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Health Savings Accounts vs Medical Savings Accounts


A Real Marketplace For Healthcare.

Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE

President Obama’s Healthcare Reform Act is all about government control of 19% of the U.S. economy.

The media has publicized ridiculously high charges for cardiac bypass and other complicated procedures. It ought to find out what the actual contracted reimbursement fee is.

All the stakeholders are at fault for the lack of transparency, misinformation, administrative waste, misuse of taxpayers’ dollars and the manipulation of the media.

It is important for the government and the healthcare industry to continue to blame physicians for being the villain in our dysfunctional healthcare system.

Remember physician receive only 10% of the healthcare dollars spent in our healthcare system. Who receives the other 90%? What value do the other recipient add to medical care?

The medias quoted prices are a scare tactic to keep government’s control of the healthcare system advancing.

What is going to happen after Obamacare is repealed?

There will still be millions uninsured.

There will still be millions who cannot buy insurance because of pre-existing conditions.

There will still be millions who choose not to purchase coverage.

There will still be inefficiency and waste in the healthcare system.

Stakeholders are adjusting to the potential restrictions of Obamacare. They are finding new ways to game the healthcare system.

Healthcare costs will rise and inefficiency in the healthcare system will increase whether we have Obamacare or not.

President Obama is trying to set rules and create regulations to eliminate potential solutions to our healthcare system’s problems.

He is trying to regulate and eliminate high deductible insurance plans and Health Savings Accounts. Under Obamacare it will be much cheaper for employers to pay the penalty than provide healthcare insurance for their employees.

Employees will be forced to buy insurance from President Obama’s health insurance exchange (Public Option). There will be no other options. At that point the government has full control of healthcare.

It wouldn’t be a bad thing if the government could afford another potentially inefficient entitlement program. President Obama is clearly trying to squeeze complete government control of healthcare through the back door.

It will not work!

What should be done?

The government must create a real marketplace for healthcare insurance. A marketplace constructed for the benefit of consumers and not secondary stakeholders’ vested interests. Stakeholders would adjust because of their competitive compulsion to get customers. They will compete for consumer business by lowering healthcare costs.

The mindset must change to a consumer driven system not a government driven system.

My Ideal Medical Saving Account would be an excellent way to provide full first dollar healthcare insurance coverage for unplanned medical expenses. It would also provide financial incentive for consumers to be responsible for their health and healthcare dollars.

These are some of the rules that government should have.

1. Healthcare insurance policies should be “guaranteed renewable.”

2. Healthcare policies should include a right to purchase insurance in the future regardless of pre-existing illness.

3. Healthcare insurance policies should follow you from job to job regardless of a move across state lines.

4. Individual healthcare insurance policies should have the same tax-deductible status as employer provided healthcare insurance policies.

The government could form a successful individual insurance market place with these simple rules or regulations.

 “Most pathologies in the current system are creatures of previous laws and regulations.”

“ Solicitor General Donald Verrilli explained as much in his opening statement to the Supreme Court: “The individual market does not provide affordable health insurance,” he noted, “because the multibillion dollar subsidies that are available” for the “employer market are not available in the individual market.”

My Ideal Medical Savings Account could apply to Medicare and Medicaid. It provides incentives and real healthcare insurance coverage. It allows the consumer to choose. It encourages consumers to be knowledgeable shoppers for healthcare. 

The main argument for a mandate before the Supreme Court was that people of modest means can fail to buy insurance, and then rely on charity care in emergency rooms, shifting the cost to the rest of us.

The government is spending that money already. The mandate will not stop the emergency room use.

 A consumer driven healthcare system using My Ideal Medical Saving Accounts would provide incentives for the indigent or those of modest means to try to save money for them by taking care of their health. The government provides those educational resources already. This might encourage its use.

The emergency room treatment expenses for indigent and uninsured are not the central reason for rising healthcare costs. Costs are rising because people, who do have insurance, and their doctors, overuse health services and don’t shop on price.

