Insurance

Insurance Buyer Beware!

While catching up on some insurance reading, I came across this article, which gives some food for thought. I’ve been giving insurance symposia around the country, and we have been focusing this year on the “Marketplace” websites, but this never even crossed my mind!

“Buyer Beware: Obamacare creates an opening for confusion and scams”

Kate Pickert
Government Bureaucrats aren’t the only ones preparing for a key component of President Obama’s signature health care law that goes into effect this fall.
Health care exchanges, the marketplaces where people can buy soon-to-be required insurance, launch Oct. 1, and experts warn that their debut
could create a prime moneymaking opportunity for illegal scammers and others looking to capitalize on consumer confusion. “There are people licking their chops and saying, ‘A sucker is born every minuet,’” says Elizabeth Abbott of the consumer group Health Access California.
There are two main types of potential snares for consumers: outright cons and insurance-like plans that give the impression of offering
more coverage than they actually provide. Regulatory agencies are already on high alert for fraud. Both the Federal Trade Commission and the Better Business Bureau have posted warnings about Obamacare-related identity theft. And in Pennsylvania, one enterprising insurance broker set up a website with the official state seal and the title Pennsylvania Health Exchange. The site was removed after a warning for the state insurance department.
Some quasi-insurance products expected to proliferate come October are ‘discount medical plans,” which promise lower health care costs in exchange for a recurring fee. Many of these plans lure customers with language that implies comprehensive coverage, but the reality is far more limited.
“The problem is, people pay the money, buy a plan, and when they get sick, they find out they don’t’ have the financial security they thought they had,” says Minnesota attorney general Lori Swanson, who has sued several discount medial plans for deceptive market practices. Consumer watchdogs are also wary of plans that reimburse consumers with set amounts for doctor visits or hospital stays, regardless of the actual costs.
Obamacare bans some forms of skimpy coverage, but with enforcement left to the states—some of which are less than enthusiastic about
the law—don’t count on those misleading plans disappearing overnight. “Will the states crack down on them?” asks Timothy Jost, a law professor at Washington and Lee University and an expert on insurance regulation. “Well, a number of states
aren’t enforcing the Affordable Care Act at all.”
Time August 19, 2013Great Book I Just Read
Into the Abyss: An Extraordinary True Story [Kindle]
Carol Shaben

A small commuter plane goes down on a subzero night in 1984 in Canada; only four of nine people survive: the 24 year old pilot, the first Muslim politician in North America, a policeman and his handcuffed prisoner. The next 36 hours reveals each man’s character, impacts them for life, and bonds them to one another for life. The prisoner saves the lives of the other three and becomes a national hero. This amazing story, expertly told, delves deep into the minds and hearts of each man before and during the accident, and follows them 20 years later to see what has become of them. The incident helped to change Canadian aviation. The author is the daughter of the politician, one of the survivors. Five/five stars.

Supreme Court Upholds ACA

It’s fair to say we’ve all been holding our breath to see what the Supreme Court would rule this past week on the Affordable Care Act, often referred to as “Obamacare.” The ruling will have a long-term effect on the bleeding disorder community. Indeed, I’ve been to Hawaii, North Carolina and Tennessee as part of our insurance symposia Pulse on the Road to ask families and patients to pay careful attention to their healthcare policies, and to what’s happening in Washington DC. Would lifetime caps be reinstalled? Would pre-existing conditions be allowed again? Our children with hemophilia would face terrible battles for healthcare access if these provisions were reinstalled.
But in a 5-4 vote, the US Supreme Court ruled to uphold most of the health care law. One central controversy was over mandatory insurance; many Americans saw this as unconstitutional and a threat to our freedom to choose our own protection and access to care. Chief Justice John Roberts gave an opinion, which upheld the constitutionality of the individual mandate because it is a tax. The Medicaid expansion has been limited.

We’re lucky to have such a vigilant community that jumped at the news and shared right away; our vigilance was earned the hard way, through massive loss of life. From the Hemophilia Federation of America:  “HFA is reviewing the ruling and will closely monitor its impact and are committed to ensuring adequate access to care for all people with bleeding disorders,” said Kimberly Haugstad, Executive Director of HFA. “We will continue our advocacy to protect beneficial provisions of the ACA, so that the overall health care system is improved.  We encourage everyone in the community to join us.”

