Monday, January 04, 2010

Center for Medicaid Statistician Unaware of Employer Health Insurance Decline

Micah Hartman, economist with the Center for Medicare & Medicaid, referred to private health insurance stagnation since 2004 in a CSPAN program, 2008 Health Care Spending. The presentation looked at national health expenditures in 2007 and 2008. Data showed the lowest rise in 50 years for hospital and physician expenditures. Micah refused to comment on declines in employer sponsored coverage, clear from Census Bureau data over the same time frame.

A 1.1 million decrease in employer coverage in 2008 warranted greater emphasis than a four year stagnation. Other data sources, like insurance company SEC filings, show the carnage continues. I expect a Medicare economist to be able to find his way around a 10-Q.

They could at least look at Census data showing the percent of people covered by employer health insurance:

2002 61.3%
2003 60.4%
2004 59.8%*
2005 59.5%*
2006 59.7%
2007 59.2%
2008 58.5%

*2004 and 2005 data were later revised, dropping over 1 million people from the uninsured rolls.

CMS presented charts showing the health care cost curve bending lower the last few years. This is the stated goal of health reform. I'm puzzled. Why did my health insurance premiums rise over 9% under an already bent curve? One failure of a theory requires its modification.

As for the projected impact of health reform, Micah bailed with a sheepish smile. The gentleman who answered the question talked about the election, well over a year ago.

Not said: Micah's peers in CMS predict a decline of 17 million with employer coverage under Congressional reform plans. That is confirmed by the Congressional Budget Office.

Also not said: A larger shedding from employer rolls is already underway. The number of Americans with employer coverage:

2008 176.3 million
2010 150 million (CBO projections)

A staggering 26.3 million Americans will lose employer sponsored coverage between 2008 and 2010. Another 17 million will lose it between 2014 and 2019. That 43.3 million employer dump is nearly the size of the uninsured, 46.3 million in 2008.

No media asked about these disconcerting facts during the presentation. Seismic shifts are underway and employees sense something is up. The plan is not to bend the cost curve, which is already bending. Health reform is intended to shift the burden of health insurance coverage to the individual. A tapped out Uncle Sam will walk away from its many promises before 2014.

Sleazy, mealy mouthed CMS economists and statisticians are a bad sign. They might as well have read a script. My question is: who wrote it?

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