The Ideal Medical Savings Accounts should be fully tax deductible to both individual and groups.  The healthcare system would then become consumer driven. Consumers would become price sensitive because of financial incentives. A competitive healthcare market would then be created. The result would be a decrease in the cost of healthcare. It certainly would be cheaper than the artificial, bizarre, government controlled healthcare market for we have today.

Enlarging government control would make the healthcare market more expensive and less efficient than the unsustainable government controlled healthcare system that exists.

The opinions expressed in the blog “Repairing The Healthcare System” are, mine and mine alone

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An Excellent Reader Comment On P4P (Pay for Performance)


Stanley Feld M.D., FACP, MACE

The costs of healthcare system have become unsustainable. There are many ways to reduce the costs in a sensible way. Pay for performance is not one of them.

President Obama and others have concluded that the way to reduce the costs is to change the way physicians are reimbursed.

President Obama is ignoring the fact that physicians receive only 10 to 15% of the healthcare dollars spent.

Who is the rest of the money going to?

Pay for Performance (P4P) is stupid idea to me. It sounds good to some.

P4P failed to produce cost savings during the major pilot program by undefined criteria. President Obama is rolling out the program to the rest of the country because he and his healthcare staff believe in it.

In my opinion P4P will only increase the cost of healthcare.

I offer President Obama a piece of advice. He should listen to retired physicians who practiced medicine for many years and understands patients’ wants and needs.

It is entirely possible that President Obama wants to collapse the healthcare system and have the government become the payer of last resort. Then he can create his beloved “single party payer” healthcare system.


Medicare is a “single party payer” in its present form is unsustainable and will disappear in 2016 or 2021. The addition of another 30 million people to its roles will make it less sustainable.

The problem with a single party payer system is that it will not work in America. It is turning out that it does not work in England and many other countries.

A retired radiation oncologist sent me this comment about the Pay For Performance (P4P) concept.



Now there's an excellent example of a term that sounds good but, absent a definition of the second "P", has no meaning at all.

I haven't heard anybody address that issue in a way that could be understood and accepted by all of the parties at interest.  Patients, physicians, hospitals, and insurance companies might be considered in the same light as the proverbial blind men describing the elephant of performance.

Perhaps, instead of "evidence-based medicine" we could look at developing the concept of "goals based medicine". 

Yogi Berra is credited with the thought, "If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there". 

If the second "P" stands for performance, the question is begged, "Whose performance?" The assumption is made that the party doing the performing is the physician, I suppose. 

If that is the case, how is performance to be measured? 

Patient satisfaction? (pretty subjective).

Compliance with some set of guidelines? (If so, whose guidelines?)

Restoration of health of the patient?  (Now there's an interesting idea, that sounds pretty good, but must take into account the state of health being experienced by the patient before the current illness began.) 

 Quality of life? (Who defines that?) 

 Relief of symptoms?  (Pretty easy to assess, but different patients will define the severity of symptoms differently, and nobody else's definition really matters to each one of them.  People "suffer" differently, and some of their suffering is culturally derived.)

 Extension of some number of life-years?  (Quality adjusted, or just more years?  Who can tell?) 

Almost never, in the initial transaction between a physician and a patient and family is there any conversation about the goals or expectations to be accomplished in the experience the "system participants" are entering into and sharing. 

I would suggest that such an interaction might be the place to begin to define "performance".  Were the expectations met?  If they were, we have done our job.  If they were not met, there is either more work to be done in the current relationship between physician and patient, or there is a need for the formation of a new relationship between the patient and a new physician. 

Left unsaid is that such a discussion of goals and expectations, if held as early as possible in the relationship, may be the time for the physician to share with the patient what is capable of being accomplished, in contrast to what is expected to be accomplished.

Only when these terms are understood by all of the parties, can "performance" be adequately measured,

If "P4P" becomes the way services are valued, it is the only rational process through which the transaction can result in fair compensation. 

Bureaucrats sitting in offices far away cannot do this, only those directly involved in any clinical situation can. 

And, to makes matters more difficult, every clinical situation will differ from every other clinical situation in one way or another.


