Health

When Medicare Isn't Medicare

Let's say you have a Ford and decide to replace everything under the hood with Hyundai parts, including the engine and transmission. Could you still honestly market your car as a Ford?

That question gets at the heart of the controversy over who is being more forthright about GOP Rep. Paul Ryan's plan to "save" Medicare, Republicans or Democrats.

Profit, risk, lossIf you overhaul the Medicare system like you did your Ford and tell the public it's still Medicare, are you doing so honestly?

The Teenager Who Changed My Life

In remembrance of Nataline SarkisyanIt was four years ago today that I received a phone call from a Los Angeles TV reporter that would change my life, although I certainly didn't realize it at the time.

The reporter said she had been told that CIGNA, the big health insurer I worked for back then, was refusing to pay for a liver transplant for a 17-year-old girl, even though her doctors at UCLA believed it would save her life and her family's policy covered transplants.

I didn't pay much attention to the call at first, because as chief spokesman for the company, I had received many calls over the years from reporters seeking comment about benefit denials. We took them seriously, but usually didn't have to do more than tell the inquiring reporters we couldn't comment substantively because of patient confidentiality restrictions. If pressed, we'd email a statement to the reporter briefly noting that we covered procedures deemed medically necessary and that patients and their doctors could appeal a denial if they disagreed with a coverage decision.

Will "Obamacare" Force Americans to Buy Junk Health Insurance in 2014?

The money that patients' rights advocates have to spend trying to convince the Obama administration that Americans should have decent health care benefits pales in comparison to the boatloads of cash insurers and their corporate allies have on hand to do largely the opposite. But at least the advocates are now in the game.

Bad faith insurance companiesLast week a broad coalition of patient-focused groups launched its "I Am Essential" campaign in an effort to make sure that when all of us have to buy health insurance in 2014, we will be getting good value.

Rick Perry's Big Health Care "Oops"

I did exactly what the doctor told me to do. Unfortunately, I'm not feeling a bit better. Maybe even a little worse.

Last week, Dr. Michael C. Burgess, tweeted this directive: "Mark your calendars: Rick Perry will join Health Caucus' Thought Leaders Series next Wednesday, December 7 @ 5 p.m."

Texas Governor Rick PerryEager to hear what thought leadership the Texas governor and presidential candidate would be imparting, I marked my calendar as Dr. Burgess prescribed. Imagine my dismay when I learned yesterday morning that Perry would be sharing his thoughts behind closed doors. The media and public, it turns out, had been disinvited.

Insurers Use PR Playbook to Keep Us in the Dark About Health Insurance

If you wonder why the health insurance industry has to set up front groups and secretly funnel cash to industry-funded coalitions to influence public policy, take a look at the most recent results of the Kaiser Family Foundation's (KFF) monthly Health Tracking Poll.

Screaming infantIn its November poll, KFF added a few new survey questions to find out exactly which parts of the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare are the most popular and which are the least popular. Insurers were no doubt annoyed to see that the provision of the law they want most -- the requirement that all of us will have to buy coverage from them if we're not eligible for a public program like Medicare -- continues to be the single most hated part of the law. More than 60 percent of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of that mandate.

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