Another LIVE-VIDEO — June 10 Senate Finance Committee Hearing: "47 Million and Counting: Why the Health Care Marketplace is Broken"

[FLOATEDOriginally posted 06.06.08 @ 4:37 AM — Now on top, for LIVE Hearing Video Feed later this morning, and live-blogging of the-below hearing.]

As the Capitol Hill “jungle-drums” continue to beat out an escalating, now positively-Earth-bumping-rhythm — a rhythm insisting on comprehensive reform in the United States Health Care delivery system (to be initiated by a new Administration, early next year) — Senators Grassley and Baucus have scheduled yet another hearing, this one just days in advance of the June 16, 2008 Congressional Summit on Health Care. [I’ll live video-feed that one, here, as well.] Yes, I’d say the tempo is accelerating — as this latest hearing will be held under the below-provocatively-titled caption. [When the “Not Quite Yet” overlay diappears from the pulse-beat and microphone graphic below, we’ll be underway.]

Click to open LIVE REALMEDIA HEARING VIDEO-FEED in a new window.

▲ And we’re live, Sen. Baucus reminds us of his Health Care Summit — we need to know what does not work, so we can figure out what does work.

▲ It costs $12,000 or more per year — more if the patieint doesn’t get insurance through his/her employer.

▲ The health care insurance market is “truly-broken” — Sen. Baucus. . . .

▲ In about a week, there will be a Congressional Health Care Reform Summit on June 16, 2008 [I’ll live-blog it, here, as well], per Sen. Grassley, and Sen. Baucus. . . . Opening statements now being offered.

▲ There really is no “system” — we have a patchwork of occasionally conflicting incentives. — Sen. Grassley says. . . .

▲ Under-coverage is also a real problem — perhaps 158 million Americans occasionally find this to be a problem.

▲ Uninsured regularly people pay two-and-one-hlaf times what those with insurance pay — for the same treatments!

▲ Now Sen. Grassley points to the gouging by SOME non-profit, or charitable hospitals — per the above — while receiving $40 billion of “welfare-benefits” themselves, per year.

▲ Sen. Grassley encourages Ms. Lisa Kelly, an underinsured American in Texas, to tell her story — “let it all hang out!” — tell us the travesty of your lack of cancer care — she was told to bring a check for $45,000 ON THE FIRST DAY she went to the hospital. . . .

▲ She is no longer in remission — her cancer is active, again — so she is testifying by video conference — she is in Texas, going to the doctors later today — an unscheduled witness. She truly puts a human face to this problem. . . .

▲ MD Anderson Cancer Center — and her insurance provider — and her prior hospital, each would not accept her insurance card — she had to pay double to Anderson. . . . This provider (MD Anderson) is now being pilloried by the Senators.

Sen. John Kerry now asking her about prior insurance history — she had five years with no insurance. . . . She is 53 years old. . . . she was, at one point, insured for about 15 years, through her employer.

▲ Sen. John Kerry asks about her out-of-pockets, and hears that she has paid $83,000 for care — and still, according to MD Anderson, owes $137,000 — despite having her “insurance” — which was rejected by MD Anderson. . . .

▲ Now the Formal Witness Statements. . . . I’ll be away for these BRB in 20 minutes.

▲ In the mean time, here is Sen. Baucus on drug provider benefits reforms:

Improvements to the Drug Benefits

􀂾 Requires prompt payment to pharmacies by prescription drug plans for medicines
dispensed through the drug benefit

􀂾 Requires regular updates on pricing standards for drugs

􀂾 Reasonable requirements for submission of claims by long-term care pharmacies

􀂾 Includes barbiturates and benzodiazepines for drug benefit coverage

􀂾 Codifies current rules related to coverage of “protected classes” of drugs

􀂾 Revises definition of “medically accepted indication” for coverage of drug benefit

Other provisions clarify the proper research uses of Medicare drug benefit data and address issues of quality reporting and health disparities. The bill also contains a number of improvements and extensions related to the Medicaid program, most notably a delay in the implementation of changes to “Average Manufacturer Price” calculations that would slash payments to pharmacies for dispensing generic drugs. Transitional Medical Assistance (TMA) and abstinence-only programs are extended through 2009. Other extensions include the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families supplemental grant program and Special Diabetes Grants.

In addition to the staff legislative summary, more detailed information on key aspects of the bill –- help for rural seniors and all beneficiaries, physician provisions, bundling of dialysis payments for ESRD, Medicare Advantage reforms, and other measures – is on the Finance Committee website at . . .

▲ Floor vote — on the FLoor of the Senate — at 11:30 AM, so recess until at least Noon EDT.

▲ Recess for Floor vote. Back after lunch-break — 2 PM EDT.


“47 Million & Counting:
Why the Health Care
Marketplace is Broken

June 10, 2008 at 10:00 a.m.,
in 215 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Member Statements:

Senator Max Baucus, MT

Senator Charles Grassley, IA
[Click on his name, above, for full-text, easy-view version of the Senator’s Opening Statement.]

Witness Statements [Click on the names of the witnesses to see PDF files of their statements]:

NEW — Ms. Lisa Kelly, Lake Jackson, TX

Ron Williams, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Aetna, Hartford, CT

Raymond Arth, President and CEO, Phoenix Faucets, Avon Lake, OH

Prof. Mark Hall, Professor of Law and Public Health, Wake Forest University, School of Law and School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC

By Order of the Chairman:

Max Baucus (D, MT),
United States Senator,
and Chairman, Senate
Committee on Finance

And By:

Charles S. Grassley (R, IA)
United States Senator
and Ranking Member,
Committee on Finance

That light — in the distance — is most-definitely not the end of the tunnel — it is the oncoming train’s headlights. Confidential Note to Big Pharma: It is time. to. get. off. the. tracks.

[Set a bookmark to this page, now — for as per my usual recent practice, I’ll provide a live video feed — right here — in a window, on this page, on the morning of the 10th. I’ll also provide for live-chat, and live-blogging, should anyone want to comment — in real time. I’ll “float” this page back up, on the night before the hearing, to the top — just under the blog’s masthead.]

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