Health Care Reform


The 4 Health Care Overhaul Questions Before the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court issued its decisions on the Affordable Care Act on June 28, 2012. This post has been updated to reflect the court’s rulings.

(Courtesy: U.S. Supreme Court)

(Courtesy: U.S. Supreme Court)

Next Monday, the Supreme Court begins considering the Constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, or ACA. Three days, six hours of oral arguments. But it’s not just one long slog about health care reform. The Supreme Court is considering four different questions over those three days.

Legal scholars, pundits and those suitably opinionated have been pontificating about all kinds of legal issues. But the average American might want to know, in straightforward language, what those Four Questions actually mean.

Here’s my take on them: Continue reading

Healthy San Francisco: Snapshot of Universal Care

Jack Snook expresses his appreciation for Healthy San Francisco in a panel discussion last night. (Photo: Kamal Menghrajani)

Jack Snook expresses his appreciation for Healthy San Francisco in a panel discussion last night. (Photo: Kamal Menghrajani)

It’s been almost five years since San Francisco launched its innovative, universal health plan–Healthy San Francisco–and last night a panel of public health experts and care providers gathered at the Tenderloin’s Glide Foundation to provide a snapshot of how the program is faring.

Glide has a long history of providing services to the poor and marginalized–and advocating on their behalf. Glide’s Freedom Hall was packed, with a smattering of people who indicated they were participants in Healthy San Francisco. Tangerine Brigham, director of the program, spoke first and described the program’s goals: to provide improved access to care through a network of community clinics and hospitals. Of primary importance is for people to have a relationship with a doctor or clinic so they don’t resort to the emergency room for what are essentially primary care problems.

Healthy San Francisco has enrolled 80 percent of San Francisco’s uninsured–about 55,000 adults.
Since its inception in 2007, Healthy San Francisco has enrolled 80 percent of San Francisco’s uninsured–about 55,000 adults. And people are using the primary care benefits. “Over 70 percent of the people in Healthy SF are getting a primary care visit at least once a year,” Brigham said. “Because they’re using primary care, we saw a reduction in emergency room utilization at San Francisco General Hospital. We compared that to other public hospitals in California and what that analysis showed was that San Francisco emergency utilization was declining while others’ was rising.” Continue reading

High-Risk Insurance Pool Helps … But What About Cost?

By: Kamal Menghrajani

Because people who enroll in the pool have been uninsured, there is pent-up demand for health care, experts say. (D. Sharon Pruitt: Flickr)

Because people who enroll in the pool have been uninsured, there is pent-up demand for health care, experts say. (D. Sharon Pruitt: Flickr)

Thousands of California’s sickest residents are already benefitting from the federal health care law. The Affordable Care Act says that people cannot be denied health insurance for a pre-existing condition. Until the law goes into full effect in 2014, the government has created a bridge program to help–the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan, or PCIP. But this high-risk insurance program is proving to be much more expensive than expected.

California is spending three times more than anticipated to insure the people who have enrolled in this program. Before the program launched in 2010, California projected that the program would cost about $12,000 a year for each member. But a year later the administrators of the program determined it was costing more than $37,000 per patient.

According to a report [PDF] from the White House, the cost of care for PCIP patients across the country is twice as much as originally projected. Continue reading

State of the Union: The President on Health Care

From Kaiser Health News: In his State of the Union speech, President Barack Obama made just one explicit mention of the 2010 health law. Here is a transcript of the few parts of his speech that mentioned health care issues:

Innovation also demands basic research. Today, the discoveries taking place in our federally-financed labs and universities could lead to new treatments that kill cancer cells but leave healthy ones untouched. …

I will not go back to the days when health insurance companies had unchecked power to cancel your policy, deny your coverage, or charge women differently than men. … Continue reading

Health Insurance Public Option Alive and Well in California

By Sarah Varney

(Joe Raedle: Getty Images)

(Joe Raedle: Getty Images)

In a cavernous room just east of San Francisco, an army of phone operators fields calls from their customers. A large computer screen blinks the number of people on hold: two, and the average wait time: one minute, 12 seconds.

