I hope it isn’t so, even though we and many others were saying this when the crazy health care reform bill was being debated…it is going to cost most employed people more money every month. This latest article outlines why and how this can happen.
Let us all hope that the State’s appeals in court will win the day and get this nasty piece of legislation thrown out.
Premiums, U.S. Companies Say
By Jeffrey Young – Aug 18, 2010 10:20 AM MT
Workers will pay more for their health care next year as U.S. companies prepare for provisions of the overhaul signed into law by President Barack Obama, according to a survey released today.
About 63 percent of businesses plan to make employees pay a higher percentage of their premium costs in 2011, said the Washington-based National Business Group on Health, which surveyed 72 companies that employ more than 3.7 million people. The survey showed 46 percent plan to raise the maximum level of out-of-pocket costs that workers must bear.
The companies surveyed expect their costs of health-care benefits to rise an average of 8.9 percent next year. The legislation Obama signed in March will contribute an estimated 1 percentage point to the higher expense, Helen Darling, the business group’s president, said at a press conference in Washington today. Employee-paid portions may see small increases, she said.
“They’re usually very small increments,” Darling said. “It could be as little as 1 percent.”
Employers may be using the health-care law as cover for changes they already planned to make to their benefits, said Igor Volsky, a health-care researcher at the Washington-based Center for American Progress, which supported the overhaul.
“Costs are always increasing but they’re going to blame what they’re going to blame,” Volsky said yesterday before the survey’s results were released.
The companies, each of which has at least 5,000 workers on its payroll, said they expected their health-benefit costs to rise 7 percent this year, half a percentage point higher than employers estimated in a separate survey released by the National Business Group on Health and the consulting firm Towers Watson & Co. in March.
The health-care overhaul was designed to help rein in rising costs while enabling employers to make adjustments to their benefits, said Jessica Santillo, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services. “As was the case before the Affordable Care Act was enacted, employers have flexibility to make choices about how to design or revise their health care plans,” Santillo, who had not seen the survey, wrote in an e-mail yesterday.
About 57 percent of the employers in today’s study said their workers paid a higher portion of their premiums this year, and 36 percent of the companies increased the out-of-pocket maximums this year.
Companies said they plan to offer more so-called consumer- directed health benefits, such as insurance with high deductibles paired with tax-free health savings accounts. Twenty percent of companies will replace their current offerings with such plans in 2011, according to the survey, compared with 10 percent who did so this year. Wellness programs, including those that offer discounts for weight-loss, smoking-cessation and other lifestyle changes, are among the more-popular benefit changes planned for next year.
The National Business Group on Health was founded in 1974 to advocate for business interests on national health-care policy. The group’s roster of almost 300 members includes Wal- Mart Stores Inc., General Electric Co. and Chevron Corp.
To contact the reporter on this story: Jeffrey Young in Washington at
So if you are employed you will pay for more for health care, the unemployed of course will continue to pay nothing.
Health Freedom Radio is live tonight on www.survive2thrive.net from 6 to 7pm CST.
Listen to Darren and Steve talk about the BP oil spill – Toxicity levels in the ocean and air and what that means to all of us. Will we see black rain? What are some of the consequences that might be in store. Learn more Wednesday June 16
Am I surprised by this latest recall/scandal of a major drug company not behaving well? Yes and no is the simple answer. Yes surprised because, at least on the face of it, FDA is actually considering criminal charges. No, since it is definitely business as usual at Big Pharma.
When you consider Big Pharma regularly pays billions in fines, it becomes obvious that foisting unsafe product on the Citizens is business as usual. They probably budget fines to be paid every year as a continuing cost of doing business. As long as they can sell sell sell lots of stuff before they get caught, well it is all worth the money. Of course, the Citizens end up screwed!
UPDATE 2-Storm over J&J’s child drug recall only grows
Thu May 27, 2010 4:49pm EDT
* U.S. FDA cites ‘systemic’ problems at J&J
* UPDATE 1-FDA probes hundreds of J&J children drug complaints
* Lawmakers criticize “culture” at J&J
* J&J apologizes to parents, pledges to fix problems
* J&J shares slip on day of broad stock gains (Rewrites with details from hearing; adds analyst comment, updates shares)
By Susan Heavey
WASHINGTON, May 27 (Reuters) – Johnson & Johnson <JNJ.N was blasted by lawmakers on Thursday for its massive recall of children’s medicines, as regulators said a string of recent manufacturing lapses could lead to civil or criminal charges.
Late last month, J&J recalled 40 widely used nonprescription products for children and infants, such as Tylenol and Motrin, after Food and Drug Administration inspectors found filthy equipment and contaminated ingredients at a Pennsylvania factory.
“This is an issue of trust,” House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Edolphus Towns told a hearing held to investigate the recall. “When parents and grandparents give these medicines to their children, they want to be confident that they are not harmful.”