ACA was made into law March 2010, in the hopes of reforming our convoluted and expensive healthcare system, to try to lower costs and to keep all Americans insured. About 45 million Americans (out of an estimated 300 million) do not have insurance. In fact one young man, age 27, called me two weeks ago with a severe bleed, telling me he didn’t have insurance! He wanted me to send factor that I normally give to patients in developing countries! His only resort would be to go to the ER, get factor, incur massive bills and pay the rest of his life, even just $10 a month, for this enormous cost, easily a $20-30,000 visit. The hospital would eventually write off his treatment as bad debt.

With mandatory insurance, this young man will be forced to find insurance, and his healthcare should be covered. There are so many provisions in the ACA that benefit patients with bleeding disorders, indeed anyone with chronic health disorders. But the stage is set for November: how will this ruling impact the presidential elections?

Maybe it will inspire more Americans to get out and vote. It’s only by persistent advocacy that we have even come this far. I don’t know what the future will bring, but I am breathing a little easier tonight knowing my son is covered for one more year, even while wondering what financial impact this will have on us all long term.

For more information, visit www.hemophiliafed.org or call 1-800-230-9797.

Thanks to Tom Bennett, Executive Director, Hemophilia of North Carolina for sharing the HFA alert with us.

Looking Into the Future in Chicago


While a winter storm gathered back on the east coast, I was in Chicago for a meeting with the Bayer Multidisciplinary Board Meeting. This is a group of thought leaders from the hemophilia community who meet once a year to discuss current trends in treatment, products and insurance, and predictions of what the community will look like and need in five to ten years.

I was unable to attend last year’s meeting at this time, so it was very nice to be back with the group, all of whom I knew. The team includes top hematologists, insurance experts, some adult patients, and homecare, distributor and nonprofit representatives. Of course, the hot topic is insurance! How are payers affecting the decisions being made now on treatment choices and product pipeline? For example, it’s already happening that payers are dictating brand choices in some places, said one participant. The impending merger of Express Scripts and Medco, two of the three largest PBMs, will radically upset the hemophilia apple cart and change the hemophilia landscape forever. Exactly how that will change was open to much speculation.

The most extreme prediction involved the fate of HTCs. One prediction is that in ten years there will only be half the current number of HTCs operating. There will be fewer hematologists. “We are victim of our own success,” expressed one doctor. Hemophilia has become so manageable that patients are less dependent on the HTCs. With cuts in federal funding, expect to see many close their doors forever. I saw this myself in New Mexico, where the HTC is struggling.

The bleak forecasts were accompanied by good news: treatments are better than ever, allowing a more normal life. Newer products, greater choice and who knows, maybe even cheaper products. Stay tuned–in 2012 I will provide a forecast by our community experts on what you can expect in the next ten years. It’s going to be a roller coaster ride, folks.

Interesting Book I Just Read
Sing You Home
Jodi Picoult

I normally don’t read fiction unless it’s a classic. This book was given to me as a gift. It tackles several hot buttons: gay rights, surrogate pregnancies, Christian fundamentalism. A music therapist—Zoe—finds herself childless at age 40, after a stillbirth. After her husband Max leaves her, Zoe eventually falls in love—with female counselor Vanessa. Eventually they wed in Massachusetts, my home state, and the first to make same-sex weddings legal.

Max, a recovering alcoholic, begins to attend a fundamentalist Christian church at the behest of his brother. The pastor is anti-gay. Max becomes a born again Christian.

The plot really thickens when Zoe asks Max to release one of their stored embryos to her so that Vanessa can carry their child, for the two women to raise; he counters by suing her for custody of them. So the book covers controversial issues as gay rights, evangelical Christians, in vitro fertilization, surrogate parenthood, and divorce. All this happens within six months! The story is from the points of view of three characters in alternating chapters. It’s a thought-provoking book on change, tolerance and what constitutes a family, when the biological parents have such different beliefs and life-styles.

