Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Get Ready For the Feeding Frenzy

The Obama administration is now working on what services should be included in the government's mandatory insurance package (the so-called "Essential Health Benefits Package").

As part of this process, HHS (the federal Department of Health and Human Services) has been holding a series of "Listening Sessions" around the country to solicit public opinion on this issue.

I received an interesting report from someone who attended (via teleconference) the 11/18/2011 Denver "listening session". He was kind enough to give me his permission to post this excerpt from his summary and analysis:
Speakers included individuals and representatives of various organizations and companies. I would say that in the two-hour meeting, representatives of health care organizations and related service/medical device providers accounted for more than 95% of the total time. It became immediately clear that for many this was a well-orchestrated lobbying effort.

(Footnote: I am not one who condemns lobbying by individuals, companies or organizations so long as it isn't accompanied by graft or other corrupt activities. Lobbying in its pure sense should be protected free speech.)

The handful of individuals who spoke appealed primarily for expanded benefits for people afflicted with autism and phenylketonuria (a condition I had never heard of.) These speakers were parents of children (including adult children) for whom the burden, expense and heartache of dealing with the afflicted ones has become overwhelming.

Organizations whose representatives spoke today included groups that provide research, support, technologies and care in a wide range of areas. They all made well-scripted pitches for their causes to be deemed "essential" when the government mandates are imposed upon insurance plans. Nearly every one argued that the cost of their services, when utilized early, would produce much greater savings in the future.

Organizations and companies making their "pitches" are too numerous to list, but here's a glimpse of what was proposed:
* Expanded services for Autism and PKU
* Expanded care for mental and behavioral health
* Expanded pediatric vision care
* Expanded services to reduce pediatric injuries and obesity
* Expanded coverage for orthotics and prosthetics
* Expanded coverage for chronic disease management
* Expanded testing for STDs
* Expanded coverage for arthritis and psoriasis
* Coverage for foster care for Autistic developmentally disabled persons
* Expanded coverage for chronic pain
* An emphasis on "consumer satisfaction" with their health care coverage
* Coverage for "eating coaches"
* Expanded coverage for physical therapy
* Provisions for nutrition counselors
* Coverage for medical nutrition therapy, especially for the African-American population
* A heightened emphasis on utilization management
* An emphasis on flexibility
* Expanded coverage for maternity, newborn care and "reproductive rights" (abortion)
* An expanded emphasis on Latina healthcare needs
* Coverage for "medical foods"
* Expanded coverage for HIV testing
* Expanded coverage for hemophilia
* Expanded coverage for chiropractic care
Proponents of these services would benefit greatly if their services and products are deemed "essential" by the government. Hence, the virtual "feeding frenzy" that these listening sessions seem to be. (Why not? If your product or service can be declared "essential", you've hit the jackpot. And, would anyone care to take bets on how many corrupt members of Congress are secretly investing in some of these companies or organizations?)

Note as well the political "angle" for African-Americans and Latinas. Draw your own conclusions about that.

There may be perfectly viable cases to be made for some of these therapies being cost-effective preventive care. Others may simply be opportunists seeking to benefit from more "crony capitalism" with big money rolling in from insurance companies.

Politicians who are pushing for making insurance companies pay for more "essential benefits" will ever-so-predictably scream bloody murder when premiums rise to cover these services. These are the very politicians who will come to our "rescue" by advancing the notion that the government can provide all of them for "free", and gullible Americans will sadly believe them.

So, there you go. Remember this as the government takeover of American healthcare advances. It may not be the pure, noble and virtuous thing the politicians want you to believe it is.
Similar lobbying took place in Massachusetts after that state imposed its individual insurance mandate:
In the three years since Massachusetts enacted its individual mandate, providers successfully lobbied to require 16 specific types of coverage under the mandate: prescription drugs, preventive care, diabetes self-management, drug-abuse treatment, early intervention for autism, hospice care, hormone replacement therapy, non-in-vitro fertility services, orthotics, prosthetics, telemedicine, testicular cancer, lay midwives, nurses, nurse practitioners and pediatric specialists.

The Massachusetts Legislature is considering more than 70 additional requirements.
Unless ObamaCare is repealed, we should expect a similar special-interest feeding frenzy at the national level.