One Easy Hack @RealDonaldTrump Can Use to Ignite a Consumer-Directed Revolution in American Medicine

Options are about to multiply for 12-million Americans trapped in ObamaCare plans, the 12% uninsured, and others ACA victims, with coming new proposals from the Trump administration.  After signing “Right to Try” into law Wednesday, President Trump hinted that these changes are mere weeks away.

Once the new policies are in place, new lower cost and flexible insurance alternatives will be unleashed, freeing Americans from disruptive (in a bad way) ObamaCare rules that drive up costs and decrease patients’ and workers’ choices.

Here are the two expected policies plus one hack that will floor the accelerator on their impact:

First, the Department of Labor is set to expand the availability of Association Health Plans. These will give Americans with common connections the ability to join together in plans they control.  Less regulation is not the only advantage of AHPs, although savings will be significant: an estimated $9,700 a year less compared to the individual market by 2022, reports Avalere.  Escaping state-based mandates is another advantage; these plans can be sold across state lines. In addition, association plans will allow employees to more readily keep their plan if their work situation changes.

The second anticipated policy, this one from the Department of Health and Human Security, will increase access to short term health insurance plans that are almost completely free of failed ACA requirements. Under President Obama, these plans were limited to 90 days of coverage, but Secretary Azar is expected to extend the limit to 364 days.  Coverage in such a plan would costs on average $342 a month, vs. $619 per month for an exchange plan, reports Michael Cannon of CATO. Mr. Cannon also suggests the administration should allow short term plans to offer guaranteed renewability or even sell the guarantees separately (he estimates the average cost at $86/month).  Renewability options would not only help consumers retain these plans long term, but would also inhibit expensive enrollees from being pushed back into the ACA exchanges.

Both of these proposals are going to help Americans; however the Trump administration could turbo-charge these good ideas with one simple hack. One sleek additional change to federal policy would lower costs even further, while increasing patients’ access to high quality care.

What else should the Trump administration do immediately? It’s simple: let patients use Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) for Direct Primary Care (DPC).

Most people already know about HSAs but, perhaps aren’t yet familiar with DPC, a direct arrangement between doctors and patients, that cuts the red tape out of health care, kicks the bureaucrats out of the exam room, and is set to sweep across the U.S.   Dr. Marilyn Singleton explains DPC like this: “The Direct Primary Care (DPC) model is burgeoning as patients yearn for quality time with their doctor at an affordable price. Here, all primary care services and access to basic commonly used drugs at wholesale prices are included in a fixed transparent price,” often around $50 to 75 per month.

The bottom line is DPC saves money for patients and downstream payers (like Medicare), increases quality of care, and it relieves physicians of counterproductive red-tape hassles that are driving them out of practice. DPC is a win-win-win.

You’d think everyone would agree that encouraging the use of DPC is a no-brainer. Shockingly, the Internal Revenue Service is blocking the use of this innovation for the 30 million Americans with HSAs. Thanks to a letter issued by Obama’s IRS commissioner, John Koskinen (yes the same one who stonewalled efforts by Congress to investigate IRS retaliation against conservatives) patients are prohibited from contributing to their HSA if they are in a DPC practice. To add insult to injury, HSA funds cannot be used for DPC.

As the public becomes aware of this flawed IRS decree —deserving of a blue ribbon in the Health Policy Hall of Shame—momentum grows for change. Just last month, Senators Ted Cruz and Ron Johnson wrote Treasury asking for a reversal.  In addition 1,125 patients and doctors have asked Congress to pass the Primary Care Enhancement Act (HR 365/S 1358) and force the IRS to change its misguided interpretation of law.

Disrupting (in a good way) Koskinen’s obstruction of patient freedom must be a priority for the Trump Administration as it moves forward with other reforms to remedy past policy disasters.  Allowing patients to use HSAs for DPC will turbo-charge the ability of patients with short term and Association-based plans to make their health care dollar go even further and get the best care from the physicians of their choice.

Need one last reason, President Trump? DPC will boost your plans to lower prescription drug costs.  A 72-year old female patient with multiple chronic conditions purchases all nine of her medications through a Direct Primary Care office in Allentown, Pennsylvania for $14.63 per month. Through Medicare “coverage” her cost would be $294.25 per month.

There is simply no legitimate reason for blocking patients with HSAs from DPC physicians … unless you are a middleman profiting off the status quo.

Advertisements

Can a Former Pharma Insider Solve Sky High Rx Costs?

HHS Secretary Alex Azar talked a good game in a Rose Garden ceremony and subsequent press conference—held Friday, May 11—on Trump Administration efforts to lower prescription drug costs for American patients.

Azar is, of course, a former executive of Eli Lilly. Can he be trusted to champion the interests of everyday Americans?

We will soon find out.  President Trump stated that Sec. Azar’s insider knowledge about the complex schemes to raise prices, perpetrated by industry middlemen, is exactly what makes him the right person for the job.

