Some good reading for a snowy weekend

As Connecticut readies for another snowy weekend we looked for some reading materials and found that the state, and its residents, were featured heavily in multiple stories on healthcare this week.

Here are some snippets from the reporting we’ve found:

Columbia Journalism Review
Exchange Watch: Growing pains in Connecticut
by Trudy Lieberman

“Right before Christmas, the governing board of Connecticut’s new health insurance exchange—named Access Health CT— turned to the question perhaps most crucial to the success of Obamacare: Can the public afford the policies that insurers will sell through these new state exchanges that the law requires?

“In designing the policies that carriers can sell, states were to supposed to pick from a menu of options a “benchmark” plan—outlining essential benefits that all other plans must include. In late September, after contentious discussions, Connecticut chose as its benchmark one of the state’s most popular plans sold to small employers. It had been sold by ConnectiCare, an insurer that once operated as a nonprofit but now is part of EmblemHealth, a New York City regional for-profit conglomerate. This plan was similar to others the exchange considered though it offered somewhat richer benefits.

“But: the biggest news of the December meeting came when board chairman Kevin Counihan announced: “We have a benchmark plan that is uncompetitive. When we adopted it, it was [competitive]. It isn’t now, because it’s too expensive.”

Click here to read more

LA Times
States worry about rate shock during shift to new health law
By Noam Levey

“WASHINGTON — Less than a year before Americans will be required to have insurance under President Obama’s healthcare law, many of its backers are growing increasingly anxious that premiums could jump, driven up by the legislation itself.

“Higher premiums could undermine a core promise of the Affordable Care Act: to make basic health protections available to all Americans for the first time. Major rate increases also threaten to cause a backlash just as the law is supposed to deliver many key benefits Obama promised when he signed it in 2010.

“’The single biggest issue we face now is affordability,’ said Jill Zorn, senior program officer at the Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut, a consumer advocacy group that championed the new law.”

Click here to read more

And this last one is probably one of the most impressive pieces of journalism passed around our offices in a while. Steven Brill drills into the cost side of healthcare. It’s 24,000 words, so it makes for a good excuse to put off that shoveling (at least for a little while).

Time Magazine
Bitter Pill: Why medical bills are killing us
Steven Brill

Time Editor Richard Stengel writes about Brill’s piece:

“Why, Brill asks, does America spend more on health care than the next 10 highest spending countries combined?

“One answer is that health care is a seller’s market and we’re all buyers–buyers with little knowledge and no ability to negotiate. It’s a $2.8 trillion market, but it’s not a free one. Hospitals and health care providers offer services at prices that very often bear little relationship to costs. They charge what they want to, and mostly–because it’s a life-and-death issue–we have to pay. Have you actually looked at your hospital bill? It’s largely indecipherable, but Brill meticulously dissects bills and calculates the true costs. He employs a classic journalistic practice: he follows the money, and he does it right down to the 10,000% markup that hospitals put on acetaminophen. He explains why about one-fourth of our bloated health care spending is overpayment and strips the veneer from of a vital American industry that is not always what it seems to be.”

Brill’s piece can be found here.

If you don’t have time to read the entire piece, Brill appeared on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart

About alicestraight

Communications Officer Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut
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