Archive for October, 2012

ObamaCare Cuts Billions from Medicare Advantage; Cuts Hidden Until After Election

October 25, 2012

Update – Nov 25, 2012 – The original purpose of this blog – to build a consensus for real health reform and to repeal/repave the technocratic tarpit called ObamaCare – is now no longer feasible because Mr. Obama has been reelected.  There will be no repeal. But there is still work to do.  The purpose now shifts to deleting  or defunding bad parts of ObamaCare, providing rational arguments in support of States not establishing “exchanges,”  and alerting patients about the problems they will face in getting appropriate care under this impersonal, one-size-fits-all system.

Anyone watching the 2012 vice presidential debate would have seen Mr. Biden denying the planned cuts to Medicare Advantage, and pointing to the program’s current high enrollment rates as his evidence.

This is, to use the Vice President’s Jurassic era jargon, just a bunch of “malarkey.”

Medicare Advantage has a big target on it’s back – it is singled out as an object of true loathing by Government-mandated health care supporters because it entrenches private insurers within the Government programs, and will make it harder to eventually go to a single-payer system (which, after all, is their goal).  Medicare Advantage also provides just too much coverage to its enrollees to suit Government health care advocates, who want to provide minimal health care to seniors so we can redistribute more resources to other, poorer, younger demographic groups.

Therefore, ObamaCare is scheduled to gradually slash Medicare Advantage by as much as $300 billion over the next 10 years! This is about 40% of the total of $716 billion in Medicare cuts that will be used to offset the costs of other portions of ObamaCare (as described in this Investor’s Business Daily article.) The problem is that this program is very popular among seniors, especially those in the so-called “Swing States,” with ever more people wanting to enroll, as our brilliant Vice President has noted.  With the first round of cuts looming before the 2012 election, the Administration faced a potential backlash from senior voters in those States.  What to do?

The Obama Administration solution was to use another provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)  to simply hide these cuts.  The ACA gives ‘the Secretary’  (of DHHS) discretionary power to utilize funds set aside for experimental “demonstration projects,” without Congressional approval.  Secretary Sebelius is currently pumping these funds into the Medicare Advantage program in the form of “quality bonus payments”  in order to offset the current round of cuts.  In effect, the Obama Administration is using funds intended for other purposes as a “slush fund” to hide the cuts to Medicare Advantage from prospective voters until after the election!

The amount of offset reported by the General Accountability Office (GAO) for 2012 is $8.35 billion – more than has been spent on all the “normal” projects and studies over the last 17 years!  And the really smelly part of this taxpayer-funded temporary bailout of Medicare Advantage is its purely political purpose.  It is as though taxpayers were forced to support the Obama campaign to the tune of $8 billion just so Old Joe Biden could could blather on and mislead voters by insisting the program had not been cut and was healthier than ever.  You can read more about this disgraceful deception in the excellent Forbe’s story.

The real shame of all this political theater and vilification of Medicare Advantage as a “subsidy” for “rich insurance companies”, is the unrecognized effectiveness of this program in serving its subscribers. Studies show that Medicare Advantage patients spend fewer days in the hospital and have lower hospital readmission rates than their regular Medicare counterparts. Supposedly, with its Public face, ObamaCare seeks to control such cost factors.

Nevertheless, after the election, a second Obama Administration will quietly turn off the phony “quality bonus” subsidy spigot and proceed with the scheduled cuts, because this isn’t really about cutting costs, or providing quality care. It’s about reducing Government expenditures on groups seen as too well-off, or not worth the “investment.”  The only way ObamaCare can rein in its incredibly underestimated expenses, is to restrict access to health care by those that need and use it most – the elderly. I will have more to say about this policy in the very near future when I tell you about the Independent Medicare Advisory Board, and its agenda to slash Medicare expenditures and force the rationing of care, and about the new punishments for hospitals who readmit Medicare patients.

We need to get rid of truth-challenged political hacks like Joe Biden and have a real investigation into the malfeasance and corruption of this Administration, and the extent to which public funds have been diverted to shabby partisan uses.

But mostly we need to come up with a true health care reform plan that doesn’t punish patients for being sick, and doesn’t punish doctors for helping them.  The present Administration clearly isn’t up to the task.

The Sceptic

Scarlett Johannson Promotes Romney Cancer Screening Scare, but Ignores ObamaCare Decrease in Screening Mammograms

October 16, 2012

Ms. Johannson, who has been known to  personally e-correspond with President Obama for several years,  is featured in a recent pro-Obama ad where she declares that Mitt Romney wants to end “cancer screening” for women.

Ironically,  on June 26, 2012, a Mayo Clinic study  reported a decrease in screening mammograms which resulted from a ruling by an obscure panel of “experts” empowered by … you guessed it – ObamaCare!   In November, 2009, this panel decided that mammography screening, for women between 40 and 49 years of age did not need to be covered.  This decision, reached without a single oncologist or breast cancer expert on the panel, was widely criticized by many groups of true experts, including the American College of Radiology (ACR) , the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology,(ACOG), etc.

Despite amendments offered by Senator Barbara Mikulski and Senator David Vitter to fix this bureaucratic mess, the Mayo Clinic study indicates that mammography rates have fallen by 6% as a result of the confusion caused among patients and doctors by this disastrous decision.  This means that 54,000 fewer women in this age group have had mammograms in 2010.

