Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ryan's Medicare Reform: More, Please

A few months ago, News Corporation launched a new publication, The Daily, which is designed specially for the iPad.  Regrettably, I don't have an iPad, but the editor ran my column anyway.  It's about Paul Ryan's and the House Republicans' Medicare reforms (and especially timely in the wake of Republican defeat in the Congressional special election in New York a couple of days ago).

Now, I can fantasize that everyone whom I see playing with his or her iPad is reading my column.  If you don't have an iPad, you can read it here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Will Kathy Hochul Vote to Repeal Obamacare?

The surprise victory of the Democratic candidate in NY-26’s special election yesterday teaches a curious lesson: Seniors who rose up against Obamacare’s Medicare cuts at town-hall meetings in the summer of 2009 appear to have risen up against Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan in the spring of 2011.

Or maybe they didn’t. Read the entire post at National Review Online.

Friday, May 20, 2011

If Air Travel Worked Like Health Care



This may be the best health-care video ever!  By Jonathan Rauch of National Journal.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Comparative-Effectiveness Research: How Many Lives Will It Cost?

I write a lot over at John Goodman's Health Policy Blog.  For every original post, I also write about half a dozen comments on others' posts.  I don't usually share the latter here.

However, I was interested to see Dr. Goodman's take on a new paper published by the Center for Medicines in the Public Interest, an outfit which is often tagged as simply a mouthpiece for Big Pharma.  Here's what I wrote:

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Governors Declining Health Benefit Exchanges

I was interviewed in a story for Health Care News about states whose governors are declining to implement Obamacare Health Benefits Exchanges.  Read it online here.

Massachusetts En Route to Single-Payer Health Care

Mitt Romney has thorwn himself in front of a buzzsaw with his continuing defense of his 2006 health reform in Massachusetts.  The other day, the Wall Street Journal editorial board sharply criticized Mr. Romney's approach.  In a letter by yours truly that the WSJ published today, I noted another problem with the Massachusetts reform: It amplified political incentives that have put the solvency of Bay State health plans at risk.  Read the letter here.

For non-subscribers, the text is copied below:

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Who Is The Republican Health Care Candidate?

The Wall Street Journal and most NRO writers have pretty much written off both Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich as acceptable Republican presidential candidates because of perceived weaknesses on health care. Health care has become the third rail of American politics — just not the way we used to understand it.

Until recently, a Republican could churn out crowd-pleasing sound bites about fixing health care but never put the pedal to the metal by investing political capital in a serious proposal for reform. Republicans understood that when the talk turned to health care, Democrats won the debate and Republicans lost. It was just a fact of life. Not anymore.

A Pfizer Break Up? That Would Be Something

I have been afforded the great privilege of a perch at Forbes Online from which to communicate my perspective on events where health policy and healthcare finance intersect.  Avik Roy, an equity research analyst at Monness, Crespi, Hardt & Co. in New York City, has invited me to collaborate with him on his blog, The Apothecary, which has been hosted by Forbes for a few months.

What I intend to contribute at The Apothecary is somewhat different than what you'll read in my other media, because I'll be bringing financial analysis to bear on the healthcare space (although not ignoring what the politicians and bureaucrats are doing, of course.  Any healthcare enterprise's success will depend largely on government action.)

Many Wall Street analysts have been after Pfizer, Inc., to restructure and refocus for years.  Under new CEO, Ian Reid, they think they've finally got someone whom they believe can get the job done.  But others think that Big Pharma should grow by acquisitions, instead of shrinking by spinning off divisions.  How credible is it that Mr. Reid will take the latter course?  Read my entire blog entry here.

Mission Impossible: Medicare's Independent Payment Advisory Board

Thos of you who can read 1,500 words will have already read the longer version of this in the recent Health Policy Prescription.  But for thos who prefer a slightly shorter version of my analysis of Obamacare's Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), the new agency that will decide whether granny gets a "blue pill" or a "red pill," please see this blog post over at John Goodman's Health Policy Blog.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Friday, May 13, 2011

Mission Impossible: Medicare's Independent Payment Advisory Board

The Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) is a new bureaucracy established by Obamacare that will limit Medicare beneficiaries’ access to certain medical goods and services—especially new prescription drugs.

Key Points:
• IPAB puts Medicare beneficiaries’ access to prescription drugs and certain other medical goods and services under control of a board of 15 presidential appointees, while leaving decisions about other medical goods and services under control of Congress.

• IPAB will be called upon to cut much more Medicare spending than officially estimated, because physicians and hospitals are highly likely to succeed in restoring the cuts that Obamacare imposes upon them.

• IPAB could deny Medicare beneficiaries access to every innovative prescription drug introduced every year, but still have little effect on Medicare spending.
• As long as Congress exerts political control over Medicare beneficiaries’ access to medical care, all treatments and providers should be treated equally, which implies that IPAB should be abolished.
Read this month's Health Policy Prescription here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Obamacrats Play Chicken Little — Again

The Obamacrats published a "research brief" attempting to prove that the flood of uninsured people in emergency rooms is driving the health crisis. It upset me because the author appears to be skilled at crunching numbers and I hate it when those skill are abused for political gain. Anyway, the Obamacrats keep trafficking this myth because it feeds the line that we need "universal" coverage to control health costs.

Well, I printed it out and was planning to write about it, but Michael Cannon of the CATO Institute beat be to the punch. Read his analysis at the folliwing link: HHS Plays Chicken Little — Again.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Politicians Cannot Control Health Costs

My column in the Orange County Register, opposing California legislation that would give politicians the power to review health-insurance premiums, is here.  It argues that politicians cannot control health costs; that rate-review laws are ineffective; and that the experience of Massachusetts demonstrates that giving politicians' this power in the age of Obamacare is incredibly risky.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Shooting the Messenger: California’s Proposal to Control Health Plans’ Rate Increases

California legislators are considering a bill, AB 52, that would give the executive branch the power to decide whether health plans should be allowed to increase their premiums at rates that keep pace with medical costs. Health plans may be a politically attractive target, but giving politicians the power to approve premiums causes other problems — and doesn't even hold down rate increases.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Another Voice on Obamacare Exchanges

Some opponents of Obamacare have suggested that states should establish Health Benefits Exchanges because they can provide a "firebreak" against federal regulations.  According to Twila Brase of the Citizens' Council for Health Freedom, this is impossible.  Her article makes a compelling read: Here.

Cold & Allergy Meds by Prescription Only? A Recipe for Higher Costs and Violent Crime

Sometimes we face problems to which there are no great - or even good - solutions.  One of those is the abuse of cold and allergy medicines by people who buy them as inputs to methamphetamine.  A few years ago, Oregon attempted an apparently reasonable solution to this problem, buy making pharmacies dispense many of these medicines by prescription only.

Now, California legislators are seeking to replicate this law.  Unfortunately, the harmful consequences to legitimate patients of making these drugs available by prescription only are pretty clear: It adds cost and hassle to acquiring necessary medicines.  The benefits to society - reducing criminal production and abuse of methamphetamine - are far less clear.  The prescription-only rule will likely drive the vile business into the hands of even worse criminals than control it now.

Read the rest of my column in the Sacramento Business Journal (subscription only).

Monday, May 2, 2011

Canada Still Working Towards Universal Health Care

You probably didn’t notice, but Canada is having a federal election today. It’s a big deal up there — and the number one issue is — you’ll never guess — health care! It’s eleven percentage points more critical than jobs and the economy.

Read the entire post at John Goodman's Health Policy Blog.