Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

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Tag: Medicare

May
13th

Sticker shock for America’s hospital patients

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

One of the deeper mysteries facing a patient who’s entered the bewildering labyrinth of the hospital world is why – after he’s discharged – those nice people send him a bill high enough to empty his 401k.

Then another bill comes: His insurance has paid an inexplicably low rate, and the hospital is inexplicably satisfied with it.

If he has insurance, that is. If he doesn’t, it may be time to look at that 401k.

The nation’s capricious and incomprehensively high hospital bills came under harsh light last week when the Department of Health and Human Services released a database showing what American hospitals charge for common inpatient services.

Try to compare one hospital’s bills against another and you quickly wind up in Wonderland.

According to HHS, inpatient charges for a joint replacement runs an average of $5,300 in Ada, Okla.; in Monterey Park, Calif., it’s $223,000. Bills can vary wildly even in the same area.

Typical inpatient treatment for heart failure costs from $21,000 to $46,000 at various Denver hospitals, for example.
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Nov.
14th

Medicare and Social Security: Have and have-nots

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

A new report on the wealth gap between young and old Americans adds another argument for trimming Medicare and Social Security spending as Congress attempts to control its runaway spending.

After rummaging through reams of federal data, the Pew Research Center documented an immense and growing financial disparity between citizens older than 65 and citizens younger than 35.

The most startling number in the study had to do with net worth: A typical household headed someone of retirement age now has 47 times the wealth than a household headed by someone 35 or younger.

That’s apparently the largest gap ever. According to the center, it has doubled since 2005 and increased fivefold over the last 25 years.

That’s not the key issue, though. Older people in general are bound to possess more than younger people, who have only begun accumulating possessions and equity in their homes.
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Aug.
9th

Seniors too often targeted for Medicare scams

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

Medicare fraud is a multibillion-dollar problem in this country, but one form it takes is particularly despicable because it preys on one of the greatest fears of the elderly: loss of independence.

Those who are finding it harder to get out and about are all too vulnerable to hucksters promising the latest in electric wheelchair convenience – power chairs with jaunty names like Rascal and Jazzy.

The ubiquitous, cheery commercials on cable stations promise that those power chairs are the ticket to greater mobility and freedom (cue the music and the happy group of riders trekking around town and through the woods). Plus they’re free!

Yes, Medicare probably will foot the entire bill, the ads promise. And the seller will even fill out the forms for you.

Of course it will. Because it’s been getting reimbursed for much more than the actual cost – up to $4,000 for a chair that normally sells for about $1,000. But in many cases the senior citizen doesn’t really qualify for a Medicare-reimbursed chair. They’re only supposed to be paid for if the person is unable to get around with a cane, walker or regular wheelchair.
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Jan.
19th

Coming Wednesday: Medicare reimbursements, Tacoma teacher discipline

Here’s what we’re working on for tomorrow:

Congress can’t begin to reform health care without reforming Medicare, which accounts for one in every five dollars spent on health care. And Congress can’t begin to reform Medicare without overhauling its reimbursement system, which rewards inefficiency and punishes states with a record of providing high-quality and low-cost care.

How many times does a Tacoma teacher have to push students around before he’s removed from the classroom? The answer should be once.

Dec.
21st

The U.S. Senate wraps a Christmas gift for the uninsured

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

It’s fitting that the U.S. Senate is poised to approve historic health care legislation during Christmas week. Like a big present under the tree, the package looks gorgeous, promises to run up the Visa card and conceals things known to only a few.

But shaking the box tells you quite a bit. The immense bill would extend coverage to most Americans now uninsured, require all individuals to carry medical insurance (subsidized as necessary), and prohibit insurance companies from refusing to sell coverage to the sick or dropping them after they get sick.

This is good, as far as it goes. In a humane society, access to health care is a moral imperative. Americans should not die because their wallets can’t get past a biopsy at the front desk.

And the law must demand that individuals carry coverage. The logic follows mandatory auto insurance: If you don’t insure yourself, you are effectively planning to dump your expenses on someone else. Those who think this violates their rights ought to pledge in advance not to accept care from a doctor or hospital unless they pay full freight. Any takers on that bargain?
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Sep.
24th

Cantwell offers healthy Rx for Medicare

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

The fundamental dilemma of health care reform isn’t whether to adopt a public plan or extend coverage to the uninsured – important as those discussions are.

The core problem is how to stop squandering so much money on needless treatment that doesn’t help patients. If the dollars followed results instead of procedures and visits, there’d be better results and fewer wasted – and costly – procedures and visits.

If the waste were pared out of the system, it would be far easier to cover the uninsured, run a cost-effective public plan, help companies maintain coverage for their employees, offer affordable premiums to individuals, etc., etc. It all hinges on costs.

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Sep.
6th

Health reform must tackle Medicare costs

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.
Congress returns this week from a summer of discontent to stare down health care legislation – including Medicare reform – once again.

Fresh from their battering back home, Democrats will be trying to figure out how to salvage health care reform without setting themselves up for a fall in next year’s mid-term elections. President Obama is expected to lay out his must-haves in a Wednesday address to Congress that will likely be two parts “go get it done” and one part “I’m in this with you.”

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Sep.
4th

Weekend editorials: Medicare, poll voting, R-71 and marijuana

Here’s what we’ve got coming for the long weekend:

• Reforming Medicare, which now rewards volume and political clout, is key to getting a handle on the staggering growth of health care costs.

• Poll voting’s time is up. Pierce County has gone to heroic measures to keep tradition alive, but the once-proud civic custom is but a shadow of its former self – and an expensive one at that.

• Controversial as R-71 is, this isn’t the time for a court to be changing the ground rules for gathering petition signatures.

• Accept the contorted legal argument for marijuana

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