A J&J executive told the panel that the company had not lived up to its reputation and apologized for the concern and inconvenience created by the recall.
The FDA says there have been hundreds of complaints but no children have been known to be harmed.
Investors, previously confident the problems were a minor financial concern for the diversified maker of medical and consumer products, are beginning to be cautious.
JP Morgan analysts said on Tuesday that the recall could shave J&J’s sales by $300 million this year to nearly $62.3 billion. It is also likely to dent earnings by 3 cents per share or more depending on how much it costs to fix the problems, they said.
Shares of J&J closed down 0.2 percent at $59.03 on the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday, underperforming the S&P Pharmaceuticals Sub-Industry Index which rose 1.3 percent on a day of broad stock gains.
“I think it’s beginning to be” an issue, Noble Financial Group analyst Jan Wald said of the recall. “The more serious the government is going to take it, the more serious investors are going to take it.”
Lawmaker said the episode highlighted the need to give FDA more power over drugmakers. Towns said he would introduce legislation to expand FDA’s ability to order a drug recall, something that now requires a lengthy legal process and court orders if a drugmaker refuses to voluntarily issue a recall.
Since the nationwide recall was announced last month, 136 million bottles of medicine have been recalled in the fourth company recall in the last 12 months. [ID:nN04125643]
Food and Drug Administration officials told lawmakers it was the latest evidence of systemic quality problems at J&J and its McNeil Consumer Healthcare unit and demonstrated a failure to comply with basic good manufacturing principles.
FDA “has had growing concerns about the quality of the company’s manufacturing process,” Deputy Commissioner Joshua Sharfstein testified, citing poor inspection results and multiple consumer recalls.
“Although the public risk from these quality problems is low, these problems should never have occurred,” Sharfstein said, calling the manufacturing failures “unacceptable.”
The agency is weighing whether to penalize the company through either civil or criminal charges, but no decision has been made yet, he added.
Colleen Goggins, worldwide chairman of J&J’s consumer group, said the company has not lived up to its reputation but has taken drastic steps to clean up its manufacturing process and shake up management.
“I apologize to all the mothers, fathers, and caregivers for the concern and inconvenience caused by the recall,” she said.
Sharfstein said the FDA has been concerned by J&J’s history of problems, with FDA inspectors checking McNeil’s facilities increasingly often. In February it took the “extraordinary” step of meeting with top management at its J&J parent company.
In late April, FDA cited McNeil’s Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, plant for a variety of lapses that included bacterial contamination of ingredients, grimy facilities and the potential for medicines to be too potent.
Sharfstein said the FDA cited similar problems at McNeil before 2009, but added the unit resolved the issues. But in May and June 2009, FDA again found multiple problems, including the “failure to meet its own standard for quality,” he said.
Both Democrats and Republicans blasted J&J for allowing widespread lapses at its McNeil unit even as it touts itself as serving patients first. [ID:nN05212480]
“When a parent gives her child a Tylenol Product or other children’s medicine produced by Johnson & Johnson, they are relying on the 120-year-old reputation of a company who claims that it puts ‘the needs and well-being of the people we serve first,’” said the committee’s ranking Republican, Representative Darrell Issa.
McNeil appears to have “a culture of mediocrity,” said Representative Elijah Cummings, a Democrat.
J&J’s Goggins said the company worked quickly to ensure recalled products were removed from stores and the public informed. McNeil has also “made significant organizational changes,” hiring six new top officials to oversee quality and plant operations, she said.
The companies have been working to improve product quality and will “expend whatever resources are necessary to ensure” the Pennsylvania plant can resume production, she said. (Reporting by Susan Heavey; Additional reporting by Lewis Krauskopf in New York; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn, Phil Berlowitz and Tim Dobbyn)
Watch the Big Pharma companies closely. They do not have your highest good in mind most of the time, rather profits and shareholder returns.
I guess it is ‘good’ news that we Americans aren’t the only fat people on the planet! Ireland and several other countries have reached the ‘epidemic’ stage with us now.
Wonder what it will take to get people more aware of the connection between what the eat, their weight and how they feel? Buy some EnerFood…make a smoothie for lunch!
Experts warn on rising obesity levels
Obesity levels in Ireland have reached “epidemic proportions” affecting up to a fifth of all adults and resulting in 2,000 premature deaths annually, according to experts.
In a joint statement issued today, the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU), the Diabetes Federation of Ireland and healthcare firm GlaxoSmithKline said the cost of treating obesity in Ireland was now more than €400 million a year.
Their statement is designed to raise awareness of the issue ahead of European Obesity Day on Saturday.
IPU president Darragh O’Loughlin said an ongoing awareness programme was needed to ensure people are continually warned about the dangers of excessive consumption of foods high in fat, sugar and salt and also of the benefits of regular exercise.
“While the population may be aware of the benefits of healthy eating, evidence would tend to suggest that they may not be aware of the dangers of regular consumption of fatty foods and snacks,” he said.
