President, public impatient with the state of health care

Over the weekend President Donald Trump tweeted his impatience with the inability of Congress to deliver a health care bill. 

His weekend tweets threatened to end taxpayer subsidies to insurance companies, members of Congress, and their staffs, but will this have any impact on the future of health care? 

It could be because the insurance companies would lose $8 billion a year in federal payments and taxpayers would no longer have to pay 72 percent of premiums for members of Congress and their staffs. No way Congress members wanted to pay what the rest of us pay, so they amended the bill to keep that subsidy by declaring their offices as small businesses.

“They are getting subsidies based upon their being small businesses as opposed to being individuals,” Dr. Ted Mazer of the California Medical Association said.

The President’s tweets were pretty sharp:

Mazer has closely tracked the health care bill. He says the bigger problem is the subsidies to insurance companies. If they were to lose that $8 billion, premiums would have to increase to backfill those losses.

“There are substantial subsidies that are coming on these cost sharing subsidies that somehow have to be paid for,” Mazer said. “If the federal government is not going to forward the dollars to the plans anymore the plans will look for a way to backfill that and that’s called increasing everybody’s premiums.”

Without subsidies, the insurance companies have, and will continue to withdraw their coverage plans from the marketplace driving up premiums and deductibles even higher.

“It’s pretty serious stuff that we’re talking about and the plans have been waiting to hear about repeal and replace and what kind of changes would be made and what’s going to happen with these cost share subsidies to make a decision to participate,” Mazer said.

California is somewhat insulated from this because we’re not in the federal exchanges. We have Covered California, which has a number of health plans and has worked pretty well under Obamacare.

The uninsured population on California has dropped from 17.2 to 7.1 percent, but any attempts to undermine Obamacare could increase risk to insurance company health plans in California.

“They have an opportunity here in California as well to still pull off even though they’ve made initial proposals.”

So how is this to be fixed? Repeal and replace is not working politically.

To start with, Dr. Mazer says there have been fraud investigations on doctors and hospitals, but not on the pharmaceutical industry.

“We need to see where the dollars are really going and why are these costs going up.

“Something has to be done because those pharma costs are escalating faster than anything,” Mazer said.

Certainly, faster than Congress.

While we wait, will the president’s impatience be matched by members of Congress? The polls show the public is also impatient.

“Now we hear Schumer on the democratic side, McCain on the republican side saying it’s time to get serious and reach across aisle, let’s have these negotiations on what can work, what can each side tolerate.”

Categories: Local San Diego News