Ahhh, the unintended consequences of change…
Shocking news: providers and hospitals suffer when everyone has high deductible health plans and little cash on hand to pay the bills.
Then again, maybe not.
Just what kind of fees are we paying in Rhode Island under the current treasurer’s “alternative” investments?
This article explains how 31 people are being laid off from a hospital in Keene, New Hampshire, due to a number of factors including less reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid and problems stemming from high deductible health plans:
Hospital officials said in December recent trends toward high-deductible health insurance plans have apparently led to increases in outstanding bad debt, which includes unpaid patient bills, and also to reductions in the public’s use of some medical services. The number of patients, which at the hospital averages more than 30 filled beds at any one time, is down, and demand for outpatient services is also off.
By 2014, if all goes well, we should have something that resembles national health care. This may mean that millions of people who have suffered in the pool of 17.7% of Americans in the United States without health insurance, may suddenly be seeking care for everything from anxiety to obesity and beyond.
In Rhode Island, this would be a welcome relief from the recent trends in health care in terms of numbers of people with insurance. The recent trends, according to the Rhode Island Health Commissioner’s office, are that between 2005 and 2010, the number of insured people in Rhode Island dropped by 65,000. In 2005, there were about 620,000 people insured by the three big insurers, BCBSRI, United, and Tufts, and in 2010 this number had dropped to about 555,000. During that same time, there was a modest increase in the number of people receiving either Rite Care and Rite Share. If you look at the study cited below issued in January of 2011 from the Rhode Island Senate Fiscal Office, you will see that in 2009 and 2010, there was a significant amount of stimulus money that was used to cover the costs of the growing Rite Care and Rite Share programs — $35.2 million in 2009, $56.8 million in 2010, and $56.5 million in 2011.
Now, let’s give it some thought. Let’s just say Obamacare goes through. Could it be possible that part of the growing economy can be the growing health care provisions that are made for those nearly 50 million people who are newly insured? Could neighborhoods in South Providence, downtown Woonsocket, and Eden Park Cranston all begin to flourish with new health care providers serving the throngs of people flocking in for health care? Statistically, the uninsured are more likely to be obese, smokers, and drinkers, so there are plenty of preventative care issues that could be addressed with could treatment plans.
So instead of giving $75 million to Curt Schilling and betting on the idea that we need another MMOG video game on the internet where people will waste time being sedentary and eating junk food while they try to climb inane hierarchies, perhaps we should think about ways that government can promote health care businesses that will likely be in great demand in the very near future.
Barbara Ehrenreich has a new blog called Economichardship.org, which talks about how the Great Recession is impacting regular folk. This article has some information on how government and law enforcement are getting into the business of making money off the poor.
At the local level though, government is increasingly opting to join in the looting. In 2009, a year into the Great Recession, I first started hearing complaints from community organizers about ever more aggressive levels of law enforcement in low-income areas. Flick a cigarette butt and get arrested for littering; empty your pockets for an officer conducting a stop-and-frisk operation and get cuffed for a few flakes of marijuana. Each of these offenses can result, at a minimum, in a three-figure fine.
And the number of possible criminal offenses leading to jail and/or fines has been multiplying recklessly. All across the country — from California and Texas to Pennsylvania — counties and municipalities have been toughening laws against truancy and ratcheting up enforcement, sometimes going so far as to handcuff children found on the streets during school hours. In New York City, it’s now a crime to put your feet up on a subway seat, even if the rest of the car is empty, and a South Carolina woman spent six days in jail when she was unable to pay a $480 fine for the crime of having a “messy yard.” Some cities — most recently, Houston and Philadelphia — have made it a crime to share food with indigent people in public places.
Being poor itself is not yet a crime, but in at least a third of the states, being in debt can now land you in jail. If a creditor like a landlord or credit card company has a court summons issued for you and you fail to show up on your appointed court date, a warrant will be issued for your arrest. And it is easy enough to miss a court summons, which may have been delivered to the wrong address or, in the case of some bottom-feeding bill collectors, simply tossed in the garbage — a practice so common that the industry even has a term for it: “sewer service.” In a sequence that National Public Radio reports is “increasingly common,” a person is stopped for some minor traffic offense — having a noisy muffler, say, or broken brake light — at which point the officer discovers the warrant and the unwitting offender is whisked off to jail.