Last week, Washington State fined one of the larger health care sharing ministries $150,000 and banned it from offering its product in the state because it was operating as an unauthorized insurer. Other states are warning consumers to watch out for these plans, which can look like insurance but are not. Health care sharing ministries (HCSMs) are organizations in which members share common religious or ethical beliefs and agree to make payments to (or share) the medical expenses of other members.
The groups originated in the 1980s in small religious communities and were exempted from following coverage guidelines mandated by the ACA. An estimated 1 million people belong to a HCSM, up from 200,000 before the ACA was passed a decade ago.
How much does your doctor know about health policy and how it impacts you as a patient?
Unfortunately, not enough. Medical students are given little to no knowledge on how policy and politics influence the system we will train and ultimately practice in.
I’ve already written about this a few times, so check out this post on engaging in advocacy as a medical student, this one about integrating health policy in medical school, and this post on how medical schools are failing students on health policy.
In late December, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit struck down the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act but ducked the central question – is the rest of the ACA valid after Congress zeroed out the tax penalty for not having health insurance?
The case was sent back to the lower court to reconsider how much of it survives; the lower court judge previously ruled the entire law unconstitutional. This move reduces the likelihood of the Supreme Court considering the case before the 2020 election, but the Democratic-led states defending the law might appeal directly to SCOTUS.
The case was brought by 18 Republican-led states and the ACA has been defended mainly by a coalition of Democratic attorneys general, as the Administration refuses to defend the law.
The Florida Keys usually conjures up images of sunshine, ocean breezes, and copious cocktails. But beyond the vacationers paradise, there is the reality of life in the Keys – and needing access to health care.
Across the 137 square mile archipelago, there are only 266 health care providers for 74,000 residents (and 2.25 million annual visitors). The Florida Keys has a serious shortage of health care providers and services.
There are two main types of shortage designations, as determined by the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA).
✌🏼out to my third semester of medical school & the 2019 Congressional session.
Not to worry, both will be back in full force in January!
Before I head for my vacation in the Conch Republic, I want to drop a basic civics lesson.
The basic of all basics – Congress refers to our bicameral (two chamber) legislature, made up of the House of Representatives and the Senate. It is one of three branches of government. It writes the laws and controls the money.
The end of the year bipartisan spending deal will allocate $1.4 trillion in federal funding for the remainder of the fiscal year (through Sept. 30) and avoid a shutdown. The House has already passed the deal and the Senate is poised to do the same by tomorrow.
So what health priorities made the cut for this deal?
Congress will send a $1.4 trillion spending deal to the President this week. It will fund the government and avert an end-of-the-year shutdown. The House has already passed the deal and the Senate will take it up by the end of the week. The government is currently operating under a continuing resolution that expires Dec. 20.
Read about the health-related specifics of what’s included in the deal here. But first let’s start with some key concepts related to Congress’ power of the purse.
Estimates from the Urban Institute project that in 2020, the federal government will spend $732 billion on Medicare, $464 billion on Medicaid and CHIP, $60.4 billion on the health insurance marketplaces, and $27.5 billion to hospitals for uncompensated care. Households will spend $931 billion, employers will spend $955 billion, state governments will spend $285 billion on Medicaid and CHIP and $17.2 billion for uncompensated care, and providers will spend $24.1 billion.
Reigning in healthcare spending has to be a policy priority, it’s simply unsustainable. Medicare-for-All would shift most of the spending to the federal government, to the tune of $34 trillion over a decade.