Watch the video of the Rose Garden Ceremony:

Although groups like Physicians Against Drug Shortages have been sounding the alarm for years, industry-led smoke and mirrors have, until recently, largely flown under the radar of the main-stream-media. Thankfully, respected outlets like the Wall Street Journal and Washington Times are now beginning to shine needed light on this malfeasance.

As these articles explain, a safe harbor to Medicare anti-kickback law is the major policy failure enabling the bad actors to line their pockets by driving up costs. The safe harbor legalizes kickbacks paid by manufacturers to Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) and their cousins-in-crime Group Purchasing Organizations (GPOs).

TownHall.com reports: Repealing the GPO/PBM safe harbor to Medicare anti-kickback law “would open the drug and medical supply segment of healthcare to free market competition and foster innovation. In addition, it would result in cost reductions estimated at $100 billion [actually more like $200 billion], including savings for the Medicare and Medicaid programs.”

Congress initially enacted the GPO safe harbor in 1986. Then in 1987 Congress reaffirmed the measure, instructed HHS to implant the the safe harbor into regulation, and granted HHS authority to create additional safe harbors. In 2003 HHS OIG issued guidance clearing the way for PBMs to piggyback on the GPO safe harbor. Such guidance could theoretically be revised or rescinded by the HHS Secretary, without needing action by Congress.

And in their remarks today, both Trump and Azar mentioned that they will be looking at reining in such abusive practices.

Later in the press room, Azar explained that there are perverse incentives at play: “These big price increases are actually a good deal for pharmacy benefit managers, who are supposed to keep prices down.”

Video of White House Press Conference With Sec. Azar:

What is HHS going to do? They put out a 44-page blueprint of their plan:

https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/AmericanPatientsFirst.pdf

One step HHS announced it will implement immediately is a prohibition of Part D gag clauses, “preventing pharmacists’ telling patients when they could pay less out-of-pocket by not using insurance.”

Great words but let’s hope HHS doesn’t stop there. The blueprint is less clear about other action HHS will take related to PBMs, although it states HHS is considering:  “Measures to restrict the use of rebates, including revisiting the safe harbor under the Anti-Kickback statute for drug rebate.”

Rebates? Why does CMS use that euphemism? They are not rebates, they are legalized kickbacks.  Furthermore, rebates do not go to the patients, they flow to the PBM and insurance companies.

Unfortunately, HHS has a poor track record when it comes to using it’s existing authority to stop PBM abuse. The Government Accountability Office reports: “since 2004, [HHS] has not routinely exercised its authority to request and review disclosures” that PBMs are required to make available to comply with the safe harbor.

HHS promises there will be an opportunity for the public to comment through a “Request for Information.”

HHS appears to be asking the right questions, including:

“Do PBM rebates and fees based on the percentage of the list price create an incentive to favor higher list prices (and the potential for higher rebates) rather than lower prices?”

and

“Should PBMs be obligated to act solely in the interest of the entity for whom they are managing pharmaceutical benefits? Should PBMs be forbidden from receiving any payment or remuneration from manufacturers, and should PBM contracts be forbidden from including rebates or fees calculated as a percentage of list prices? What effect would imposing this fiduciary duty on PBMs on behalf of the ultimate payer (i.e.,
consumers) have on PBMs’ ability to negotiate drug prices?”

When details become available about the comment opportunity we will ask that all patients and doctors demand that HHS take strong action to stop the PBM and GPO kickbacks.

Ultimately, as Trump stated in his comments, Congress will need to do it’s part in concert with administration actions.  One priority for Congress must be to repeal the GPO/PBM safe harbor and end legalized kickbacks.

In the meantime HHS can lead the way to educate Americans on how such repeal will save $200 billion dollars/year and prevent dangerous drug shortages.

Americans are depending on you to do the right thing, Secretary Azar.

This is How You Fix Congress! Congress Reform Act of 2018

We originally posted this solution back in 2013. These changes are needed now more than ever:

1. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.

2. No Tenure / No Pension.  A Congressman/woman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay or any other benefits when they’ve completed their term in office.

3.  Congress loses their current taxpayer paid health care insurance during and after tenure and must purchase their own health care insurance by the same laws and rules as the American people.

4.  Members of Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.

Continue reading

Promoting Choice and Competition to Empower Patients and their Physicians

A friend of IP4PI writes in:
I just read President Trump’s executive order on choice and competition across state lines. It has these amazing provisions which have not been discussed in the media at all!! These provisions go to the heart of a competitive market-based healthcare system.
“(c) My Administration will also continue to focus on promoting competition in healthcare markets and limiting excessive consolidation throughout the healthcare system. To the extent consistent with law, government rules and guidelines affecting the United States healthcare system should:
(i) expand the availability of and access to alternatives to expensive, mandate-laden PPACA insurance, including AHPs, STLDI, and HRAs;
(ii) re-inject competition into healthcare markets by lowering barriers to entry, limiting excessive consolidation, and preventing abuses of market power; and
(iii) improve access to and the quality of information that Americans need to make informed healthcare decisions, including data about healthcare prices and outcomes, while minimizing reporting burdens on affected plans, providers, or payers.”
The whole order can be read here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/10/12/presidential-executive-order-promoting-healthcare-choice-and-competition . I love the title to promote choice and competition.  I don’t think the order was overreach, because the language is to ” PRIORITIZE three areas for improvement in the near term: association health plans (AHPs), short-term, limited-duration insurance (STLDI), and health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs).” and “FOCUS on promoting competition in healthcare markets and limiting excessive consolidation “.  I did note this part:” Public Comment. The Secretaries shall consider and evaluate public comments on any regulations proposed under sections 2 through 4 of this order.”
Stay tuned for opportunities to comment!

