By DENISE GRANT
The Affordable Care Act is “an extremely complicated law, and we are still trying to figure out what it means,” Blanchard Valley Health System CEO Scott Malaney told a Findlay audience Friday.
“What I can tell you today is that about two-thirds of the people who have signed up for it have paid their premiums, which means the other third has not. How is that going to be covered? We’re going to have to figure it out as we go,” Malaney said.
He said health care providers are “pretty worried” about the potential for increased bad debt due to unpaid insurance premiums, high co-payments and deductibles.
Malaney and Dr. William Kose, chief quality officer for the Blanchard Valley Health System, gave a health care update at the Republican Party’s First Friday Luncheon.
GOP officials said the topic drew one of luncheon’s larger crowds.
The hospital officials said making health care truly more affordable is going to be difficult.
Malaney started off by giving his audience a quiz.
“When we talk about health care in the Findlay area, you really do need to understand the bigger picture,” Malaney said.
“You look at the cost of health care per person in our country, and pick any of the next 10 industrialized countries in the world that you want … and what do you think that cost curve would look like comparatively?”
Most who responded Friday said the United States spends more, which Malaney said is the typical belief. However, he said until age 60, the nation’s health care costs are comparable to other industrialized countries.
“Where it goes off the charts is from age 60 to death, and at death, it is about four and a half times more expensive to die in America than in any other country in the world,” Malaney said.
“If that’s true, and I would argue that it is, let me ask you a question. Why is our government, state and federal, fixated on changing the health system and all the parts of it that aren’t the problem?”
Another issue, Malaney said, is that politicians in Washington are unwilling to address problems with the Medicare program, the federal health care insurance program for people 65 and older, and for the disabled.
“We cannot touch the Medicare program in this country. … Politically, it is very difficult, but the unfunded liability of the Medicare program is $40 trillion,” Malaney said. In comparison, “the gross domestic product of our country is slightly under $18 trillion. The debt in our country is now slightly over $18 trillion, not counting the Medicare liability of $40 trillion.”
Malaney called it a “huge problem.”
At the state level, Malaney said Gov. John Kasich is working to create a health care model that would reward systems that provide services for less, and penalize those with very high costs.
Malaney said it will force providers to work better together, but the idea is very complex.
Both Malaney and Kose talked about “bundling” services, from doctor, to surgery, to recovery, as a model to bring costs down.
The men said Blanchard Valley Health System is well positioned to handle the coming changes in health care.
“The area here supports our health system better than most other areas in the state,” Kose said. “… This is a terrific medical staff and it is just getting stronger … I don’t think our organization will be as affected as other systems across the country as this massive change takes place.
“And I can promise you, we are not against change,” Kose said.
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