Anna Clarke of the Diabetes Federation of Ireland said: “Being overweight increases your risk of developing several serious health problems such as Type II diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancer.
The spread of Type II diabetes is a serious risk in this county – the incidence of Type II diabetes is currently rising by at least 3.7 per cent annually,” Dr Clarke said.
She said obesity is endemic in Ireland and this has major implications for future population health and health service provision.
Recent data from Department of Health and Children on self-reported Body Mass Index (BMI) shows an increase in obesity of over 30 per cent for both men and women between 1998 and 2007.
The data suggests 59 per cent of men and 41 per cent of women are now self-reporting as either overweight or obese.
GlaxoSmithKline’s Niall O’Shea said: “Weight is not a vanity or beauty issue — it is a health issue and it is one that can be addressed, if people are willing to take control of their own circumstances”.
“Being obese is extremely dangerous and can lead to significant health problems, which can sometimes be fatal. We are working to help raise awareness of the seriousness of this issue and of the solutions that are available, to people who are currently obese,” he said.
Further details about the health risks associated with obesity can be found on the official European Obesity Day website at www.obesityday.eu
Buy some EnerFood and see what can happen by just replacing one meal a day with a smoothie with Enerfood in it.
As a small business owner some of the provisions in this bill will cause me to contemplate shutting the doors. Not only are there the actual dollar cost of the ‘care’ but now the devils details are coming to light. 1099s filed for anything over $600? Come on now. These guys are trying to track every stinkin penny now!
I see a mass exodus of businesses…either shutting the doors or going offshore…oh yeah now you have to report any capital accounts over 30k or so…guess there will be a few less citizens.
Health care law’s massive, hidden tax change
By Neil deMause, contributing writerMay 5, 2010: 11:00 PM ET
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — An all-but-overlooked provision of the health reform law is threatening to swamp U.S. businesses with a flood of new tax paperwork.
Section 9006 of the health care bill — just a few lines buried in the 2,409-page document — mandates that beginning in 2012 all companies will have to issue 1099 tax forms not just to contract workers but to any individual or corporation from which they buy more than $600 in goods or services in a tax year.
The stealth change radically alters the nature of 1099s and means businesses will have to issue millions of new tax documents each year.
Right now, the IRS Form 1099 is used to document income for individual workers other than wages and salaries. Freelancers receive them each year from their clients, and businesses issue them to the independent contractors they hire.
But under the new rules, if a freelance designer buys a new iMac from the Apple Store, they’ll have to send Apple a 1099. A laundromat that buys soap each week from a local distributor will have to send the supplier a 1099 at the end of the year tallying up their purchases.
The bill makes two key changes to how 1099s are used. First, it expands their scope by using them to track payments not only for services but also for tangible goods. Plus, it requires that 1099s be issued not just to individuals, but also to corporations.
Taken together, the two seemingly small changes will require millions of additional forms to be sent out.
“It’s a pretty heavy administrative burden,” particularly for small businesses without large in-house accounting staffs, says Bill Rys, tax counsel for the National Federation of Independent Businesses.
Eliminating the goods exemption could launch an avalanche of paperwork, he says: “If you cater a lunch for other businesses every Wednesday, say, that’s a lot of information to keep track of throughout the year.”
The paper trail
Why did these tax code revisions get included in a health-care reform bill? Welcome to Washington. The idea seems to be that using 1099 forms to capture unreported income will generate more government revenue and help offset the cost of the health bill.
A Democratic aide for the Senate Finance Committee, which authored the changes, defended the move.
“Information reporting improves tax compliance without raising taxes on small businesses,” the aide said. “Health care reform includes more than $35 billion in tax cuts for small businesses … indicating that during these tough economic times, Congress is delivering the tax breaks small businesses need to thrive.”
The new rules could drastically alter the tax-reporting landscape by spotlighting payments that previously went unreported. Freelancers and other independent operators typically write off stacks of business expenses; having to issue tax paperwork documenting each of them could cut down on fraudulent deductions.
More significantly, the 1099 trail would expose payments to small operators that might now be going unreported. If you buy a computer for your business from a major chain retailer, the seller almost certainly documents the revenue. But if you buy it from Tim’s Computer Shack down the street, Tim might not report and pay taxes on his income from the sale.
The IRS estimates that the federal government loses more than $300 billion each year in tax revenue on income that goes unreported. Using 1099s to document millions of transactions that now go untracked is one way to begin to close the gap.
While all but unnoticed at the time — a Pennsylvania business group issued the first warning last October as the idea emerged in draft Senate legislation — the 1099 rule changes began sparking attention in the blogosphere in the last week. The libertarian Cato Institute called it a “costly, anti-business nightmare”; Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Calif., introduced legislation last week that would repeal the new 1099 requirements.
The notion of mailing a tax form to Costco or Staples each year to document purchases may seem absurd to small business owners, but that’s not the worst of it, tax experts say.
