Conservative icon Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the U.S. House who’s mounting a run at the White House, lambasted a Republican plan to overhaul Medicare over the weekend, calling it "right-wing social engineering.”
Gingrich also voiced his support for the controversial lynch-pin of President Barack Obama’s landmark health care reform law, the so-called individual mandate, which is the object of a slew of constitutional challenges in courts around the country.
“Most Republican voters agree with the principle that people have some responsibility to pay for their costs,” Gingrich told the Wall Street Journal.
That’s in stark contrast to another of the GOP’s White House hopefuls, former Mass. governor Mitt Romney. That state passed a pioneering health care reform law back in 2006 on Romney’s watch, a fact that’s already caused him some discomfort on the campaign trail. Last week the Journal took Romney’s new health care reform proposal apart and criticized him for backing away from the Bay State system he put in place — and from his avowed support for the individual mandate in the Commonwealth’s health care law.
Romney fired back at the WSJ May 13, defending the Massachusetts system and taking issue with several of its contentions. But he faces a hard sell to voters over his apparent reversal, having to convince them on one hand that he wasn’t wrong back then and, on the other, that he’s not wrong now.
Medicare trustees: We’ll be broke by 2024
The board of trustees for Medicare says the trust fund behind the public health insurance program will be denuded by 2024, five years earlier than the board predicted last year.
The decline is being fueled by ever-increasing health care costs and declining payroll taxes, which help fund Medicare.
In its annual report, the board said part of the problem is the uncertainty around the assumptions that under-gird predictions for Medicare over the longer term, according to the Journal‘s Health Blog:
"New technologies and interventions will continue to expand the capabilities of medicine and to affect the cost of health care in ways that are difficult to predict. Private stakeholders are redoubling their efforts to curb cost growth, but the extent of their success and the effects of these endeavors on Medicare’s costs are yet to be determined. Also unknown is how effective the significant federal health legislation enacted in 2010 will be at moderating cost growth for Medicare. If the legislation’s cost-reducing innovations in the delivery of and payment for health services were not successful, or if health care providers could not accommodate the slower growth in Medicare payment rates mandated by the new law, Medicare costs would be significantly higher than shown in the Trustees Report."
Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Health & Human Services Dept., who sits on the trustee board, rushed to re-assure that Medicare is not headed off a cliff.
Medicare and Social Security "are strong," Sebelius wrote in a May 13 blog post on the agency’s website, but legislators from both sides of the aisle must “continue to work together to address the long-term solvency of the programs so that we keep the promise of Medicare and Social Security to future generations of Americans.”
"There is far more work to be done,” she wrote.
What health care reform? Health insurers post Q1 profits
Health insurance companies are putting up huge profits even as they cry "foul" over the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act, and the industry even boasts the best-paid CEO in the land.
That would be Stephen Hemsley, who sits in the corner office at the largest U.S. health insurance provider, UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNH). Hemsley pulls down $102 million a year and owns another $111 million worth of UNH stock, according to the McClatchy news service.
In recent weeks, Aetna, Humana, Coventry, WellPoint and Cigna also announced hefty profits, according to the news service.
Picking up the pieces after a medical malpractice lawsuit
Physicians faced with a medical malpractice lawsuit often find that it affects every facet of their lives, even after the suit is over. Given that 60 percent of all docs get sued before they’re 55, the collective toll is vast.
“It’s frequently a death note to a doctor’s practice and to his career,” Dr. Marvin Firestone told American Medical News. “The doctor either feels like, or is treated like, a leper in the medical community.”
The average cost of settling a medical liability case was nearly $325,000 in 2009, up 14 percent since the turn of the decade, according to the American Medical Assn.