Weekend News: Elevators, Maskne, Fraudulent Mask Exemptions, Vaccine Optimism, and Taking Healthcare from Millions

Weekend News:

:NY Times: Maskne Is the New Acne, and Here’s What Is Causing It

Maskne — the most common kind of which is acne mechanica, a.k.a. the type of acne a football player may get where the helmet rubs — is also enough of a thing that the Covid-19 task force of the American Academy of Dermatology (A.A.D.) felt compelled to release advice on the subject.

The article describes how mask can trigger acne and ways to prevent/treat this.

Related: American Academy of Dermatology: 9 WAYS TO PREVENT FACE-MASK SKIN PROBLEMS

NY Times: Don’t Whistle on the Elevator. Don’t Even Talk. (print version article title)

“The good news is: If you don’t like small talk in the elevator, those days are over,”…“Imagine if you have a 30-story office building in New York City and you’re trying to get 5,000 people in between 7 and 9 in the morning,”

From NPR:

This administration should present its ‘plan’ and pass it before taking healthcare insurance from millions.


Repealing the Affordable Care Act Without a Replacement

Barack Obama, in a perspective article (BH Obama. NEJM January 6, 2017; DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp1616577), explains the hazards of “repeal and delay.”

Here’s a link to the full text: Repealing the ACA without a Replacement — The Risks to American Health Care

Here’s an excerpt:

Put simply, all our gains are at stake if Congress takes up repealing the health law without an alternative that covers more Americans, improves quality, and makes health care more affordable. That move takes away the opportunity to build on what works and fix what does not. It adds uncertainty to lives of patients, the work of their doctors, and the hospitals and health systems that care for them. And it jeopardizes the improvements in health care that millions of Americans now enjoy.

Congress can take a responsible, bipartisan approach to improving the health care system. This was how we overhauled Medicare’s flawed physician payment system less than 2 years ago. I will applaud legislation that improves Americans’ care, but Republicans should identify improvements and explain their plan from the start — they owe the American people nothing less.

Health care reform isn’t about a nameless, faceless “system.” It’s about the millions of lives at stake — from the cancer survivor who can now take a new job without fear of losing his insurance, to the young person who can stay on her parents’ insurance after college, to the countless Americans who now live healthier lives thanks to the law’s protections. Policymakers should therefore abide by the physician’s oath: “first, do no harm.”

A related article from the LA Times indicates that Aetna misled the public with regard to its reasons for pulling out of several exchanges: Link:U.S. judge finds that Aetna misled the public about its reasons for quitting Obamacare

An excerpt:

The judge’s conclusions about Aetna’s real reasons for pulling out of Obamacare — as opposed to the rationalization the company made in public — are crucial for the debate over the fate of the Affordable Care Act. That’s because the company’s withdrawal has been exploited by Republicans to justify repealing the act. Just last week, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) cited Aetna’s action on the “Charlie Rose” show, saying that it proved how shaky the exchanges were. ..

Bates found that this rationalization was largely untrue. In fact, he noted, Aetna pulled out of some states and counties that were actually profitable to make a point in its lawsuit defense — and then misled the public about its motivations.

Related blog posts:


Is Obamacare Causing Skyrocketing Premiums?

Not yet according to a recent commentary: BD Sommers. NEJM 2016; 375: 201-3. The graph below provides some perspective.  In addition, the author cautions those who have voiced early alarm bells regarding upcoming rates.  He notes the same alarms have been raised in the previous 2 years. Though, he notes, “there are reasons to suspect that marketplace premium growth for 2017 will exceed this year’s levels.  Two of the law’s provisions designed to reduce financial risk to insurers in the new markets expire after 2016 — the risk corridor and reinsurance provisions…the country’s continued emergence from the aftermath of the Great Recession may well spur increasing rates of health care inflation for the general population, as well as for the ACA exchanges”

“Premium growth — even when it does reach into the double-digit range that sparks such substantial media attention — is a policy challenge to be examined and addressed and is also part of the general historical pattern that precedes the ACA.”  Those who argue “the law as a whole should be scrapped ignore the devastating effect that repeal would have on the estimated 20 million Americans who have thus far gained insurance under the law.”

My take (from commentary): “Regardless of what ends up happening this year, it seems likely that next spring will bring renewed claims that the sky is falling — when experience should make clear that it isn’t.”

ACA premiums

ACA -A Report Card

A recent succinct commentary describes the ~20 million people who gained coverage as a result of the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare; the exact number who were uninsured prior is not known.  While the article provides a clearer picture of this expansion, it also makes the point that there are many issues that need to be addressed including cost containment.  Other subjects:

  • Cancelled policies
  • Risk pools and premiums (lower than projected thus far)
  • Narrow Provider Networks
  • Crucial Younger Age Group Enrollment
  • Small Business and Mandate
  • Individual Marketplaces
  • State Marketplaces
  • Medicaid Expansion (limited in many states)

Here is the link –the entire report is worth a read: ACA -20 million Americans

Here is an excerpt:

Taking all existing coverage expansions together, we estimate that 20 million Americans have gained coverage as of May 1 under the ACA (Figure 3 Categories of Expanded Health Insurance Coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).). We do not know yet exactly how many of these people were previously uninsured, but it seems certain that many were. Recent national surveys seem to confirm this presumption. The CBO projects that the law will decrease the number of uninsured people by 12 million this year and by 26 million by 2017. Early polling data from Gallup, RAND, and the Urban Institute indicate that the number of uninsured people may have already declined by 5 million to 9 million and that the proportion of U.S. adults lacking insurance has fallen from 18% in the third quarter of 2013 to 13.4% in May 2014.

However, these surveys may underestimate total gains, since some were fielded before the late March enrollment surge and do not include children. With continuing enrollment through individual marketplaces, Medicaid, and SHOP, the numbers of Americans gaining insurance for the first time — or insurance that is better in quality or more affordable than their previous policy — will total in the many tens of millions.

As we look to the future of the coverage provisions of the ACA and their effect on the U.S. health care system, several observations seem justified. First, as the number of individuals benefiting from the law grows, its wholesale repeal will grow less likely, although the law could still be importantly modified in the future.

Second, experience with the ACA will vary enormously among states. Those deciding not to expand Medicaid will benefit far less from the law, and since many of these states have high rates of uninsured residents and lower health status, the ACA may have the paradoxical effect of increasing disparities across regions, even as it reduces disparities between previously insured and uninsured Americans as a whole.17

Third, the sustainability of the coverage expansions will depend to a great extent on the ability to control the overall costs of care in the United States. Otherwise, premiums will become increasingly unaffordable for consumers, employers, and the federal government. Insurers who seek to control those costs through increasingly narrow provider networks across all U.S. insurance markets may ultimately leave Americans less satisfied with their health care. Developing and spreading innovative approaches to health care delivery that provide greater quality at lower cost is the next great challenge facing the nation.