Warning: ObamaCare A Risk For The Elderly (What You Need To Know)

On May 7, the Obama administration boasted that ObamaCare was improving health-care quality for seniors; and it pulled out a bag of statistical tricks to prove it. But a closer look shows that it’s not improving care. It’s skimping on it, socking seniors with unexpected bills for “observation care” and likely shortening their lives.

President Obama’s Health and Human Services department announced that fewer seniors discharged from the hospital are returning for additional care within a month’s time. HHS claims that this drop in “readmissions,” from 18.5 percent in 2012 to 17.5 percent in 2013, signals quality improvement.

Nonsense. The 50 best hospitals according to US News & World Report’s Best Hospitals annual rankings have above-average readmission rates.

Nationwide, readmissions are dropping because Section 3025 of ObamaCare punishes hospitals if a senior returns within 30 days.

What happens to the senior treated for a heart attack who rushes to the hospital a week later feeling faint, possibly because of arrhythmia?

To dodge the penalty, hospitals put the patient under “observation.” It’s just a word on the chart. The patient may get the same tests and be put in the same room as if he had been admitted.

But unless he stays at least two nights, the hospital won’t bill Medicare for a stay; and the patient gets clobbered with the cost. Many seniors don’t even know they were under observation until they get the bill.

So much for HHS boasting about the drop in readmissions. HHS officials fail to mention that this coincides with a rise in elderly patients placed under “observation status.” It’s a hospital billing trick, and a dirty one for seniors.

Penalizing readmissions, which started in 2013, is one of the law’s tricks to reduce Medicare spending, never mind the impact on seniors. Cuts in future Medicare spending pay for more than half the law’s cost – robbing Grandma to fund health-care coverage for other groups.

It’s true that some readmissions are unnecessary and can be avoided if patients follow up with their doctors and take their meds after leaving the hospital. Low-income patients are less likely to do that, and hospitals caring for the poor are getting whacked hardest by ObamaCare’s readmission penalty.

The Obama administration plans to expand the readmissions penalties in 2015 to apply to many more conditions. It’s no wonder medical experts are protesting.

Dr. Ashish Jha, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, says it’s bogus to equate declining readmissions with quality. Many top academic hospitals have high readmission rates because their patients have serious illnesses and complications needing repeated stays.

Jha says the gold standard for measuring a hospital’s quality is how many patients survive a specific disease, such as pneumonia or congestive heart failure. Dr. Bruce Lytie, chairman of the Cleveland Clinic’s heart and vascular programs, also warns not to trust claims that lowering admissions improves quality.

Don’t trust ObamaCare’s definition of “value,” either. Everyone wants value, but ObamaCare defines it in a way that produces the opposite: dangerously skimpy care for seniors.

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The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom

Wimping Out On Repeal

Top Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers (R.-Washington) is walking back comments attributed to her that Obamacare can’t be repealed. But she’s not the only one suggesting that the goal should be making changes within the framework of the health law. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R.-KY) says the goal is to get the law “fixed.” Apparently, a lot of Republican lawmakers still haven’t read the law. If they had, they’d know the framework is corrupt.

Even presidential hopeful Senator Rand Paul (R.-KY) speculated on Friday that repeal is unlikely because it will be “difficult to turn back the clock back.”

Nonsense. Even by the most inflated Obama administration claims, some 8 million people have signed up for exchange plans, out of a nation of 318 million. Obamacare is repealable and should be replaced with a plan to cover the uninsured and reduce costs.

Obamacare’s authors paid lip service to these goals but had an ulterior motive: forging a permanent Democratic majority. The law creates a huge infrastructure for enrolling millions of people not just in healthcare, but also for food stamps, housing assistance, and other welfare programs – and registering them to vote.

Here are the pillars of this corrupt scheme. None of the minor fixes Republicans are discussing come even close to sweeping away this corruption.

Navigators and assisters: (Sec. 1311.) Instead of government employees promoting Obamacare and enrolling the uninsured, the law reserves these jobs for community activists, unions, community health centers, and other not-for-profits. Players include the NAACP, Planned Parenthood, and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Hiring these groups is a way to fund the shadow army of the Democratic Party in between elections.

Assisters sign up the uninsured for non-health benefits and register them to vote. The National Association of Community Health Centers identifies voter registration as a key part of its mission. The whole scheme recalls the days of Tammany Hall, when local ward bosses got the poor and newly arrived whatever they needed, in exchange for their votes. Obamacare institutionalizes this corrupt model and pays for it with your premiums.

Bailouts for Insurers: (Sec.1342.) Obamacare rules make it impossible for insurers to offer “affordable” plans and still cover their costs. The premiums have to cover a long list of mandatory benefits as well as $100 billion in taxes on insurers over the decade. Insurers also have to cover seriously ill people for the same price as healthy people. Every state that tried this “community rating” scheme has seen premiums soar, as the healthy stop buying the plans.

