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New Data Reveals How The End Of Covid-19 Pandemic Protocols Could Negatively Impact US Healthcare 

Whenever the Covid-19 pandemic ends, the US healthcare system may be disrupted greatly due to the amount of hospital systems who have been able to acquire new technology and resources to keep up with temporary emergency measures throughout the pandemic.  

When the many temporary emergency measures that have been implemented throughout the US’s healthcare system end, an estimated 15 million Medicaid recipients will likely need to find new coverage. Congress will need to take action in order to preserve the broad telehealth access that many Medicare users have been able to use throughout the pandemic. 

Beyond just patients, payment policies are also likely to change for doctors, hospitals, and insurers. Many are raising concerns over these issues because of their tie to the coronavirus public health emergency declaration that was made more than two years ago and needs to be periodically renewed in order to keep these protective policies in place. 

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The state of emergency is set to end on April 16th, and it’s expected that Biden will likely extend it through July, but many healthcare workers are hoping for a more secure extension that will last longer. Juliette Cubanski is a Medicare expert working with the Kaiser Family Foundation who recently spoke on the potential consequences of stepping back from the state of emergency. 

“The flexibilities granted through the public health emergency have helped people stay covered and get access to care, so moving forward the key question is how to build on what has been a success and not lose ground.”

Medicaid currently covers 79 million people through its state-federal health insurance program which is designed to assist low income individuals. The amount of people covered by Medicaid has increased at record rates throughout the pandemic. 

The Urban Institute revealed research that estimates about 15 million people could lose their Medicaid coverage when the public health emergency ends, at a rate of 1 million individuals per month. Matthew Buettgens of the Urban Institute stated that almost all of the people losing Medicaid will likely be eligible for “another source of coverage through employers, the Affordable Care Act or, for kids, the Children’s Health Insurance Program.”

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“But that’s not going to happen automatically. Cost and lack of awareness about options could get in the way. This is an unprecedented situation. The uncertainty is real,” said Buettgens. Chiquita Brooks-LaSure is an administrator at the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, CMS, and she advises states to take it slow when it comes to rolling back on policies so that they have time to connect with Medicaid recipients who will be disenrolled to provide them with additional coverage. 

“We are focused on making sure we hold on to the gains in coverage we have made under the Biden-Harris administration. We are at the strongest point in our history and we are going to make sure that we hold on to the coverage gains,” said CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure. 

The end of the public health emergency could impact telehealth access for millions enrolled in traditional Medicare and other insurers. 

“Congress has given itself 151 days after the end of the public health emergency to come up with new rules. If there are no changes to the law after that, most Medicare beneficiaries will lose access to coverage for telehealth,” the Kaiser Foundation’s Cubanski said.

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra recently told The Associated Press that his department is “committed to giving ample notice when it ends the public health emergency. We want to make sure we’re not putting in a detrimental position Americans who still need our help. The one that people are really worried about is Medicaid.”

Real Estate Tax

Joe Biden Announces $775 Billion ‘Caring Economy’ Plan Funded By Real Estate Taxes

Former Vice President and 2020 Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden is releasing a plan this week that aims to change the way that American families care for each other from the beginning of one’s life all the way to the end. 

Biden’s calling it the “21st Century Caregiving and Education Workforce” plan, and the proposal calls for a $775 billion investment that will be distributed over the course of 10 years to various establishments, businesses, government agencies, etc. that all work to rebuild and “fortify the nation’s caregiving economy.”

The establishments that the money will go toward specifically include daycare facilities, in-home elder care, and long-term care for disabled individuals. The investment specifically will be coming from real estate taxes as well, according to Biden’s campaign. 

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“Everything will be paid for by rolling back unproductive and unequal tax breaks for real estate investors with incomes over $400,000 and taking steps to increase tax compliance for high-income earners.” 

Biden is expected to announce even more specifics as to what the plan will do with the money/where the money itself will be pulled from this week. However, his campaign did already release a general outline as to what the bills main goals are. The first thing Biden wants to do is provide emergency funding for state, local, and tribal governments to ensure that all child-care centers and elder-care providers throughout the country are financially protected through the rest of the pandemic. 

These businesses specifically are seeing a massive economic decline, as many individuals are not comfortable sending their child or elderly relative to be cared for by an outside party during a global health crisis. 

Biden’s administration laid out three major “planks” that this plan will work to accomplish within the next ten years. The first involves expanding affordable child care services for kids up to five-years-old as well as providing universal preschool education. This same concept goes for elderly and disabled individuals, as Biden will be expanding care options within these facilities, programs, and agencies as well. Particularly Biden wants to focus on community and home-based care. Finally, he wants to increase the pay and benefits for individuals who work within the caregiving industry. 