Marianne Couch, a principal with the Cokala Tax Group in Michigan and former chair of a citizen advisory group to the IRS on small business and self-employed tax issues, thinks the bigger headache will be data collection: gathering names and taxpayer identification numbers for every payee and vendor that you do business with.
But she also sees a silver lining in the new law.
Her firm already recommends collecting tax data on all vendors, since the IRS requires that you have it on hand at the time of the transaction, not just at tax-filing time. And eliminating the corporate and goods exemptions at least means that businesses will no longer have to pour over every transaction to determine if it needs a 1099. The new rule is simpler: If it crosses the $600 threshold, it’s in.
“There are probably going to be some hiccups along the way, because systems will need to be redesigned,” says Couch. “But overall I believe it will make compliance on the payor end a lot more streamlined and easier.”
In any case, the final impact of the law won’t be known until the IRS issues its regulations on the new law, which aren’t expected to arrive until sometime next year. The IRS has not yet commented on when it will release regulations or schedule public hearings, and an agency spokesman was unsure when it will do so. The new requirements kick in January 1, 2012.
I can only hope that WE THE PEOPLE will ORGANIZE against this tyranny!
Although the President promised not to increase taxes on the ‘middle class’ the new Health Care (sick care) bill does exactly that.
I will be paying a fine of about $1000 in the first year for not having this horrible deal around my neck! Doesn’t that constitute a ‘hidden’ tax? Bottom line is I am paying an extra $1000 to Uncle Sam that I wasn’t prior to this deal. At $1000 a year it is cheaper than paying the exorbitant rates of the insurance companies.
Nearly 4M people could pay without health coverage
By STEPHEN OHLEMACHER Stephen Ohlemacher – Thu Apr 22, 7:04 pm ET
WASHINGTON – Nearly 4 million Americans — the vast majority of them middle class — will have to pay a penalty if they don’t get insurance when President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul law kicks in, according to congressional estimates released Thursday.
The penalties will average a little more than $1,000 apiece in 2016, the Congressional Budget Office said in a report.
Most of the people paying the fine will be middle class as Obama’s comprehensive law is phased in over the next few years. In his 2008 campaign for the White House, Obama pledged not to raise taxes on individuals making less than $200,000 a year and couples making less than $250,000.
Republicans have criticized the requirement that Americans get coverage, even though the idea was originally proposed by the GOP in the 1990s and is part of the Massachusetts health care plan signed into law in 2006 by then Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican. Attorneys general in more than a dozen states are working to challenge it in federal court as unconstitutional.
“The individual mandate tax will fall hardest on Americans who can least afford to pay it, many of whom were promised subsidies by the Democrats and who the president has promised would not pay higher taxes,” said Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan, the top Republican on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee.
Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, said while Obama and congressional Democrats celebrate the benefits of the law, they have an obligation to acknowledge the flip side. “There’s a price for not participating, and people will pay it,” Grassley said.
Democrats argue that the requirement and the penalties are a necessary part of a massive overhaul designed to expand coverage to millions who now lack it. They point out that getting more Americans, especially young and healthy people, in the insurance pool will reduce costs for others and could lower premiums.
“The new law will make health insurance affordable for everyone and CBO’s analysis confirms that the vast majority of uninsured Americans will find health care affordable and choose to participate,” said White House spokesman Nick Papas.
Americans who don’t get qualified health insurance will be required to pay penalties starting in 2014, unless they are exempt because of low income, religious beliefs, or because they are members of American Indian tribes. The penalties will be fully phased in by 2016.
About 21 million nonelderly residents will be uninsured in 2016, according to projections by the CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation. Most of those people will be exempt from the penalties.
Under the new law, the penalties will be phased in starting in 2014. By 2016, those who must get insurance but don’t will be fined $695 or 2.5 percent of their household income, whichever is greater.
After 2016, the penalties will be increased by annual cost-of-living adjustments. People will not be required to get coverage if the cheapest plan available costs more than 8 percent of their income.
The penalties will be collected by the Internal Revenue Service through tax returns. However, the IRS will not have the authority to bring criminal charges or file liens against those who don’t pay.
About 3 million of those required to pay fines in 2016 will have incomes below $59,000 for individuals and $120,000 for families of four, according to the CBO projections. The other 900,000 people who must pay the fine will have higher incomes.
The government will collect about $4 billion a year in fines from 2017 through 2019, according to the report.
Get you pens out or get online and raise a ruckus. The thieves in Washington need to know how you feel about this!
Well the fun begins! Ink barely dry and lots of lawsuits filed with more to come. This bill is certainly unconstitutional and needs to be rescinded. I imagine it will go to the Supreme Court and who knows what that bunch will do….
In the meantime, get active at the local and community level. Start thinking about what you want to see in place of the ‘system’ we have now, the broken one!