Life is more complicated than presented here, however. Max became a born-again just in time as a set up to the ethical question of who should raise the kids. Christian fundamentalists seem very stereotyped. There are a lot of issues competing for the readers’ attention, and the ending is too neatly wrapped up, too quickly. But if you like to read, want a book to stimulate some thoughts about many current topics, this is one you can get through quickly. As an editor, I tend to be pretty harsh on how a book is written, but sometimes it’s nice just to read a different kind of book. Two stars.

Pulse on the Road in Washington!

Sunny weather is rare in Washington state, but even the balmy temperatures could not keep away some hemophilia patients and families who wanted to learn more about healthcare reform. We had a solid turn out for “Pulse on the Road,” our unique symposium, sponsored by Baxter Healthcare Corporation, that is completely devoted to educating patients about insurance reform. As guests of the Bleeding Disorders Foundation of Washington, we presented a three-hour symposium on Saturday, September 10, to one of the most focused and interactive audiences I’ve ever seen.


To ensure families know why we got where we are, I started the session off with an overview of hemophilia’s history and how our unique history has been placed high on the radar screen of insurance companies and state governments. Did you know that the hemophilia community has enjoyed a heyday for the past 10 years, post-HIV devastation? Due to what happened to us, insurers have left us pretty much alone, not monkeying with prices or access to product choice. Those days are over, friends! I explained why over 30 minutes.

Next was Elizabeth Stoltz of Baxter Healthcare, who gave her Insurance 101 session. There are some new terms in healthcare reform that you’ll need to know, and she covered these and ones we should already know.

Michelle Rice, regional director of NHF, presented the results of a patient-focused survey from last fall, which tested to see how much bleeding disorder patients knew about their insurance and insurance reform. Results were encouraging, as high numbers knew that lifetime maximums were being eliminated and that dependents would be able to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26. People are reading up, and that’s great!

In between each speaker we held a quick Q&A, based on the talk just given, with prizes! I’m telling you, people love these. We had speedy replies and winners, as this crowd was sharp!

Finally Jim Romano of Patient Services, Inc. (PSI) gave the keynote—an overview on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — healthcare reform. Breaking down the many changes into digestible amounts, Jim covered how the new healthcare reform will help us, and what we need to monitor to ensure we continue to have access to the care we need.

Our message wasn’t just that we should all learn these terms and concepts–we are trying to educate families to keep the cash in their wallets. If we don’t pay attention, and know the small print, and know how ACA will affect those with chronic disorders, we may end up paying more for healthcare insurance. If we are not vigilant, the great benefits we expect from ACA—like no lifetime limits—could be challenged during upcoming elections. If you don’t know much about your own insurance policy, you may overpay.

Following the speakers we had three breakout sessions on Medicaid, Out of Pocket Costs and Advocacy. These interactive and informal gatherings always provide personalized answers to concrete problems. We were very pleased to have Cat Stulik, a social worker from Puget Sound Blood Center, join us in the Medicaid break out.

Thanks to Kristian Prill, executive director, and her team for a great morning. Thanks to Kevin Finkle for his wonderful photos! Thanks also to Baxter Healthcare Corporation for their generous sponsorship.

Visit our website (“Events”) to see where we take Pulse on the Road next!

Visit our website to download your complimentary copy of Pulse, our newsletter devoted to insurance reform for the bleeding disorder community.

Great Book I Just Read
Always the Children: A Nurse’s Story of Home and War
Anne Watts

This is a riveting memoir of a young girl, who lost her mother early and under troubling circumstances, was told she could not become a nurse by her father, and who fought every convention to follow her dream. She became a nurse, and then led a life of great adventure and drama, as she goes from one developing country to another, often in times of war, to aid the sick, the orphaned, and even lepers! Anne is fearless and has boundless compassion. You can almost feel her transformation from a naïve, shy girl, to take-charge nurse and mature woman. She is under fire in Vietnam, chatting with Bob Hope after a tragedy en route to one of his USO shows, in a hellhole refugee camp in Cambodia, and even stumbles across “haemophiliacs” in the Sudan. I wasn’t sure I would like this book as it started kind of slow, but it absolutely picked up steam, and I could not put it down. She reflects back on her life, and brings it all together at the very end… I won’t give it away, but it is a fabulous book, well written, funny, sad and powerful. Thank you Jan Howard of the Shetland Islands for sending this wonderful gift to me! Three stars.