Does Ms. Johannson care that it is the policies of her hero, Mr. Obama, that are responsible for this proven decrease in breast cancer screening?  It seems not.  She would rather blame Mitt Romney for hypothetical decreases in screening that have not yet occurred, and, which, in fact, will never occur.

Folks, pay attention to the details.  It is section 2713 of ObamaCare, not Mitt Romney, that will be responsible for the unnecessary breast cancer deaths that are virtually  guaranteed by the November, 2009 United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) decision regarding mammography.  For more information on this read my comprehensive post on the impact of ObamaCare on mammography

Learn to be skeptical of the self-serving, self-righteous story lines offered by these political shills – despite their ability to convey emotion, they care little for you or yours.

The Skeptic

ObamaCare and Mammography – the Real ‘War on Women?’

October 7, 2012

Update – November 3, 2012 – The board responsible for the 2009 decision to deny mammograms to women between 40 and 49 years old has continued its ‘war on women’ by classifying various screening tests and procedures as not covered by ObamaCare.  The USPSTF would now deny women access to chlamydia testing, HPV testing, cervical cancer screening( for women over 65), and digital mammography screening.  Denial of digital mammography screening shows how cost-driven ObamaCare is since it is better at detecting aggressive cancers and produces significantly lower doses of x-rays than regular film mammograms thus reducing the risk of causing cancer with the screening.  The only reason to deny it is cost.  Read more about these denials of access in this New York Post article: ObamaCare v. Women

I have posted this info before, but in a very long entry located here. This version focuses on the June 26, 2012 pre-release of a Mayo Clinic study showing how a bad decision by an ObamaCare panel has lowered mammography testing rates for women between 40 and 49 years of age.

In November, 2009, an obscure panel of experts, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) classified mammography for women between 40 and 49 years of age as a “Class C” procedure.  Unfortunately, this panel was empowered by Sec. 2713 of the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) to determine what would and would not be covered by insurers.  The “Class C” rating meant that women between 40 and 49 years of age would not have insurance coverage for this procedure.

This decision was roundly criticized by all reputable medical authorities connected to this issue, including American College of Radiology (ACR), American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) and, recently, the American Medical Association (AMA).  Basically, these groups all pointed out that there has been a decrease in mortality of 40% since regular mammography screening has been implemented.

The issue was so disturbing to legislators who wanted to support ObamaCare but were astounded by this decision, that they hastily passed an amendment to provide adequate breast cancer screening for all women, including those in the disputed age group.  Unfortunately, this has not deterred supporters of centrally-planned health care from staunchly defending the indefensible USPSTF decision.  Their arguments that  mammography is not cost-effective, that the USPSTF was correct in their determination (despite the fact that not a single oncologist sat on the panel making this decision), and that we need to spend less in this area anyway, are all aimed at covering up the fact that this Government panel was wrong – DEAD wrong!

Now, as we feared,  we have some hard evidence that these establishment “experts” have succeeded in confusing doctors and patients, and may have done serious damage to Public Health.  The Mayo Clinic, suspecting that all the confusion caused by the USPSTF decision and subsequent defense of that decision by “experts” may have depressed mammography rates among women between 40 and 49, decided to review the data.

Sure enough, the preliminary results of the Mayo study, released on June 26, 2012, indicate that mammography rates have indeed declined by about 6% in this age group subsequent to the USPSTF decision.  This amounts to about 54,000 fewer mammograms per year in this age group despite the ObamaCare amendment that was supposed to ensure their access to this procedure, and despite the DHHS quiet reversion to the previous (2002) USPSTF guidelines,  which allow coverage of mammograms for women over 40.   An undetermined number of these currently untested women will die unneccessarily as a result of the confusion caused by the USPSTF decision.  You can read an article about this study at HealthDay –  http://consumer.healthday.com/Article.asp?AID=666143

What has happened is that basically doctors are confused by the 2009  USPSTF decision, the USPSTF refusal to retract, and now the defense of that decision by various  “experts.”   Doctors are under a mistaken impression that USPSTF actually knows something about breast cancer, and they are also confused into thinking that perhaps they will be breaking some rule, or will not receive compensation if they prescribe this procedure for women between 40 and 49 years of age.

This is really unfortunate, and hopefully the recent ACR, ACOG and AMA definitive statements in support of annual mammograms, will “shore up” these doctors to where they are able to represent their patients’ best interests.

In the meantime, we should all learn a valuable lesson from this as to how impersonal, and basically dishonest, health care will become when it is run by bureaucrats who are primarily interested in withholding resources that might be spent on “Patient A,” so that those resources can be better used on the much more worthy “Patient B,” as determined by their infallible methodology.  Infallible, until someone takes a hard look at it to see it for the sham that it is.

This is the real “War on Women” being waged in doctor’s offices every day by ObamaCare and it’s flunkies.  It makes Ms. Fluke’s highly choreographed charges regarding contraception costs look trivial because the consequences of not getting a mammogram may well be death.

Tell your friends about these hypocrites and how we need to get rid of them for our own health and safety.

The Sceptic


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