States Launch Legal Challenge to Health Care Law
At Least 14 States File Suit Challenging Constitutionality of Health Care Law
The ink on President Obama’s signature was barely dry when attorneys general in 14 states filed papers in federal court today challenging the constitutionality of the newly signed health care bill.
Minn. Gov. Tim Pawlenty discusses his party’s fight over bill’s legality.
“We are convinced that this legislation is fundamentally flawed as a matter of constitutional law, that it exceeds the scope of proper constitutional authority of the federal government and tramples upon the rights and prerogatives of states and their citizens,” David Rivkin, Jr., an attorney representing 13 of the states, told ABC News.
The challenges to the legislation focus on the mandate that requires an individual to buy health insurance. The states are also worried about the extent to which the statute imposes a financial burden — in resources and personnel — on them.
Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum is leading the attack for 13 of the states and filed papers in the Northern District of Florida shortly after noon today.
More states are expected to file in the days and weeks to come.
“We simply cannot afford the things that are in this bill that we’re mandated to do,” McCollum, who is running for governor of Florida, said at a press conference this afternoon. “It’s not realistic. It’s not hype, it’s just very, very wrong.”
McCollum said he’s confident the case will go before the U.S. Supreme Court and that the states will prevail.
Anyone wondering why Health Care and related stocks have been soaring over the past few months? Even thought the politicians have ‘wrapped’ this deal in a silk purse…it doesn’t change the fact that it is still a sow’s ear! Well at least SOMEONE (COMPANY) IS BENEFITING!
The market is telling us that these companies stand to make ‘windfall’ profits from this bill. I can only hope and pray that the states overturn most of this bad bill, at least the part that requires us to buy health insurance!
PLEASE CONTACT YOUR SENATOR AND TELL THEM WHAT YOU THINK! I suspect that the ‘nays’ far outweigh the ‘yeas’ on this one.
Stocks in U.S. Gain as Health-Care Shares Climb on Overhaul Bill’s Passage
March 22 (Bloomberg) — U.S. stocks gained, erasing an early decline, as drugmakers rallied after the House of Representatives passed an overhaul of the industry.
Merck & Co. and Pfizer Inc. climbed more than 1.7 percent to help lead health-care companies to the biggest gain among 10 groups in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index after the House approved legislation that will ensure tens of millions of uninsured Americans will get medical coverage. Boeing Co. advanced more than 2 percent to lead gains in the Dow Jones Industrial Average on analyst upgrades.
“The health-care legislation approval removes the uncertainty,” said Richard Sichel, chief investment officer at the Philadelphia Trust Co., which manages $1.4 billion. “On top of that, the shares had been beaten down, so you can find reasonably valued companies.”
The S&P 500 increased 0.3 percent to 1,163.66 at 10:59 a.m. in New York, erasing an earlier 0.6 percent retreat. The Dow average climbed 39.3 points, or 0.4 percent, to 10,781.28.
U.S. stocks retreated at the start of trading amid concern growing government deficits around the world and rising interest rates will derail the global economy. Advanced economies face “acute” challenges in tackling high public debt, and unwinding existing stimulus measures won’t come close to bringing deficits back to prudent levels, John Lipsky, first deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund, said in a speech yesterday at the China Development Forum in Beijing.
Interest Rate Watch
The Reserve Bank of India raised its benchmark rates after local financial markets closed on March 19, a month earlier than the next scheduled review, to tame the fastest inflation in more than a year. Policy makers in Australia and Malaysia have also increased rates since the end of February, while China has ordered lenders to set aside more funds as reserves.
Health-care stocks jumped more than 1.1 percent as a group and contributed to more than 40 percent of the S&P 500’s move, according to Bloomberg data. Tenet Healthcare Corp. had the biggest gain in the S&P 500, surging 6 percent to $6.10. Pfizer and Merck rose at least 1.8 percent.
House Democrats approved a Senate bill passed in December and then voted 220-211 to pass a measure that would amend the Senate legislation to fix provisions they don’t like. The Senate must also pass this second bill. The two bills together will cost $940 billion over 10 years and cover 32 million uninsured Americans, the Congressional Budget Office estimated.
The approval of the legislation will remove a significant “overhang” from the industry and will be viewed positively, Credit Suisse Group AG analyst Ralph Giacobbe wrote in a note today. Health-care companies will have higher valuations as investors “rotate” back into the stocks, analyst Charles Boorady at Citigroup Inc. said in a note.
Medtronic Inc. rose 2.8 percent to $46.05. The biggest maker of heart-rhythm devices won a U.S. panel’s backing on March 19 to introduce the nation’s first heart pacemaker designed to be used safely by patients undergoing magnetic resonance imaging exams.
Boeing Co. rose the most in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, gaining 2.3 percent to $72.37. The world’s second- largest commercial planemaker was raised to “outperform” at Oppenheimer & Co. and Cowen & Co.