POTR is Hot in San Antonio!

Insurance is still the hottest subject in bleeding disorders, and this past weekend in San Antonio really proved it. We had a great turn out for “Pulse on the Road,” our unique symposium, sponsored by Baxter Healthcare Corporation, that is completely devoted to educating patients about insurance reform. As guests of the Texas Central Hemophilia Association and Lone Star Chapter of NHF, we presented a three-hour symposium on Sunday, June 26, from 7 am to 10 am, to an audience of over 200 patients and their families.

The chapters did an excellent job of attracting patients and families to attend. With hundreds of family members and a fair amount of industry representatives, this was a stellar meeting. I loved seeing the children with hemophilia scampering about, or holding relay races in the hallways as part of the supervised kids’ programs. No joint problems anywhere!

While a nutritious, hot breakfast was served, I started the session Sunday morning with an overview of hemophilia’s history and how our unique history has been placed high on the radar screen of insurance companies and state governments. My talk was followed by Elizabeth Stoltz of Baxter Healthcare, who gave an Insurance 101 session; her talk covered common terms that all families will need to know to navigate healthcare reform. Then, Michelle Rice of NHF presented the results of a patient-focused survey from last fall, which tested to see how much bleeding disorder patients knew about their insurance and insurance reform. Results were encouraging, as high numbers knew that lifetime maximums were being eliminated and that dependents would be able to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26.

Finally Jim Romano of Patient Services, Incorporated (PSI) gave the keynote about healthcare reform. Breaking down the many changes into digestible amounts, Jim covered how the new healthcare reform will help us, and what we need to monitor to ensure we continue to have access to the care we need.

To spice things up and keep our audience sharp at such an early hour, I asked the audience after each presenter a question, and whoever got the right answer won cash! The message: we are trying to educate to keep the cash in your wallets. If you don’t know much about your own insurance policy, you may overpay. If you don’t know how insurance reform will impact you, you may lose money. In these economic times, we want every family to preserve their hard-earned dollars. The “competition” added some fun to the topic of insurance and we had some sharp people in the audience!

Following the speakers we had three breakout sessions on Medicaid, Out of Pocket Costs and Advocacy. Everyone agreed that 45 minutes for break out was not enough. These interactive and informal gatherings proved the highlight of the meeting. Patients were able to ask questions about their personal situation with experts in their field. Jim Passamano, of Sufian & Passamano LLP, a lawyer specializing in chronic disorder and insurance, helped explain Medicaid changes to many families. Shannon Brown, a social worker from Texas, spelled out certain out of pocket costs that patients will need to monitor closely. And Michelle Rice of NHF presented a new personal tool to help families get a handle on comparing insurance plans.

Simultaneous translation into Spanish helped the many Spanish-speaking families understand how healthcare reform may impact them.
Patients truly appreciated the three-hour program and the chance to speak to insurance experts in bleeding disorders. “I would like to have attended all the [break out] sessions and not just one!” commented one attendee. “I’m very pleased at how much I learned and all the wonderful people I met!” exclaimed another. When asked if they learned something new, every hand in the room was raised!

Thanks to Luis and Shannon, executive directors of their chapters, and coordinators of the event, for inviting us, and to Baxter Healthcare Corporation for their sponsorship.

Visit our website (“Events”) to see where we take Pulse on the Road next!

Visit our website to download your complimentary copy of Pulse, our newsletter devoted to insurance reform for the bleeding disorder community.

Interesting Book I Just Read
Altitude Illness: Prevention & Treatment
Stephen-Bezruchka, MD
This is a small book, written to be taken while trekking on mid- to high-altitude mountains. I read most of it on one plane ride. It’s chock full of good information, and goes into great (and scary) detail of what can happen to you if you are not careful on the mountains. It’s very dry, terse, to the point, and may make you think twice about attempting the big ones. Too late for me! I am going to tackle Mt. Kilimanjaro in August. The strange thing about altitude sickness is you just never know who it will strike. Marathoners and top athletes, like Martina Navratilova, can get it, and 12 year olds with limited climbing experience may avoid it. You never know till you are there. Two stars.

ADVERTISEMENT
HemaBlog Archives
Categories