Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Favorite Forbes and PJ Media Columns of 2013

As 2013 winds down, here are some of my favorite Forbes and PJ Media health care columns for 2013.

Thanks to everyone who shared these by e-mail, blogging, Facebook, Twitter, etc.  I'm looking forward to an equally productive 2014!

Forbes columns:
"Why Doctors Should Not Ask Their Patients About Guns" (1/22/2013)
"Is Concierge Medicine The Correct Choice For You?" (3/27/2013)
"How Much Will Your Life Be Worth Under Obamacare?" (8/28/2013)
"Why The Federal Government Wants To Redefine The Word 'Cancer'" (9/29/2013)
"The Only Obamacare Fix Is For Obama To Legalize Real Health Insurance" (11/17/2013)
PJ Media columns:
My 4-part series on "Big Medicine"
Part 1: "Your Future Under Obamacare: Big Medicine Getting Bigger" (9/4/2013)
Part 2: "How Big Medicine Will Affect Patient Care" (9/10/2013)
Part 3: "The Eyes of Big Medicine: Electronic Medical Records" (9/18/2013)
Part 4: "How Patients Can Protect Themselves Against Big Medicine" (9/26/2013)
"Will Tomorrow's Medical Innovations Be There When You Need Them?" (11/15/2013)
(Here is the full list of my pieces.)

Monday, December 30, 2013

Cochrane: What to Do When ObamaCare Unravels

University of Chicago professor John Cochrane has a nice OpEd in the 12/25/2013 WSJ, "What to Do When ObamaCare Unravels".

A key point:
Health insurance should be individual, portable across jobs, states and providers; lifelong and guaranteed-renewable, meaning you have the right to continue with no unexpected increase in premiums if you get sick. Insurance should protect wealth against large, unforeseen, necessary expenses, rather than be a wildly inefficient payment plan for routine expenses.

People want to buy this insurance, and companies want to sell it. It would be far cheaper, and would solve the pre-existing conditions problem. We do not have such health insurance only because it was regulated out of existence...

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Supporting the Benjamin Rush Institute

If you enjoy the work of the Benjamin Rush Institute (including their debates, panel discussions, lectures, etc.), consider donating and/or becoming a member. I did!

(The Benjamin Rush Institute is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, so donations should be tax-deductible.)

Monday, December 23, 2013

Hsieh Forbes OpEd: Obamacare Spends 'Other People's Money' To Make Healthcare Expensive And Scarce

Forbes has just published my latest OpEd: "Obamacare Spends 'Other People's Money' To Make Healthcare Expensive And Scarce".

I discuss 4 dangers of a health system based on spending 'Other People's Money'.  In other words, it's not just that the money will run out some day!

Those dangers include:
1) Doctors will be increasingly expected to save money “for the system”
2) This will further fuel the nanny state
3) Health benefits will become increasingly politicized
4) Sooner or later, government spending Other People’s Money means the government taking your money
I also discuss how to avoid these problems.

(And many thanks to Ray Niles for finding that great Walter Williams quote.)

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Roy on ObamaCare Rule Changes

Avik Roy has a good round-up at Forbes on the latest ObamaCare rule changes and what they mean: "Utter Chaos: White House Exempts Millions From Obamacare's Insurance Mandate, 'Unaffordable' Exchanges".

A couple of key points:

* The previous "fixes" weren't working, but the proposed new "fix" to allow some people to purchase "catastrophic" plans also won't work.  Those "catastrophic" plans won't be much cheaper.

* The insurance marketplace is now in chaos because of unexpected rule changes.

But you should read the whole thing.

Catron on Insurers' Faustian Bargain

David Catron's latest piece for the American Spectator notes that "Insurance Companies Deserve Obamacare".

He reminds us that insurers:
...enter[ed] into a Faustian bargain with the White House whereby they agreed to promote Obamacare in return for potentially enormous profits from millions of new customers who will be herded to them by its exchanges. In 2012, the health insurers kept their part of the deal by spending $216 million to pimp Obamacare, but the president and his accomplices began double-crossing them as soon as it became politically expedient.
Most Americans won't shed too many tears for the insurers.

And Catron also notes that the current problems of ObamaCare will further fuel the push towards abolition of private health insurance altogether by advocates of a "single payer" system.

