Tuesday, October 29, 2013


In 2009 President Obama declared that "I will ensure that no government bureaucrat gets between you and the care you need."

In fact, on 15 June 2009 President Obama declared that "if you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period." That's when the president also promised that "if you like your health-care plan, you will be able to keep your health-care plan, period."

Now, four years later, as the ill conceived website for Obamacare crashes, and as more financial infusion and taxes are needed to float the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the president confesses, "Oh yeah, we did raise some taxes." Admittedly, that the website was badly conceived does not necessarily mean that the ACA itself was a mistake. The ACA boasts its own internal mistakes, one of which is the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB).

Readers of this blog may recall our discussions of Sections 3403 and 10320 of the ACA which establishes the legal  basis for the IPAB. President Obama said that the IPAB would be composed of "doctors et cetera." The sad truth is that there is no provision whatsoever in the ACA that requires appointment of physicians. The IPAB will have the authority  to regulate the provision of healthcare and to restrict access to care -- here's how: the IPAB's job will be to make economic judgments and decide which diagnostic and  treatment protocols will be covered. Your doctor can prescribe diagnostic tests and treatment but an unelected panel will decide what is actually authorized. Patients can pay out of pocket for the rest. The IPAB panel is expected to include about 15 political appointees who, conveniently, won't be annoyed by such pesky requirements as reporting to Congress. IPAB board members are expected to be paid $165,000 per year, total cost to the public of about $2.5 million.

Spokespersons and publicists for the ACA do not mention the IPAB -- it's too sensitive.  When it was previously known in older legislation as the Independent Medicare Advisory Board it was reviled as a "death panel" for the elderly.

In California where Covered California is out-performing equivalent programs in other states, the meaning is that most, not necessarily all, Californians who are citizens or legal residents can get coverage. Of course, as companies drop the health care coverage citizens or legal residents already have, the premiums are likely  to go up -- so the ACA may not be so "affordable" after all. On the other hand, it won't have pre-existing condition preclusions and there won't be so-called "lifetime limits" or annual benefit limits.  Mental health benefits, often not included in employer owned programs, will be included. Expectedly, the cost of premiums is likely to go up.  Four basic programs are anticipated, bronze, silver, gold, and platinum. Bronze will have the lowest premium cost and the highest out-of-pocket co-pay. Platinum will have the highest premium and the lowest co-pay.

 Doctors have already been summarily dropped by Medicare Advantage programs in New York. CBS reported in California that Kaiser Permanente canceled policies covering 150,000 persons. In Florida, 300,000 persons have lost their health care coverage. They weren't asked if they preferred to keep the doctors or health care plans they already had.


"What Obama should've said about health reform," THE HILL, Washington, D.C., 9/16/09, Robert L. Weinmann, MD

"User's Guide to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and the Independent Payment Advisory Board," http://totalcapitol.com/?blog, posted by bobweinmann, www.politicsofhealthcare.com,
June 28, 2012

"Affordable Care Act Loses Debate," The Weinmann Report - politicsofhealthcare.com, 10/04/12

"Obamacare: Separating Fact from Fiction...", www.politicsofhealthcare.com, 9/20/13

"Congress Keeps its Subsidies," www.politicsofhealthcare.com, 9/30/13

Monday, October 14, 2013


AB 1376 got the support from Governor Brown it deserved when he signed it into law on the last day available to him -- we did not feel the bill needed to have been the cliffhanger that it turned out to be but, in the words of the bard, "all's well that ends well." Kudos go to many supporters who worked on the bill and to the sponsors of this legislation, particularly Jesse Ceniceros, Board Chair, Voters Injured at Work (VIAW). VIAW was the chief sponsor of this legislation that will enable injured workers to have access to interpreters during medical visits. The bill was one of equity, allowing the deadline for certification of interpreters to be extended to 1 March 2014. Why a bill that passed the last legislative step without opposition in the legislature and clearly had bipartisan support had to wait until the last day of the session for the Governor to sign it intrigues political pundits -- was it just political theater or was there serious backroom efforts to get a veto? It intrigues us. We'll be getting back to SB 863 soon, too -- that's the bill that enables Independent Medical Review to be done by doctors who aren't licensed in California, just like Utilization Review doctors. That's the bill that promised injured workers more than it delivered and embarrassed the California Labor Federation. That's the bill that Senator Beall sought to revise this year via SB 626 which got pulled midway through the session. We'll be poised to pounce if SB 626 comes back in January for the 2014 legislative session. Our editorial from this past summer remains available (see references below).


SB 626 (Beall) Tackles SB 863 (Deleon), www.politicsofhealthcare.com, 4/15/13

SB 626 (Beall) Restores Equity and Balance, ibid,  2/24/13

SB 626 Alert, ibid, 2/23/13