The GAO Report You Will Not See: HSAs “only good for healthy consumers”

Who are we to believe?

Mr. Bush, who has gone around the country blaming trial lawyers for frivolous lawsuits, and the American people who he believes consume healthcare like crazed junkies, or the Government Accountability Office, the GAO.

At a "townhall" meeting in April in Connecticut, Mr. Bush described his version of reality. He weighed in for the umpteenth time on the reason for the American healthcare catastrophe. And who did he single out? Lawyers and frivolous lawsuits. Diverting attention, as he does so well, from the real causes of our healthcare meltdown and the plight of 48 million uninsured Americans.

Secondly, one of the cost-drivers for health care are these frivolous lawsuits that are running good doctors ought of practice, and forces doctors and hospitals to practice defensive medicine. When I first went to Washington I said, well, this is just a state issue, Governor. I thought it could be best solved at the state level, until I realized the defensive practice of medicine plus these liability increases through lawsuits costs us about $28 billion a year to the federal -- cost the federal budget $28 billion. I said, that's a national problem and it demands a national solution.

We know that insurers and pharmaceutical companies gouge the American public. We know it has become commonplace for pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies to write their own legislation--a sad by-product of our increasingly corrupt political system.

We also know Congress protects special interests by rubber stamping anything for the right price, the right gifts, the right trips and enormous campaign contributions. Look no further than the corruption behind Medicare D, arguably the worst legislation of the past decade; by, for and about big pharma.

For an administration with an aversion to the facts, they won't be pleased to read the recently issued GAO report. The report vanquishes the notion that Health Savings Accounts, Mr. Bush's bandaid remedy to our national hemorrhage, are a solution to our healthcare meltdown. Sooner or later, even this administration will have to deal with reality.

At the same Connecticut townhall meeting, the President spoke enthusiastically about the virtues of these dreadful Health Savings Accounts while blasting a legal system run amok.

And, finally, we're here to talk about what's called health savings accounts. It's a really interesting idea that Congress passed in the new Medicare law. It's an idea that it's really important for people -- no matter what side of the philosophical debate you may be on -- to at least pay attention to what's available. A health savings account addresses one of the major cost-drivers in our system, and that is, is that when a lot of people get health care but somebody else pays the bill. It's called a third-party payer system.

. . .And one way to do that is through the advent of health savings accounts, which is, in essence, a health savings account coupled with a high-deductible, catastrophic insurance plan. That's long-word talk for if you get seek above a certain amount, your insurance pays for it. If not, you pay for it. But the savings, if you don't spend money, are tax-free. In other words, this is an interesting way of making sure the patient and the provider are the integral deciders in health care decisions. If that's not clear enough, they'll help clear it up for me.

Not so fast, big guy.

Funny how this recently issued GAO report has disappeared into the dark recesses of the government. This is the report Mr. Bush doesn't want you to know about.

So, we'll do what we do best around here, we'll shine a spotlight on the truth.

Shall we take a quick look at the GAO report?

HSA-eligible plan enrollees generally had higher incomes than
comparison groups, but data on age differences were inconclusive. In
2004, 51 percent of tax filers reporting an HSA contribution had an
adjusted gross income of $75,000 or more, compared with 18 percent of
all tax filers under 65 years old.

. . .HSA-eligible plan enrollees who participated in GAO's focus groups
generally reported positive experiences, but most would not recommend
the plans to all consumers.
Participants enrolled in the plans
generally understood the key attributes of their plan. Few participants
reported researching cost before obtaining health care services,
although many researched the cost of prescription drugs. Most
participants were satisfied with their HSA-eligible plan and would
recommend these plans to healthy consumers, but not to those who use
maintenance medication, have a chronic condition, have children, or may
not have the funds to meet the high deductible.

Mr. Bush loves HSAs. Here he is talking to a group of undoubtedly low-wage Wendy's workers.

One of the reasons I'm here talking about HSAs at Wendy's is because you've decided to implement this product. You were facing double-digit increases in the cost of providing health care. You didn't want to keep passing on the increasing costs to your employees. So [you] adopted HSAs. About 9,000 of Wendy's full-time employees and their families have got HSAs.

At the end of the first year with HSAs, more than 90 percent of Wendy's employees had positive balances in their savings accounts. Medical claims through this company have decreased by 17 percent since they've implemented HSAs. After more than five years of health care costs going [up] at double-digit rates, Wendy's overall health care costs rose only by 1 percent last year. The savings have allowed Wendy's to raise the company's contribution to its employees' HSA accounts. (link)

Yes, Mr. Bush, study after study has demonstrated that when you remove the third-party (the insurer), and the consumer pays out-of-pocket for his healthcare, he defers and delays care. Small problems become big and expensive problems. Of course, Wendy's claims declined--they always do, when people are corraled into the HSA scam.

But this GAO study confirms that the healthy-wealthy benefit of the plans is recognized by the participants. Not only do they understand the benefit for themselves, but they also understand the disadvantages for those with greater health care needs. The healthy and wealthy do not recommend these plans for the sick and poor. This GAO report should put an end to that debate.

One other myth that needs to be wiped from the face of the planet is that lawyers representing grievously injured patients are responsible for the collapse of our healthcare system. Lawyers are simply a convenient target for a reality-challenged government

NycEve: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 8:55 PM, Sep 24, 2006 in Civil Justice | Health Insurance
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