GameStop Corp. jumped 3.3 percent to $21.80. The largest U.S. video-game retailer may rise to $30 during the next year as growth in its used video-game business boosts profit, Barron’s reported yesterday, citing Ross Margolies of Stelliam Investment Management in New York.
Genuine Parts Co. rose 3.4 percent to $43.03. The operator of NAPA auto-parts stores was raised to “buy” from “neutral” by Goldman Sachs Group Inc.
Novell Inc. advanced 3.6 percent to $5.84. The maker of Linux operating-system software said yesterday a $5.75-a-share acquisition offer from Elliott Associates LP is “inadequate” and undervalues the company.
You can find your Senator by clicking : http://www.senate.gov/
This is a great article, one that everyone should read and contemplate. I personally fall into this category, I choose not to pay for health insurance that does not cover the types of therapy or treatments that we prefer. I do see a need for ‘trauma’ medicine and we buy a very inexpensive policy through the schools for my kids just for this reason.
For any other treatments or therapies, we always use one of our alternative practitioners.
March 17, 2010
Reform Threatens Alternative Medicine
By Curt Levey and Jim Turner
We are the heads of two non-profit organizations – one of us liberal and the other conservative – who are concerned that the impending healthcare legislation will negatively impact holistic and natural medicine and limit the healthcare choices of the people who consume it.
Because alternative medicine is highly effective in treating many of the chronic conditions which resist treatment by establishment medicine -from arthritis, heart disease, and chronic pain to insomnia and attention-deficit disorders – nearly 50 percent of Americans regularly use some type of alternative therapy, according to a study by the Journal of the American Medical Association. In fact, the study found that visits to alternative practitioners, for treatments ranging from acupuncture and chiropractic to herbal remedies, outnumber all visits to primary care physicians by almost two to one. Additionally, more than 100 million Americans “regularly consume dietary supplements as a means of improving and maintaining healthy lifestyles,” according to a U.S. Senator who has worked on related legislation.
Nonetheless, “alternative therapies (including acupuncture, chelation therapy, biofeedback and holistic medicine) are not covered by Medicare,” says the federal government. The same is true of Medicaid. Nobody expects better coverage for alternative treatments when, as a key part of the reform legislation, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) determines the “essential health benefits” that insurance plans will contain. When supporters of the legislation speak of a right to health care, they mean a right to establishment medicine.
Consumers of alternative medicine are used to health insurance plans that offer little or no coverage for holistic treatments and thus don’t meet their needs. That’s why many of them choose not to purchase health insurance. What they’re not used to – but will have to get used to if the proposed “reforms” become law – is being forced to purchase the very insurance plans that fail to meet their needs. And therein lie the dire consequences of the impending legislation.
If you’re an alternative healthcare consumer, the money you will be forced to spend subsidizing other people’s establishment healthcare, through premiums and higher taxes, is money you can no longer spend on holistic and natural medicine for you and your family. It’s as if the government forced you to join and pay for a food shopping club that didn’t include natural food stores. After you finished paying thousands of dollars up front to the big supermarket chains you rarely if ever visit, where would you find the money for the natural food you really want?
Sure, you can lobby HHS to include a few alternative treatments as “essential health benefits” – just as you can ask the big supermarket chains to carry some natural foods – but you shouldn’t have to beg to spend your money on the type of healthcare you want.
If you don’t think you will be affected by the government’s forced transfer of healthcare dollars from alternative to establishment medicine, consider the breadth of treatments that will be completely or partially excluded when federal bureaucrats draw up the list of essential benefits. You will be affected if you’re one of the patients of America’s 70,000 chiropractors, if you use an athletic trainer to treat your sports injury, of if you’re a woman who would prefer to give birth at home with the help of a midwife. You’ll be affected if you rely on treatments that are a traditional part of your culture or anyone else’s culture, whether you seek help from Native American medicine, acupuncture and other traditional Chinese treatments, India’s Ayurveda – made famous by physician Deepak Chopra – or the Latin American hueseros and sobaderos who treat traumatic and occupational injuries.
Consumers of these indigenous healing traditions are particularly vulnerable to the forced transfer of healthcare dollars because their typically modest incomes will make it difficult to pay for both their traditional medical practitioners and the new federally-mandated health insurance premiums. So much for the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendation that indigenous medicine be integrated into national healthcare programs. Instead, so many of the American politicians who pay lip service to respect for racial and cultural differences appear ready to hand the feds the power to impose a one-size-fits-all healthcare solution.
In the end, the essential point is not what the WHO recommends or whether acupuncture will be effective in relieving your chronic pain. The point is that every American deserves the right to make their own healthcare choices with their own healthcare dollars. No healthcare system will guarantee you access to every treatment you ever want – not an unregulated free market, not Medicare, not Medicaid, and certainly not “ObamaCare.” But when you’re allowed the freedom to make your own choices about treatments and insurance plans, you can prioritize what access is most important to you.