This physicians comment is an excellent argument for a Consumer Driven Healthcare System. Consumers must have the right to pursue their own destiny and be responsible for their own choices.

Consumers must own their healthcare dollars even it those dollars are given to them by the government. Consumers must have a financial incentive to be responsible for their own health and healthcare needs.

My Ideal Medical Savings Account accomplishes this. It can provide first dollar coverage to all at a lower cost to the healthcare system presently and motivate Americans to have a healthier life style further reducing the cost.

Mandates do not work!

The opinions expressed in the blog “Repairing The Healthcare System” are, mine and mine alone. 

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The Second Spoke Of The Wheel: The Ideal Medical Savings Account

Stanley Feld

"Dear Dr. Feld

If your ideal Medical Savings Account is such a good idea why has it not become more popular?"

The reason is simple. The Ideal Medical Savings Account does not exist as a healthcare insurance option. The healthcare insurance industry has obfuscated the purpose of creating financial incentives for consumers with the offer of Health Savings Accounts.

The Health Savings Accounts keep premium dollars in the healthcare insurance industry’s control at the end of the year. Consumers are able to use unspent money on healthcare deductible in the future.

The Ideal Medical Saving Account puts the money not spent in a separate tax-free trust for consumers’ retirement. The logic is to reward consumers for good health financially and to encourage consumers to be responsible for their health and healthcare choices.

The goal is not to reward the healthcare insurance company it is to reward consumers. The healthcare insurance industry is controlling the consumer’s money for its own profit.

Despite its faults HSA’s are becoming very popular. It is the fastest growing healthcare insurance product in America.

President Obama wants to eliminate HSAs. His goal is to increase government control over consumers’ healthcare choices. He does not want consumers to control their healthcare dollars. He wants to control consumers.

The healthcare insurance industry’s goal is to maximize its profit. It is not concerned about the consumer’s health. The more consumers in the healthcare system the more premium dollars the healthcare insurance industry controls. 

 Using the power of lobbying and the influence of lobbyists it has been able to rig the game against the consumer.

    "Wendell Potter, former senior executive[1] at Cigna turned whistle-blower, has written that the insurance industry has worked to kill "any reform that might interfere with insurers' ability to increase profits" by engaging in extensive and well funded, anti-reform campaigns."

"This is nothing new. However, as consumers (patients in all three categories) the Internet and social networking can empower us to have more influence over the politicians than lobbyists."

"After all, we are the people who give them their jobs. Some might say this is a naïve view. However, recent events have shown the effect of People Power and its ability to disrupt the establishment and its lobbyists.

The industry, however, "goes to great lengths to keep its involvement in these campaigns hidden from public view," including the use of "front groups." Indeed, in a 1998 effort to successfully kill the Patient Bill of Rights at that time, “the insurers formed a front group called the Health Benefits Coalition to kill efforts to pass a Patients Bill of Rights.

While it was billed as a broad-based business coalition that was led by the National Federation of Independent Business and included the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Health Benefits Coalition in reality got the lion’s share of its funding and guidance from the big insurance companies and their trade associations."

The question is why would the National Federation of Independent Business or the U.S. Chamber of Commerce do this? They either don’t understand the healthcare insurance industry’s motives or they received grant money from the healthcare insurance industry. Both groups are working against the benefit of it own people.

"Like most front groups, the Health Benefits Coalition was set up and run out of one of Washington’s biggest P.R. firms. The P.R. firm provided all the staff work for the Coalition. The tactics worked. Industry allies in Congress made sure the Patients’ Bill of Rights would not become law."[2]" 

Obamacare and the Democratic congress have also yielded to the demands of the healthcare insurance industry. President Obama’s goal is to control all medical decisions for patients to keep healthcare costs down. Most advocates of Obamacare overlook this fact.

President Obama’s individual mandated purchase of healthcare insurance would increase the number healthcare industry’s customers. Its profits would increase. 

Medicare and Medicaid are totally dependent on the healthcare insurance industry for administrative services. This results in keeping the healthcare insurance industry in control of healthcare spending. The 2.5% overhead for Medicare and Medicaid continuosly repeated by government officials is completely bogus.

