Health Care

WPC's Center for Health Care develops patient-centered solutions to reduce costs and improve the availability and quality of health care for businesses and individuals, providing the only detailed, independent critique of health care issues available in the Northwest.

What's New

The House Health Care Reform Plan

June 19, 2009 in Blog

The US House of Representatives released its 850 page bill for health care reform today. Although the details at the margin are different than the Kennedy-Dodd bill in the Senate, there are some fundamental similarities:

   *  A government-run health insurance exchange.

   *  A government-option health insurance plan to "compete" with private insurance.

   *  Subsidies for the purchase of health insurance up to 400% of the federal poverty level.

   *  Guaranteed issue - i.e. anyone, regardless of prior illness, must be offered health insurance.

   *  A cap on out-of-pocket expenses.

   *  An individual mandate - everyone must have health insurance.

   *  An employer pay-or-play with a penalty fee of 8% of payroll. To avoid the fee, employer-       sponsored plans must meet minimum benefit and contribution requirements set by the government.

The one glaring item not addressed in the bill is how to pay for all of this government-run health care. As the House leadership has stated, however, everything is "on the table" - read increase taxes and further deficits.

Now that the reform proposals in Washington, D.C., are actually coming out on paper, the taxpayers of the nation are starting to understand the real impact of these broad sweeping health reform plans. The debate is just now starting as more people understand the restrictions of liberty and the costs of government controlled health care.


Let's debate the "public" health care option for small businesses

June 19, 2009 in Blog

Today the Puget Sound Business Journal (subscription required to read the whole article) ran an op-ed by Ana
Castro, a small business owner in White Center, on why small businesses need a
government-run health care option in order to offer “choice” in the

I will agree with Ms. Castro that small business owners
often think of their employees as family, and that the price of health care has
seen an extensive rise over the past decade. But Ms. Castro is severely
misguided if she thinks a government-run option will provide the choice she

First off, it’s always disappointing to see proponents of a
particular policy option whip out the preemptive ad hominem attacks. When Ms.
Castro says “In a smear campaign designed to kill reform, the insurance
industry’s public relations machine will try to scare us about a ‘government
takeover’ of health care, long waits and rationed care,” she is basically
saying that any debate, any position counter to her position, is a smear
campaign not worth listening to. So much for high-minded debate.

Secondly, Ms. Castro asserts, “For small businesses like
mine that currently have no good choices, the public plan would compete with
private insurers to lower costs across the board and guarantee coverage we can
count on.” If Ms. Castro were paying attention over the last decade in which
premiums skyrocketed, she would have to acknowledge that one of the main
reasons for these cost increases was greater government involvement (at the
state level) in the insurance market. How many insurance companies operated in
Washington in the 1990s? How many are there today?

The lack of choice does indeed cut down on competition. And competition is
good. At least Ms. Castro and I would agree to that.

Third, let’s address government “competing” in the
marketplace. I am curious how government will efficiently, and fairly, compete
in a marketplace it regulates. How will the government throwing around its weight affect innovation in research and development in the private sector?

Fourth, we cannot simply sweep aside the “cost” factor.
Again, Ms. Castro’s bromides include floury language such as “Our health care
system will work best when everyone has the opportunity to fairly contribute to
health care…” But she does not mention that $1 trillion in additional national
to insure 16 million people and that this costs does not include the public plan she is pushing.

The bottom line is that small businesses are hurting and
need help in this important area. And Ms. Castro and I agree that competition
is one of the keys towards health care reform – small businesses need more
choices than they are offered now. But a government-run plan will not meet
those needs and in fact, most likely deprive millions of Americans of their
private insurance plans and increase the load on the public plan, therefore
increasing costs and reducing choice even further. 

Read more on the ongoing health care debate.

Preview of Government Run Health Care

June 17, 2009 in Blog

If anyone wonders what government-run health care reform will look like, look no further than our current Medicaid program. Because of severe cost over-runs and the accompanying decrease in physician reimbursements, patients are experiencing the predictable decrease in provider participation.

The Wall Street Journal reports children in the Medicaid program are finding it much more difficult to see doctors. Even when appointments are made, the wait times are nearly unacceptable compared to traditional times in this country.

Access to a waiting list is not the same as access to health care.

Cost of Kennedy-Dodd Health Care Reform Plan

June 16, 2009 in Blog

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a preliminary estimate of the cost of the major Democratic health care reform bill yesterday. The Kennedy-Dodd Plan would increase the deficit by $1 trillion over the next ten years.

Once the plan was fully up and running, the CBO projects 39 million people would obtain insurance through the government-run health insurance exchange. Unfortunately (but predictably), the CBO estimates at least 10%, or about 15 million individuals, would switch from employer paid coverage to the government plan. In addition, coverage from other private sources would fall by at least 8 million. Hence, the government plan would decrease the number of uninsured by a net of only 16 million. This is truly a small number for the enormous cost.

As if this wasn't bad enough, the CBO estimate does not even include the cost of the proposed Medicaid expansion proposed in the bill.

Safeway Provides a Free Market Solution to Health Care Reform

June 15, 2009 in Blog

Last week, Steven A. Burd, the CEO of Safeway, provided an op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal that clearly showed a free market solution to the run-away costs of heath care in this country. Safeway is self insured and by recognizing that 70% of health care costs are a result of behavior, the company has provided financial incentives for its employees to adopt healthier life styles.

Since 2005, the company has charged different health insurance premiums based on employees' participation and demonstration of decrease tobacco use, weight loss, blood pressure control, and cholesterol control. 

Health care costs have risen nationally by 38%, whereas Safeway has maintained costs at their 2005 level - essentially a 40% savings.

Paying for Health Care Reform

June 11, 2009 in Blog

Very little is being said about funding the massive health care reform now debated in Washington, D.C. The largest revenue generator would be eliminating the employer tax deduction for employee benefits. This idea is attributed to Senator McCain during the presidential campaign. President Obama opposed this concept then and only recently has put it back on the table.

What is lost in this discussion, however, is the fact that McCain tied the elimination of the employer tax deduction to a tax credit for individuals and families. In other words, McCain wasn't talking about a revenue source, he was talking about giving individuals more control over their health care dollars and decisions.

Employer tax deductions for employee health benefits has been around since WW II. It seems ludicrous that federal tax policy has been driving our health care policy for the past sixty years. Individuals, not employers or the government, should control their health care dollars.

7th Annual Health Care Conference

June 3, 2009 in Events
Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009
7:30 am - 2:00 pm
DoubleTree SeaTac
Seattle, WA

Dr. Steven EastaughDr. Steven Eastaugh, from the Department of Health Services Management and Leadership at George Washington University and a Health Care Advisor to President Obama, discussed Federal Health Care Policy Reform and Health Care Economics.

Republican Health Care Alternative Falls Short of True Reform

June 1, 2009 in Publications

The Obama Administration has proposed allocating $634 billion toward a national health care plan and Congress is working feverishly to pass legislation into law before this session ends in the fall.

The Non-Competition Health Plan

May 17, 2009 in Publications

This Op-Ed appeared in The Seattle Times and The Washington Examiner (Washington DC)

New Study Presents Recommendations to Reform Medicaid

in Press releases

Seattle – A new study released today by Washington Policy Center (WPC) raises a number of concerns about the Medicaid program and offers solutions for reform. Structural problems and an open-ended program budget are combining to create a rising tide that threatens to swamp all other government expenditures. At the same time, the entitlement has not demonstrably improved the health of the poor.