We all lose out when those choices are taken away, and not just in the obvious ways. With the impending diversion of money away from alternative medicine, the development of new holistic therapies that could benefit everybody will be stifled. If, instead, the Congress and President chose the path of fostering true competition in the health insurance market, insurance plans that cater more to our varied needs – including the needs of the natural medicine community – would likely bloom and expand. The increase in competition among treatments and insurance plans would put downward pressure on the high cost of establishment medicine, especially because alternative medicine typically has a lower price tag. We would all benefit.
Whether you prefer establishment medicine or are a fan of acupuncture, biofeedback, and dietary supplements, there are good reasons to share our concern about the negative impact of the impending legislation on alternative medicine and healthcare choice in general. With a final vote on the bill just days away, the time to share any concerns with your elected representatives in Washington is now.
Jim Turner is Chairman of Citizens for Health. Curt Levey is Executive Director of the Committee for Justice.
Write your representatives and express your opinions about this crazy attempt to ‘Reform’ healthcare. I continue to believe that they are offering all the wrong choices.
This article offers yet another perspective on the socialized medicine in France. Contrary to Michael Moore’s portrayal this author and the folks she spoke with in France have a different view of the ‘state of medicine’ in France.
Their system seems to put the heat on Doctors to see as many patients as possible every hour since they get paid a flat fee per patient seen. Once again the profit motive is alive but emphasizes the wrong things, money over cure or prevention!
Health Care and Alternative Health in France
By Lewis Mehl-Madrona (about the author) Page 1 of 2 page(s)
For Futurehealth: Lewis Mehl-Madrona – Writer
I recently had the opportunity to speak at a conference in Paris, France. Surprisingly, based upon Michael Moore’s glowing reports of the French health care system in his movie, Sicko, I discovered that few French citizens or physicians like their health care either, though some told me that it was a French trait to criticize everything, regardless. My French colleagues said the ambulance takes too long to appear from when it is called, it sometimes takes people to the furthest hospital instead of the closest. They said that doctors are rude, arrogant, and spend too little time. Some are drunks, or so says the media.
Within the ranks, physicians themselves told me of the cut-throat competition for the coveted hospital jobs in Paris and elsewhere. They described doctors attempting to discredit each other and tear one another down in order to climb to the top of the mountain and stay there. One opthalmologist cried as she told me about a colleague of hers who was a good surgeon and was being falsely accused of making errors by the doctor who wanted his position as head of opthalmology and Professor at a medical school.
Apparently medicine is ill in many parts of the world. Perhaps all the world’s institutions are ill? What can we do?
The conference was about what we call CAM, or Complementary and Alternative Medicine, in the United States, and particularly about the basis for some CAM practices in advanced physics. The conference was coordinated by Anna de Constatin and sponsored by the Association un Nouveau Regard sur le Vivant, which roughly translates as The Association for a New Look at Life.
The intellectual focus of the conference was the basis for homeopathy, aromatherapy, and some practices of energy medicine in advanced physics. The powerpoints impressively showed that water does remember previous substances and that spectrographic spikes of those substances remain after all molecules of the substance are removed. This, of course, provides potential support for understanding how homeopathy works, if and when it does work. The physicists and engineers were as excited as children with new Christmas toys, though little was said about the degree to which these alternative practices actually help people and under what circumstances.
From my standpoint as an indigenous person (“An American Indian in Paris”), I can readily accept the idea that intention has an effect upon matter and can charge matter with a purpose. I have been taught to be believe that this happens through the power of prayer, through faith, and through belief. What I don’t know for certain is if one can separate easily the power of intent at the quantum physics level from the action of “substance memory”.
I suppose we could do studies in which mean people make homeopathic remedies while practicing hating the people for whom they prepare the remedies. We could poke them in ways to make them angry all the while they are doing this. Computers could diagnose and prescribe the remedies in constant robotic fashion. But then we beg the question of what can humans do through the power of intent, compassion, and connection to help each other. This might be a more important point than how homeopathy works or if homeopathy works. Perhaps substances or treatments are only excuses to get us together to create a shared intent for healing, to show compassion to one another, and to enter a dialogue that ultimately leads to transformation.
What I do know is how much my colleagues who are homeopaths help some of their patients in their practices. This has impressed me. I can’t say how much should be attributed to the homeopathic medicine and how much to the doctor-patient relationship, the shared intent, the compassion, or the faith, but these may be inseparable aspects of good doctoring, which can only be removed in certain kinds of research studies.
There seems to be far too little of our just being helpful and having good intent in this world. We are not sufficiently focused on simply doing what we can to make people feel better.
In the USA, we are too focused on how we will be paid and on how much. Medicine is driven by profit-loss statements. France has apparently similar problems. Doctors may compete for status and income to the detriment of their patients.
I have no quick solutions for medicine since it took us a while to get here and it will take us a while to change back.