The healthcare insurance industry receives at least 30% of every Medicare and Medicaid dollar spent.

The administrative services costs are supposed to be no more than 15%. However, large sums of administrative costs are applied to direct patient care. Each administrative cost has a profit center attached to it.

These profits center increases the healthcare industry’s profits. In turn the salaries of the executives increase.

The Ideal Medical Savings Account eliminates all these layers of bureaucracy, profits and abuses.

It is a perfect opportunity for “People Power” to demand through social networks that the Ideal Medical Saving Account be added to healthcare insurance choices.

The Ideal Medical Savings Account puts the power back in consumers’ hands.

Neither traditional insurance plans or Medicare or Medicaid provide financial incentives for patient to be responsible for their disease nor their healthcare needs.


Spoke CDHC


Financial incentive for all categories of patients (consumers) can serve to increase adherence to physician’s treatment instructions.

Financial incentives can stimulate consumers to be educated consumers of both healthcare and medical care.

Financial incentives can serve to incentivize patients to become professors of their chronic disease. Self-management can avoid many emergency room visits and hospitalizations.

Instant adjudication of claims can decrease many of the excessive administrative costs.

The Ideal Medical Savings Account is simple and transparent to consumers.

IMSAs revives the patient physician relationship. It drives the government and the healthcare insurance industry to the edge of the medical care transaction. It disrupts the hairball and will instantly disrupt the food chain that is failing under the weight of healthcare costs.

The Ideal Medical Savings Account is a perfect healthcare insurance product if deployed properly. Social networks must be formed to demand its availability in order to permit consumers’ (patients) to drive the healthcare system.

Social networks on other levels can force physicians to be more competitive.

The result would be a reduction in the healthcare system’s cost while eliminating administrative abuse, waste and fraud.

The opinions expressed in the blog “Repairing The Healthcare System” is, mine and mine alone

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Medicine Is A Calling: Not A Business

  Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE

I am pleased that I am able to stimulate comments from physicians in various parts of the country. Please keep the comments coming.

Many of these physicians feel trapped by the bureaucracy and medical care policies that are restricting them from developing a real physician patient relationship. The physician patient relationship is precious to the practice of medicine.

The positive physician patient relationship enables an enhanced therapeutic effect.

As stated by a previous physician writer in my last blog,

The patient has a complaint, the physician listens (or not), performs an examination (or not) makes a decision regarding the probable cause of the complaint, writes a prescription (or two, or three), offers some instructions regarding what the patient should be doing to help himself (or herself), says goodbye and asks that the patient return at some future date for reassessment (or not).”

Physicians have been trapped into this behavior as John Goodman pointed out. The patient physician relationship has been destroyed by the dysfunctional healthcare system. Obamacare is accelerating the dysfunction in the healthcare system.

 Many tests are done for defensive medicine purposes. In fact the extrapolated cost of defensive medicine is $700 billion dollars a year.

 Physicians might even give the patient a shot of something for good measure to prevent a malpractice suit.

The government, hospitals systems, and healthcare insurance industry control the healthcare system.

These secondary stakeholders have made physicians commodities. Physicians are trapped into going through the motions. Medicine is a calling not a business. Physicians have been forced into making it a business.

Physicians are so frustrated with the system that they are joining hospital systems to rid themselves of the bureaucracy and avoid practice responsibility and malpractice suits.

The hope is that it will lead to a “happier life.” Not true.

The privileged hospital employed physicians become the designated spokesperson by the hospital administrator for the staff physicians.  They deny there is any anger or frustration toward the government, the hospital system or the healthcare insurance industry.

The rest of the physicians keep their mouth shut and trudge along angry and frustrated.

There is a mountain of pent up anger and frustration toward hospital systems by these physicians.

I received this note from another physician writer,

“Dr. Feld:

When I read your post last week “It’s All About Patients and Physicians”, I thought you were writing to me directly. I have been thinking about this for years. It is not only that software innovation in Medicine lags behind every other industry, but also the focus has not been in the correct area. As with everything else, the medical profession has given control to others.” 

