further entitlements via a public option.

To me, two other ideas make much more sense, one of which I’ve previously offered.  Large groups of people are without insurance or are under insured.  The government wants them to have access to medical care.  As stated above, the government already created two agencies to address this problem, Medicaid and Medicare.  Why create a third?  Can’t those people be added to the two existing agencies?

The other idea may be the same, but if implemented differently, could streamline the processes and the cost.  Make the cost of the coverage to those groups an offset against whatever tax they would owe.  If it costs ten thousand dollar to insure a family of five, offset it against their income tax obligation.  Net net its’ the same cost whether you collect it and refund it or simply don’t collect it.  Give these families so sort of smart healthcare debit card, the government owns the account, and all healthcare providers can accept it for payment.

Sure, there is unlimited fraud potential, just like there is under any other option.

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