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Affordability is the number one priority in all aspects of this bill. Universal preschool would alleviate so many costs for low-income working families, but would also allow more businesses to open their own child-care facilities within corporate office buildings. Biden also is pledging to provide up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave for new parents/workers in general when they need to be out of office for certain medical issues/procedures. 

The same concept goes for elderly and disabled people, especially those in low-income families, as with daycare, additional facilities and assistance can cost hundreds of thousands as time goes on. Biden specifically wants to distribute $450 billion of the fund to increase Medicaid funding to the states.

The money would also work to fund programs and create up to 150,000 new jobs within the caregiving industry. These new jobs, along with the thousands of current caregiver workers, will also see an increase in pay, and expanded protections for things like starting a labor union. The money will also be invested into new and improved training programs that can help these workers advance their careers more easily.

So far, many American citizens are in support of this plan, especially considering president Trump has yet to discuss any specific plans to improve child care, family leave, elderly care, health care, etc. The coronavirus pandemic has halted the president’s campaigning for the November election, however, this has already hurt him tremendously in the initial polls, so only time will tell if Trump counters Biden’s proposal.

Stethoscope

American Healthcare Costs Versus The World

When patients in America need healthcare there can be panic if they do not have adequate provisions. While many Americans know that the cost of going to a medical provider can be expensive, many may not know the actual cost of each individual procedure. Whether you are going into hospital for a CT scan, or a C-section, the costs can be high.

However, this is not the case in other areas of the world, for instance a CT scan in the US can cost around $1,100 while in Holland the same procedure would cost you $140. A recent report from The Health Care Cost Institute has highlighted the difference between the prices being paid by private insurance throughout the United States, and the rest of the world.

According to the report, America is spending far more on almost every form of prescription drugs or medical procedures. Other rich countries usually pay at least half the cost for medical services of private insurers in America. Compared to the Netherlands, a country which is constantly rated as having one of the greatest health care services in the world, we are spending around four times as much as they do. For instance, procedures such as knee and hip replacements are only 25% of our costs.

However, there are some situations where the cost of a procedure can be nearly as much in the US, such as cataract surgery in New Zealand, or childbirth in the United Kingdom.

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Prescription drugs are the same. Harvoni, a new cure for hepatitis C, costs 20% less in the Netherlands than it does in America. Arthritis drug Humira is another drug that is cheaper abroad, with patients in the United Arab Emirates only having to pay less than 50% to that of Americans.

While prices differed from country to country, anti-clotting agent, Factor VIII, was found to cost either half or less than the American price in each location surveyed. So why are Americans being charged so highly for medical services, procedures and prescription drugs? Unfortunately there does not seem to be a single answer.

While America is still the world’s richest country, it is also the home of the world’s most prominent bio-pharmaceutical industry and has the majority of the latest treatments, meaning patients from around the world head to our shores to receive medical attention.

While this could mean that our prices should be higher than anywhere else, there is also the issue of price regulation – or the lack of one.

More than half of Americans have private insurers who negotiate with drug companies and private providers to fix the costs of their products. Insurers do have some control, as they could refuse the drug company or the medical provider access to their patients, meaning they could get their prices reduced. Yet the prices are still far more restricted than many other nations.

It’s not just between countries that there is vast price differences, the costs can vary between states too, with CT scans costing between $250 and $1,500 depending on where you are in the country.

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Even with these restrictions the US private insurance sector is still being charged ridiculously high prices.

While all medical provisions are a part of the private sector in America, there are many countries in the study that have a public sector too. For instance, the government in the United Kingdom employs doctors, nurses and other medical employees as well as owning the majority of the hospitals and doctors’ surgeries. Other countries, including Australia, have universal public insurance programs.

There are some countries that have privatized insurance schemes, such as the Netherlands, however they continue to enforce government controls on their prices – more than we do here. A common factor in single payer systems is the utilization of global budgets, meaning the costs the insurers will pay each year is capped once they know the cost of their customers medical requirements.

While the limit on health care spending for the year ahead is firm, payers and providers discuss the costs for each individual service. In America there is a more open-ended approach which creates the costs based on the level of medical care that is provided throughout the year. With America having such extortionate prices the industry has around $3.5 trillion invested which means that if prices are negotiated down – either through price setting, global budgets or some of the many other ways available – the health care providers see a decrease in their income.

This means that issues such as an unexpected out-of-network medical bill that some patients receive would be hard to control, due to the reduction in payments to providers.

America would do well to get our health care spending under control but the challenge would be a large undertaking that not many government administrations would want to tackle.