(FWIW, I covered some similar points in my March 2009 PJ Media piece, "Health Insurance Industry Sells Its Soul to the Devil".)

Friday, December 20, 2013

Updated D4PC Reform Proposal

Docs4PatientCare has published their updated 2013 health care reform proposal, "Physician's Prescription for Health Care Reform".

Overall, I agree with the broad outline of their proposals.  Their plan would definitely move American health care in positive direction.

(I would also include proposals to eventually fully privatize Medicare, Medicaid, and high-risk pools.  But their plan would be far superior to the status quo.)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

USA Today on MRSA

USA Today has a detailed article on the growing problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria: "Dangerous MRSA bacteria expand into communities".

We will be hearing much more about this issue in coming years.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Quick Links: Roy, NHS, Friedman

Avik Roy: "Government Takeover: White House Forces Obamacare Insurers To Cover Unpaid Patients At A Loss"

Telegraph: "Inspectors carrying out first spot checks of family doctors in England find maggots in treatment rooms and queues so long that patients brought in stools to sit on"

Classic Milton Friedman talk from 1978: "Economics of Socialized Medicine"

(I don't agree with Friedman on some issues, but he was very good on this topic.)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Adalja on Medicare and End-Of-Life Care

Dr. Amesh Adalja has a new column up at Forbes: "Medicare Has Chained Us Together, Reliant On End-Of-Life Government Rationing".

A few excerpts from his piece:
As 25-30% of Medicare spending occurs in the last year of life, end of life care has become a rising issue in health care policy debates. End of life scenarios often place the ICU physician in the position of persuading designated surrogates of the patient to—after consulting the patient’s living will and stated wishes—withdraw care and allow the patient to succumb to their illness...

The growing fiscal burden of the program, not surprisingly, raises concerns regarding the costs and efficacy of the treatments paid for by Medicare. End of life care often takes place in ICUs and employs expensive state-of-the-art technology. Yet, in certain contexts, these advanced therapies are unable to alter the course of illness. Family members of gravely ill patients may have religious, financial, or other reasons to continue care and when an unseen 3rd party is responsible for the bill, costs of care are not a factor...

It is the increasingly socialized atmosphere of medicine that has created this scenario that puts physicians in a financial stewardship position creating a conflict with their role as an advocate for their patients. In any system where government pays for end-of-life health care, it will inevitably have to decide who receives it or not. In a free market, in which individuals control their own health care spending, individuals make these decisions for themselves... 
But you should read the full text.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Wolf on Other ObamaCare Lies

Dr. Milton Wolf has a new OpEd in the Washington Times, "The President’s other Obamacare lies".

The controversy over ordinary Americans losing their health insurance is just the tip of the iceberg.  Some of the other issues he discusses is people losing their doctors, raising taxes, and transparency.

Read the full text for more details.

And if you want more information on his run for the US Senate (or wish to donate to his campaign), check out his website.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Adalja Blog: Tracking Zebra

Dr. Amesh Adalja has a new blog, Tracking Zebra, covering "Infectious disease, politics, healthcare, Pittsburgh, and related topics".

I've learned a lot about the growing danger of antibiotic resistant bacteria from his Twitter feed as well.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Coming Next: "Doc Shock"

After the "rate shock", will come the "doc shock".  Get ready for arguments that "narrower networks" and less choice over doctors will be good for you.

From Megan McArdle: "'Doc Shock' On Deck in Obamacare Wars". 

(Link via Matthew Bowdish.)

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Inappropriate "Appropriateness"

Dr. Wes Fisher asks a good question, "What happened to doctors serving as advocates for their patients?"

In particular, he notes how doctors are being increasingly expected to adhere to externally imposed "appropriateness" criteria for treating patients -- which may or may not be what's actually right for the individual patient.

Of course, guidelines and criteria can be helpful adjuncts to experienced clinical judgment. But they cannot replace that judgment.  The issue will become increasingly important as physician payments (or penalties) are increasingly linked to how whether or not a physician adheres to (or strays from) those criteria.

In the worst case, these criteria create a serious conflict of interest for the physician -- will doctors do what's right for their patients?  Or will they adhere to the criteria, even at the patient's expense?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Current Legal Challenges to ObamaCare

The 12/2/2013 New York Times has a round-up of, "A New Wave of Challenges to Health Law".

