Saturday, June 20, 2009

Grab a Calculator the Math is Getting Fuzzy

By: Jill Serbousek

I admit to needing a calculator when doing math problems that involve multiple digits. I even resort to using a spreadsheet because my calculator isn’t great when doing problems in the trillions. So, as I read through the news reports, government reports and analyst summaries, I actually attempt to keep up with them on the math. Sometimes the methodology and assumptions are tough to understand, but the math should make sense right? The hardest part is that they never give you all of the numbers that are needed to reproduce their answers. Often the ‘denominator’ or some key factor is missing. When this occurs, I try to track down the source reports that are referenced. This is typically when I get really concerned…..

Here are some of the “facts” currently being discussed:

• An additional “$1 trillion over 10 years will be needed to cover the uninsured”, however, according to the Congressional Budget Office “36 million people would still be uninsured.” I need help understanding this one. Why would we change our entire healthcare system to compound the cost and not even take care of those that were supposed to receive help?

• Obama stated that the government could save $106B by cutting federal payments to hospitals. Wouldn’t cutting federal payments further hinder the Medicaid program’s success in caring for it’s participants?

• “…cost control (is) a coequal objective, just as important as the expansion of insurance coverage…” according to Rahm Emmanuel. Nobody will argue that reducing/controlling costs should always be a focus. However, I have yet to read an article where the government is willing to evaluate the costs that they directly impose on the healthcare industry. According to Christopher Conover, in 2004 the government imposed nearly $340B per year on regulation of the healthcare industry. I’m sure that this number has been increasing. His report also points out that almost half of this is wasteful. Hmmm… a great example of how regulation leads to increased costs. Why isn’t the government looking more closely at the cost/benefit of how they directly impact the overall costs?

• Another major cost factor that is being treated as the ‘elephant in the room’ is the cost of defensive medicine. It is unrealistic to reduce the cost of healthcare without also evaluating how the legal system drives up the cost of care with increased number of diagnostic tests, medical malpractice insurance, litigation, etc. Obama actually dipped his toe in the water with this topic, but took a cap on malpractice awards off the table. (Which, according to the reports, received a loud “boo” from the audience) Of course, he is a lawyer. Plus, one of the largest lobbying groups in America, who uses 95% of their PAC funds for the Democratic party, is the American Association for Justice. This is a fund for trial lawyers and law firms. You can learn more about all of the lobbying groups in America at Open Secrets’ website. This is an awesome and informative site.

• Speaking of the costs that “defensive medicine” adds to the system, it was shocking to me that the whitehouse’s healthcare economic report does not even address the cost of defensive medicine or government regulatory costs in their self-proclaimed “comprehensive” cost report on healthcare. Not even a mention. As if the entire cost of care and coverage is the fault of doctors, insurance companies and industry. Obama had the chance to recognize that defensive medicine is the reason why doctors order “more diagnostic tests than necessary” when he spoke to the American Medical Association this week. However, he chose to blame those alleged “unnecessary” tests on the doctor’s “financial incentives.” That is a VERY broad and unproven allegation. Just ask a doctor, any doctor in the United States, about their practice costs. They will ALL tell you that the threat of being sued is their biggest worry, and the insurance to help them if this happens is one of the largest, if not largest costs. Guess who this cost is passed to? The consumers/insurance companies who pay for the doctor’s services. We simply cannot reform healthcare costs without looking at legal costs associated with medicine.

About Jill Serbousek:
Jill has been a marketing executive in the Medical Device industry for the past 20 years. First at Johnson & Johnson, then at Medtronic’s Spinal and Biologics business. She is a recognized expert, writer and frequent speaker on both web marketing and social networking in healthcare.
Jill lives in Memphis, TN and sits on the Board of Directors for several important organizations in the Memphis area, including: National Civil Rights Museum, The Church Health Center, Memphis Academy of Science and Engineering Charter School and The Leadership Academy.
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Anonymous said...

What do you say to this nonsense? How can such an obviously intelligent woman not connect the dots? Oh that's right, she isn't interested in actually telling people the truth. Folks, again, health care is going to change, and you have been invited repeatedly to the table to help provide the best solution to the problem.

Unfortunately, all we get from the Right is nonsense like this. At the end of the day, we have to actually DO something. How about you frame your conversations around that?

Instead, all we get is some blurb about America has the greatest healthcare system, and people who have a vested interest in not changing a thing, speaking to us about how foolish our ideas are. I am proud to be an American, but waving the flag to cover up a problem has gone on long enough. We have a real problem, and it is time for some real solutions.

Please help us make America better, and the first step, quick taking your talking points from the gurus of greed.

Rick Beagle

JoyFull said...

I am sorry Rick, but I don't see where she said anything BUT the truth.

We are offering solutions, but the Democrats will not listen.

ABC will choose who will ask questions is hardly being "invited to the table." Allowing another network to not advertise and be less, is hardly being "invited to the table."

Anonymous said...

Read my comments Joyfull.

You have been invited, all of you! I want to hear your pains and ideas, but instead I get the talking points from those who stand to lose profit if we do anything.

Where is your voice? What is your vision for your children? 25% increases in medical premiums (low ball figure) per year means what to you in 5-10 years? How does that affect their future lives?

We are looking to the train wreck that is coming, and to be honest, it seems as if the Right is devoid of the ability to see beyond this pay check. Are your lives so wonderful that you would ignore the future of our children and our country because it causes your political beliefs a bit of angst?

I implore the Right to understand the corruption, greed and power entrenching efforts that have become the hallmark of what used to be a fine political party. I would see you wrest control from the powers of greed, and understand that we (us hated liberals) do this with no malice, but a sincere desire to leave this world and this country a little better for our lives and our efforts.

We are not perfect, and we realize the task daunting, the challenges impossible, and the powers against us entrenched. But for children, I would see greed diminished from her care, and those that she might hopefully bring into this world.

You have definitely been invited to the table despite the consternation of those that curry political favor through false indignation. We have offered a seat at the table for the American people through town halls, and endless and tireless effort.

The question then becomes, can we set down our partisan proclivities long enough to address our problems with solutions that differ from the oft repeated and obviously flawed "more of the same"?

The invite has been sent, do you have the courage to answer? For the sake our progeny, I would hope that the answer is a resounding yes.

Rick Beagle

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