Most of what we’ve heard lately on health care cost predictions are speculative comments and dire prognostics on implementing the Affordable Health Care Act. Let’s see this played out in actual shopping transactions – let the market give us a glimpse of how it will work – for more than 125,000 Alaskans – to get insurance.
In this limbo land leading all too quickly toward 2014 when the AHCA goes into effect, most of us are left lacking the basic information about how to proceed.
What we aren’t lacking are warnings from politicians, health insurance companies, big businesses and small businesses.
It’s true that companies need to be cautious whenever they look ahead. Corporations need to assess their bottom lines before they commit to a change. They do their due diligence. Insurance companies are uncertain about the future, particularly about what will happen to their margins when the new exchanges open in October. But notice that such corporations adjust to take care of their own bottom line first. They will increase revenue and profits as much as possible in the short term in case Obamacare lowers them in the long term.
Push the fear-mongers aside, and perhaps we can get day light shed on the matter. Isn’t there at least some evidence a new plan for health care might work, even if not so perfectly?
Ezekiel Emanuel, a specialist on health care policy for New York Times, gives a reminder about basic market competition for an upside example.
Competitive bidding is a tool that has already been working. Historically, the government has set prices through Medicare for wheelchairs, hospital beds and other medical equipment. But a demonstration project begun in 2011 introduced competitive bidding in roughly 100 metropolitan areas to see if market forces could bring down prices, Emanuel reports. The results have been dramatic. Prices for oxygen equipment went down 41 percent; wheelchairs, 36 percent; hospital beds, 44 percent; and the cost of diabetic testing equipment, like glucose strips, dropped by a whopping 72 percent. And research has shown no adverse effects on beneficiaries.
The Affordable Care Act will expand competitive bidding for these items to the rest of the country in 2016, Emanuel predicts.
A competitive process for gaining health insurance is the basis behind the Health Care Exchanges. These “malls” offer options – and companies in competition, hopefully – for your health insurance dollars.
The moderating of health care spending is “fantastic news,” Emanuel said. The result is that overall, health care costs are lower than they were 10 years ago. But premiums went up.
Why? Likely because of the panic over changes to come, and not because of the market forces that pull or push on rates themselves. At least if we inform ourselves, we might get a solution started. But let’s quit asking the politicians. Let’s find answers from the places who will be taking our insurance money in the near future.
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