I do have a simple proposal that could be tried in several geographical regions as a test drive. What if we tried a new way to pay doctors based upon the concierge model? What if I was paid a set fee each year to take care of a patient, period? My friend who is a family doctor in Scottsdale, Arizona, charges each person in her practice $2000 per year. She limits her practice to 250 people. She has no staff. She sees people for as long as she wishes and as often as she wishes. She makes more money than she ever did in the other system (in which she had three people coding her visits and sending bills to insurance companies and one receptionist), has more free time, and is less stressed. To her surprise, she found that people don’t want want to come as often as she wants them to come and they won’t stay as long for appointments as she wants them to stay.
Of course, some doctors would abuse this system, but patient complaints would most likely identify them quickly, and they could be sanctioned in some way.
I would be happy in such a system and would do my utmost to keep people healthy (but then I have studied CAM and have more methods than pharmaceuticals for doing so, including traditional Chinese medicine, homeopathy, aromatherapy, Cherokee osteopathy, guided imagery, hypnosis, meditation, relaxation training, and the art of listening. I would really enjoy helping people to change their lifestyle. We could even exercise together. I could have some come to teach all of us yoga in the office, or t’ai chi, or chi gong, and offer my classes to my clientele as part of their fee so that I could take them, too. Each of us could try different approaches in our practices for keeping people healthy. We could come together at conferences like the one I am at, to compare notes on what seems to work best for each of us.
Back to the conference. My favorite presentation was that of Dr. Mario Beauregard of the University of Montreal. He spoke about spiritual neurobiology. I loved this, because I love studying the brain. I don’t know how this study helps anyone get better, but it’s fun. Dr. Beauregard concluded that neuroscience cannot answer the question of the existence of God, but it can show what parts of the brain light up on functional magnetic imaging studies or PET scans when we feel the presence of God or have spiritual experiences, and we can confirm that not everyone who has extraordinary spiritual experiences is having temporal lobe epilepsy.
Science probably has limits for helping us to make people heal better. All things being equal, it can compare two very similar treatments to each other. It can detect dangerous treatments, such as ibuprofen’s adverse effects upon the heart and kidneys. But it can’t help us as much as we wish to help people feel better. Proving the existence of auras doesn’t do much to tell us how to work constructively to heal the aura.
By science, I mean the search for underlying mechanisms of action, as opposed to the systematic exploration of what makes people feel better, which is also scientific, but represents a different kind of science, a comparative trial-and-error kind of science.
Mechanism of action studies gain the grants and the best presentation slots at conferences and the highest status, because that is what our culture truly values. We assume that explaining how something works makes it suddenly valid.
Explanatory pluralism teaches us that many levels of explanation exist and getting one right doesn’t eliminate all the others. So explaining HOW might become an infinite regress, always one more level to go. Nevertheless, it’s fun and keeps the scientists off the streets.
I spoke about Native American healing, first in relation to cancer and then in relation to psychosis. I joked that the Lakota elders I know were glad that neuroscience was finally catching up to the Lakota.
Finally a few words about the French health care system, for it appeared to be as profit-driven as our own. The basic coverage pays about 23 Euros to the doctor, which amounts to about $35 US, regardless of how long the patient is seen. This, of course, provides the incentive for doctors to see as many patients as possible per hour because that’s how they make the most money. Doctors are allowed to bill 30% over top of Basic Coverage, which the state pays for the poor or for refugees, private insurance sometimes pays, or the patient pays. My medical colleagues told me the system was breaking down because of the large numbers of poor, immigrants, or refugees. For doctors on salary at a hospital, the pay is substantially less than the U.S., though teaching as a Professor doubles one’s salary, so long as a position can be found in the hospital. Becoming a Professor is apparently a very political process and some Professors don’t teach, but just take the money after they become Professors. One of my colleagues, the opthalmologist, makes 60 Euros for a half day of work. That’s about $100. Not many American opthalmologists would work for that fee. Pay is not increased for the complexity of the patient, but there are conditions in which the state pays the extra 30%, including cancer, psychotic disorders, COPD, coronary artery disease, and other serious illnesses. Only physicians who have been chief residents or served as hospital doctors for two years are able to bill private insurance which still has a maximum on what it will pay. Doctors lose one Euro (about $1.35) for writing a prescription. One other health care sector exists– fully private doctors who bill whatever the patient will pay. Anyone can do this if they think they will succeed. Not all do. Insurance sometimes covers some of their bills. Finally in the French system, students start medical school at age 18 or 19 and go for 6 years. Then they do four to five years of residency and may serve as a chief resident for 2-3 years. They write a thesis somewhere in this process, though I was told that not many take it seriously.
Again, we find yet another example in which the highest income arises from spending the least time with patients. Somehow we have to change this on a global basis so that people get the time that they need and the stories which need to be told get time for to be heard. I hope we will someday find the way to do that.
Hopefully our own politicians will review the big picture as they start talking about health care reform in this country…FAT CHANCE of that happening in my opinion!