Despite Payment Cuts, Medicare Advantage Plan Enrollments Rise More Than 50 Percent
The trend bucks experts who predicted that the private plans would be gutted by the health law measure that cut payments. In other national news, The New York Times looks at health care providers' preparedness in the face of natural disasters and outbreaks, pop-up health clinics allow patients to see a doctor or dentist, even if it’s only for a day, and gene-editing adjusts the abortion debate.
The New York Times:
Surge In Medicare Advantage Sign-Ups Confounds Expectations
Five years into Medicare spending cuts that were supposed to devastate private Medicare options for older Americans, enrollment in private insurance plans through Medicare has shot up by more than 50 percent, confounding experts and partisans alike and providing possible lessons for the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges. When Congress passed President Obama’s signature health law nearly six years ago, it helped offset the cost by cutting payments to Medicare Advantage plans, offered by private insurers operating under contract with the government. Insurers and Republicans said the cuts — about $150 billion over 10 years — would “gut” the program, a major theme in the 2010 and 2012 elections. The Congressional Budget Office predicted that enrollment would fall about 30 percent. (Pear, 2/12)
The New York Times:
Can Health Care Providers Afford To Be Ready For Disaster?
More than 200 people died in hospitals and nursing homes in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, leading to widespread agreement that health care preparedness in the United States needed dramatic improvement. The chaotic evacuations of more than 6,400 hospital and nursing-home patients in New York City after Hurricane Sandy in 2012 reinforced concern about the readiness of health care providers during emergencies. Despite repeated calls for change, however, and billions of dollars in disaster-related costs for health care providers, federal rules do not require that critical medical institutions make even minimal preparations for major emergencies, from hurricanes, earthquakes and tornadoes to bioterrorist attacks and infectious epidemics such as Ebola and Zika. (Fink, 2/13)
The Wall Street Journal:
Pop-Up Health Clinics Fill A Void In Care
Nicole Lamoureux needs about 1,200 volunteers to help complete her mission: transforming a Dallas convention center into what she calls “the largest doctor’s office in the world—for the one day it’s open.” This temporary mega-doctor’s office—a pop-up clinic, if you will—is part of a growing trend representing an increasingly important piece of the medical safety net in the U.S. Such clinics, staged by nonprofits and funded mostly by individual donors, are an opportunity for doctors to care for patients without worrying about insurance, and for those patients to see a doctor they wouldn’t otherwise get to see. (Simon, 2/15)
Gene Editing: The Next Frontier In America’s Abortion Wars
Activists on both sides of the abortion debate now have a common enemy — the use of a powerful new gene editing technology to tinker with the human race. That may seem like an idea from a sci-fi flick, but it’s already here. The gene-editing technique is already used in research and has the potential to modify human DNA with unprecedented ease in the not-too-distant future. British regulators approved limited experiments in human embryos earlier this month. The technology holds promise to cure diseases like cystic fibrosis or sickle cell and even revive extinct species. But critics fear it could also be harnessed to craft “designer babies,” who are more intelligent, beautiful or athletic and to “edit” embryonic cells to change an inherited trait forever. (Karlin, 2/16)