Two of the key issues include:
* The subsidies for people purchasing insurance through federal exchanges
* Religious freedom questions

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Benjamin Rush Institute Debate on Markets and Health Care, Dec 4

The Benjamin Rush Institute will be hosting a debate tomorrow (Wednesday, December 4) on Kenneth Arrow's ideas of uncertainty as applied to health economics.  The set of panelists looks very impressive!

Here is their announcement:

Debate: "50 Years of Uncertainty: Are markets unsuitable for healthcare?"

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Kenneth Arrow's highly influential article "Uncertainty and the Welfare Economics of Medical Care," the Benjamin Rush Institute chapter of UTHSCSA School of Medicine is sponsoring a debate on whether or not healthcare is sufficiently different from other industries that it requires a significant role for government to correct intrinsic "market failures."
When: Wednesday, December 4th, 2013 6:00 - 8:00 PM
Where: University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio School of Medicine
Pestana Lecture Hall 3.104A, 7703 Floyd Curl Drive, San Antonio, Texas 78229

Avik Roy, graduate from Yale School of Medicine; Senior Fellow, Manhattan Institute, Forbes columnist
Dr. William Sage, MD/JD, Vice Provost for Health Affairs, University of Texas at Austin
Dr. Mark Pauly, PhD, Professor of Health Care Management; Professor Business Economics and Health Policy, Wharton School of University of Pennsylvania
Dr. Samuel Richardson, PhD, Assist. Professor of Public Affairs, LBJ School of Public Affairs
Local audience members can RSVP here.

For out-of-town folks BRI says, "Regretfully, the planned live-streaming will not be available. A video recording will be posted on the website as soon as possible."

More background information on the topic from BRI:
Fifty years ago in 1963, Kenneth Arrow wrote what became a landmark article in health economics, “Uncertainty and the Welfare Economics of Medical Care.”

Arrow’s analysis is deeply imbedded in the economic theory of welfare economics — which in turn is built upon the belief that it is possible to determine a socially optimal allocation of resources — frequently along the lines of Pareto optimality – and anything short of that optimal state is a “market failure.” Arrow contends that the lack of optimality in healthcare, and the market failures which lead to it, emanate from variant forms of uncertainty, manifesting as problems of risk, insurance and imperfect information.  He discusses ways that society attempts to circumvent market failures through the use of non-market institutions, such as government, professionalism, nonprofit status, and trust.

Arrow’s article quickly became required reading for anyone studying the economics of healthcare — and even today, his ideas continue to influence scholarly and popular dialogue. Anyone with a serious interest in tackling healthcare reform needs to be familiar with Arrow’s analyses, in particualr, the problems of adverse selection in insurance, and of asymmetric information, both in matters of insurance and in doctor-patient relationships.

To celebrate Arrow’s contribution to healthcare economics, the Benjamin Rush Institute is hosting a debate. We have gathered an exciting panel of scholars who are well versed in Arrow’s work. Dr. Sage edited and Dr. Pauly contributed to a compilation of essays on the 40th anniversary, Uncertain Times: Kenneth Arrow and the Changing Economics of Health Care. Avik Roy has written several op-eds critiquing the use of Arrow to justify government interventions.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Forcing Doctors To See Obamacare Patients?

In his 11/25/2013 Forbes column, Merrill Matthews asks a darned good question: "When Will The Government Start Forcing Doctors To See Obamacare Patients?"

Given the worsening doctor shortage and the influx of newly-insured patients under ObamaCare, something is going to have to give.  Some possibilities include:

1) More patients will get their care from mid-level providers such as Physician Assistants (PAs) and Nurse Practitioners (NPs), only seeing an MD when their condition is deemed sufficiently severe.

2) Patients will get "shared medical appointments", where multiple patients see one doctor at the same time.

3) Doctors will not be allowed to turn away patients with ObamaCare insurance (or government Medicare/Medicaid coverage).

We're not yet at that last step.  But some trial balloons have been floated in Massachusetts.  And a candidate for the Virginia state legislature recently made a similar proposal.

This gives rise to a natural question: Do you really want a doctor taking care of you who is doing so only because he's forced to by the government?

Don't expect this issue to go away.