To fool the public into thinking Obamacare is affordable, the law includes a bailout. It encourages insurers to price plans below cost, with the assurance that taxpayer money will make them whole for most losses at the end of the year. In short, John Q. Public is paying to make a law look affordable that isn’t. Worse, in January, the Obama administration sweetened the bailout terms, something only Congress has the authority to do.

The final pillar is the big lie that this law is paid for. Reductions in future Medicare spending pay for over half the law, including a staggering 27% cut in payments to Medicare Advantage plans. That’s on paper. But the administration is postponing the Medicare Advantage cuts to dodge angry seniors. Also postponed is the employer mandate requiring workplaces with 50 or more full time employees to provide a costly package of benefits. In anticipation of that mandate, employers are holding their workforces below 50 or cutting hours below the law’s zany 30-hour a week definition of full time. In the first seven months of 2013, an astounding 77% of hires were part time. With the employer mandate, the economy cannot recover. Without it, millions more will need taxpayer funded coverage, and Obamacare collapses.

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The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom

Obama Dooms Seniors To Ravages Of Aging





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On Oct. 1, 2012 the Obama administration started awarding bonus points to hospitals that spend the least on elderly patients. It will result in fewer knee replacements, hip replacements, angioplasty, bypass surgery, and cataract operations.

These are the five procedures that have transformed aging for older Americans. They used to languish in wheelchairs and nursing homes due to arthritis, cataracts, and heart disease. Now they lead active lives.

But the Obama administration is undoing that progress. By cutting $716 billion from future Medicare funding over the next decade and rewarding the hospitals that spend the least on seniors, the Obama health law will make these procedures hard to get and less safe.

The Obama health law creates two new entitlements for people under age 65 – subsidies to buy private health plans and a vast expansion of Medicaid. More than half the cost of these entitlements is paid for by cutting what hospitals, doctors, hospice care, home care, and Advantage plans are paid to care for seniors.

Just Take Pill

Astoundingly, doctors will be paid less to treat a senior than to treat someone on Medicaid, and only about one-third of what a doctor will be paid to treat a patient with private insurance.

On July 13, 2011, Richard Foster, chief actuary for Medicare, warned Congress that seniors will have difficulty finding doctors and hospitals to accept Medicare. Doctors who do continue to take it will not want to spend time doing procedures such as knee replacements when the pay is so low. Yet the law bars them from providing care their patients need for an extra fee. You’re trapped.

President Obama seems to think that too many seniors are getting these procedures. At a town hall debate in 2009, he told a woman “maybe you’re better off not having the surgery but taking the painkiller.”

Science proves that the president is wrong. Knee replacements, for example, not only relieve pain but also save lives. Seniors with severe osteoarthritis who opt for knee replacement are less apt to succumb to heart failure and have a 50% higher chance of being alive five years later than arthritic seniors who don’t undergo the procedure, according to peer-reviewed scientific research.

Yet Foster warned Congress that 15% of hospitals may stop treating seniors once the Obama-Care cuts go into effect. The rest will have to lower the standard of care. Hospitals will have $247 billion less over the next decade to care for the same number of seniors as if the health law had not been enacted.

Obama claims his Medicare cuts will knock out waste and excessive profits. Untrue. Medicare already pays hospitals less than the actual cost of caring for a senior, on average 91 cents for every dollar of care. No profit there. Pushing down rates will force hospitals to spread nursing staff thinner.

Elderly patients will have a worse chance of surviving their stay and going home. When Medicare reduced payment rates to hospitals as part of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, hospitals incurring the largest cuts laid off nurses.

Rewarding Skimpy Care

Eventually, patients at these hospitals had a 6% to 8% worse chance of surviving a heart attack, according to a National Bureau of Economic Research report (March 2011).

In addition to the across-the-board cuts, the Obama administration will now impose a new measure on hospitals: “Medicare spending per beneficiary.” Hospitals that spend the least on seniors get bonus points, and higher-spending hospitals get demerits.

Hospitals will even be penalized for care consumed up to 30 days after patients are discharged, for example, for outpatient physical therapy following a hip or knee replacement.

There are ways to control Medicare spending, such as inching up the eligibility age or asking well-off seniors to pay more. Forcing hospitals to skimp on care is deadly.

Research sponsored by the National Institute on Aging (Annals of Internal Medicine, February 2011) shows that heart attack patients at the lowest-spending hospitals are 19% more likely to die than patients of the same age at higher-spending hospitals. Yet the Obama health law pushes all hospitals to imitate the lowest spending ones.

Ignore the political rhetoric and look at the scientific evidence. The Medicare cuts in the Obama health law will end Medicare as we’ve known it and doom seniors to painful aging and shorter lives.

 

This commentary appeared at AIM.org and is reprinted here with permission.