Lonesome Tree in Sandhills

Friday, August 28, 2009

Health Reform: Part III - Confusion vs Facts

No one shouted or booed at health care forums held last spring, which were aired on C-Span and made available online. People were rational in their concerns that ranged from access to costs to insurance. People expressed quite a bit of fear but not boorish behavior like the town hall meetings. People are now scared and want straight answers.

Newspapers and news magazines would do everyone a huge favor by publishing a series based on facts to inform and educate its readers. TV producers could do likewise for folks who never read newspapers or magazines. The rest of us could help by getting informed ourselves and then asking our local newspaper editors to publish the facts.

First the news could explain how Medicare reimbursement works and varies widely by state. Physicians and hospitals accepting assignment are reimbursed 80% of charges set by regional areas. They agree to collect the remaining 20% from patients or their insurers. The difference between actual charges and what Medicare allows averages 65% nationwide, but reimbursement rates vary by regional areas that overlap state boundaries. In rural areas especially, the average charge is much lower than in metropolitan areas. Yet studies show there is no correlation between high costs and more effective medical care.

The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice began the Dartmouth Atlas Project over 20 years ago. They used 20 years of Medicare data to study distribution and use of medical resources. Researchers found glaring variations in efficiency and effectiveness of the nation's health care system.

Check out Dartmouth's Interactive Map: Medicare Reimbursements Per Enrollee by State See: "Taming Wide Variations in Spending Key to Health Reform" Published February 26, 2009 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

We could reduce confusion by understanding the basics of health reform. The Kaiser Foundation's Explaining the Basics of Health Reform

We can also get informed about the uninsured in our states and in the nation from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Cover The Insured

At least then maybe... just maybe... we could have less emotionally-loaded discussions about health care reform!

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