These phone operators working in a non-descript office park in Alameda are employed by a large health insurance plan, and they’re willing to go the extra mile for their customers. They’ll schedule a doctor to come to your home, a pharmacist to drop off a prescription, and they’ll even help you fill out an application for food stamps.

“We do things for them that a traditional, commercial health plan doesn’t do,” says Ingrid Lamirault, chief executive officer of the Alameda Alliance for Health, a county-run, not-for-profit insurer. Continue reading

Health Reform Hits Main Street: En Español

We’ve told you about the interactive cartoon and animation that explains how health care reform may affect you. Now the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation has teamed up with the equally non-partisan The California Endowment to release a Spanish-language version of the same video.

(Courtesy: Kaiser Family Foundation)

The video, “La Reforma Del Cuidado De La Salud Llega al Público,” is narrated by Isabel Gómez-Bassols, a psychologist and host of the show “Doctora Isabel, el Angel de la Radio.” While Latinos account for 16 percent of the U.S. population, here in California, they make up 38 percent of the population — and about one-third of them don’t have health insurance.

Check out the video below, or click here.


Great Subject for a Graphic Novel: Health Reform

(Courtesy: Kaiser Health News)

(Courtesy: Kaiser Health News)

Michelle Andrews at Kaiser Health News features a Q&A today with MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, who hatched the idea to inform people about health care reform via a graphic novel.

Key Takeaway? After health reform passed in Massachusetts, Gruber says, “Premiums for individual market plans fell by 50 percent relative to national trends. The biggest surprise to me is that employer-sponsored health insurance actually went up after reform when it was falling everywhere else in the country.”

No kidding. In California, employers offering health insurance fell from 73 percent to 63 percent in the last two years, according to a study released just last week.

Here’s Andrews complete story:

Nearly two years after the passage of the federal health law, more than 40 percent of people say they know little or nothing about how the law will affect them, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s latest poll. That figure hasn’t budged since April 2010, just after the law was signed. Continue reading

The Health Care Reform Interactive Cartoon

You’ve heard the partisan back and forth on health care reform for months. But if that still hasn’t helped you figure out how health care reform will affect you, maybe these cartoon characters from the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation can.

(Courtesy: Kaiser Family Foundation)

(Courtesy: Kaiser Family Foundation)

What you see above is a jpeg, because I can’t capture the interactivity in this blog, but if you click on the graphic or right here you can pick one of these “YouToon” characters or businesses that comes closest to matching your life.  Are you Cat Clark, 33, single? Or Sue and Stu Santos, married with a baby? Or maybe you’re a small employer that can’t afford to provide health insurance to your employees?  The interactive graphic (again, click here) provides clear, concise information about what health care reform will do in each of these situations.

Continue reading

One Woman’s Apology to President Obama

President Obama signs health care reform law. (Photo: White House)

President Obama signs health care reform law. (Photo: White House)

Earlier this week, the Los Angeles Times published an opinion piece from Spike Dolomite Ward, a San Fernando Valley woman who ended up uninsured.

Her story sparked heated debate on the Times’ discussion board — 1,190 comments so far. It’s worth reading her entire essay, but I excerpt it here and include some of the more pointed reader comments at the end.

I want to apologize to President Obama. But first, some background.

I found out three weeks ago I have cancer. I’m 49 years old, have been married for almost 20 years and have two kids. My husband has his own small computer business, and I run a small nonprofit in the San Fernando Valley. I am also an artist. Money is tight, and we don’t spend it frivolously. …

Continue reading

Support for Health Care Reform Law Rises … Somewhat

By Jordan Rau

It’s up. It’s down. Americans’ views about the health care law are, well, fluid.

The latest Kaiser Family Foundation monthly poll shows that the law’s popularity rose a bit after hitting a new low last month. (Kaiser Health News is a program of the foundation.) Still, more people don’t like the law than do: 44 percent to 37 percent.  That was a small improvement from October, when 51 percent panned the law, but the law’s popularity remains below where it has been.

Democrats, whose gloominess about the law was responsible for bringing it down in October, got a bit more positive about the law in November, with 62 percent giving it a thumbs up, a 10 percentage point increase.
Continue reading