How can we motivate Congress to act on ACA? End their illegal exemption!

From our friends at Independent Women’s Voice:

For the Senate to pass ObamaCare repeal and replace with only 51 votes, they’ll need to take action by September 30th.

How can we motivate Congress to act? By President Donald J. Trump ending Congress’ illegal exemption from ObamaCare.

Here’s what you need to do STAT:

  1. Sign the petition at www.NoWashingtonExemption.com
  2. Write President Trump and tell him to end the illegal exemption: https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact
  3. Read this explainer from Michael Cannon of CATO to become an expert on this crucial issue: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/congress-illegal-and-egregious-obamacare-exemption-explained/article/2633383

A Conversation: Can Free Markets Save American Medicine?

A recent article from the Mises Institute. “Under Socialized Medicine, The State Owns You,” sparked a conversation between Mr. Bob Wells and IP4PI founder Dr. Craig M. Wax.

Bob

I appreciate your assessment of the solutions presented like VA, Medicare and Medicaid being awkward, too expensive, and failing in large demonstrable ways. We haven’t had true market based medicine since World War II. Prior to that, it was relatively inexpensive cash and Barter based services. I argue this is the most efficient as it cuts out insurance, pharmacy benefits managers, all levels of administration, and last but not least, all aspects of government regulation compliance and taxation.

In the last six years there have been at least 12 plans on the table to repeal Obamacare. And, there have been six in the last 12 months. There was no sparsity of plans, just no palpable consensus.

I assert that inexpensive primary care, labs, low-end studies, cheap generic medications, will allow for most needs to be met by most people. And expanded health savings account HSA would be used for each citizen to use pretax dollars to buy anything health related from gym memberships to over the counter medications to actual care necessities. Further, inexpensive catastrophic insurance for the big ticket items would be also affordable by most. There could be community, charity, and state programs to provide for the neediest, while keeping the federal government taxation hands to itself.

Unless the Congress and President act soon to repeal Obamacare, just rearranging the deck chairs, will not prevent its fate. Already 19 out of 23 taxpayer-funded co-ops have gone bankrupt taking billions of taxpayer dollars with it. And for the phony federal mandates state exchanges, many have only one high price insurer participating, while still others have none. Leave it to the government to mandate you buy something very expensive and then there’s no opportunity to even comply!

Best wishes for good health,
Craig M. Wax, DO

—————

Dr. Wax,

The deficiencies of state-sponsored health care are widely known. What is difficult to figure out is an alternative — market-based — that is universally accessible and affordable (with affordability being as elastic as elastic can be), while still offering high quality. If there is a model in this world, I am unaware of it.

All efforts America has made to provide public support for health care since World War II, from the VA system to Medicare and Medicaid to Obamacare, have been awkward and grossly inefficient (if somewhat effective, overall). Unfortunately, blowing these systems up and starting a new system based solely on market forces would be catastrophic in the short term. And since politicians think in the short term, such a radical transformation is impossible.

Today’s Republicans realize there is reward in trashing Obamacare, but they also know that they do not have a better plan to replace it. If they really had a better plan they would have introduced it by now, and it would be on President Donald Trump’s desk for signature. The fact that they cannot agree among themselves on a replacement is testimony to how difficult a problem this is. (This does not excuse the Democrats, either.  They’d rather let the Republicans look foolish than offer their own “solutions.”)

Regards,

Bob Wells

House GOP’s Affordable Healthcare Act is Not What the Doctor Ordered or Voters Demanded

While IP4PI appreciates the efforts and goals of the Republican Affordable Healthcare act, it is far from the “full repeal” that was promised over the last two election cycles. As independent physicians, we believe that it doesn’t go far enough in repealing the failed ACA, protecting patient choice and permitting the free market to produce excellence, efficiency and economy. We recommend that big money special interests like pharmaceutical industry, hospital industry, health information technology industry and insurance industry not have undue influence in the process as they have for decades but physicians and patients.

1. Full repeal of ACA/Obamacare by reconciliation.

2. True inexpensive high deductible insurance plans competing across state lines for maximum choice, efficiency and economy.

3. Medicaid block granted back to the states where each state can provide flexible solutions for their citizens.

4. Health savings accounts HSA us should be expanded for use for all medical needs so that patients can select any care or items related to health with their own value systems.

5. Primary care and basic specialty care paid directly to physicians by the patients who selected them. Prices to be posted whether per incident or monthly membership model like DPC Direct primary care.

6. Executive, legislative and judicial for branches of government must abide by this law for their own healthcare.

14 Principles for healthcare freedom

Articles critiquing GOP ACA change bill