This physician is absolutely correct. In a country whose administration and congress is run by lobbyists who are not interested in patients or physicians but are more interested in protecting and furthering their clients’ vested interests the problems will not be solved.  Medicine and Surgery do not have adequate representation or resources to make their case to the public.

Perhaps it is because the AMA is too democratic or too civil. The AMA’s customers are physicians. Physicians have deserted the AMA because of lack of representation.

I think the AMA might still have a chance with some bold leadership. After all without patients or physicians you wouldn’t have need for a “healthcare system.”

 He goes on,

“Current software tools allow the development of disruptive systems that can put patients and physicians on the same side of the equation, develop networks to allow much better communications, and integrate the future of mobile devices that will transform healthcare. It should be possible to produce change in current relationships.” 

It is not only possible it is probable. I need a Posse of consumers to step out and force the secondary stakeholders to not take advantage of them. This must be a consumer driven effort.

Consumers can be organized through social networking just as Internet companies, venture capitalists and citizen expressed their voice on the Internet and stopped the two Censorship Acts (SOPA and PIPA) that were being railroaded through congress. The traditional media did not cover these two bills until the organized effort was working.

President Obama backed these bills until it was obvious to all that the anti-censorship effort expressed the will of the American people.

Patients (consumers) need leadership and innovative software to demand that they own their healthcare dollars and healthcare care decisions.

 I believe many physicians yearn for the ability to spend more time with their patients. Patients must demand it also and pressure the government to relinquish control over our healthcare system.

This writer/ physician’s note to me expresses this desire. It is an important story about the physician patient relationship’s key role in patient care.

“Let me begin with a story. I take care of an elderly man who lives in Brooklyn and suffered a stroke one year ago. At the time the patient was visiting with his son, who is a Rabbi in Chicago. The patient made an excellent recovery following high-quality rehabilitation at a Chicago hospital.

 He is a survivor of the Holocaust who lives with his wife and is generally independent. Although his walking is slow, he is able to walk utilizing a cane to a nearby synagogue for services every morning. As I was interviewing him last week, he mentioned that most of his day is spent at home with very little to do.

 He does not have television, and is not that interested in reading newspapers.

 After hearing this, I excused myself to go to my office and bring back an iPad to show him. I placed it in front of him, and logged on to a website sponsored by Yeshiva University (

 I showed him that he would have access to literally thousands of lectures by leading rabbis that he could listen to on demand. His eyes widened and he looked at me with amazement. He asked me if that device needed a computer, and whether it would work in his home. He inquired about the cost.

His wife immediately told me that she wanted one (iPad) for him, and that their daughter would be calling me for the information about setting things up.”

Ninety percent of physicians would like to have time to relate to patients this way. The dysfunctional system has forced physicians to act differently.

 This patient recovered from his depression. He is thriving with the use of his innovative device (iPad).

He goes on further to say,

I cannot finish my career in Medicine without finding a way to integrate experienced people with great ideas and insight with young people who know how to create the tools to bring innovative approaches to actuality.

 I will describe the future state next. Innovative software can be built in the future state that provides patients with the tools to express their needs and for patients to accept responsibility for their care.

Consumer driven healthcare with the ideal medical savings account will be the foundation of this transformative healthcare system.

The opinions expressed in the blog “Repairing The Healthcare System” are, mine and mine alone

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Economic Incentives Motivate!


Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE

The use of economic incentives to motivate behavior is neither a Democratic or Republican idea. It is human nature to be motivated by economic incentives. The concept of individual responsibility is an American idea. It has been tarnished in recent years.

There is no question in my mind that government has the responsibility to be compassionate and help the needy. It is my view that government should help individuals help themselves.

The costs associated with Medicare and traditional healthcare insurance are rising. Every stakeholder points a finger at the other stakeholders as the cause.

President Obama’s Healthcare Reform Act is raising costs higher in anticipation of cuts in the future. He is in the process of forcing individuals to be more dependent on the government rather than promoting individual responsibility.

Obamacare will fail to control costs.

All anyone has to do is look at a Rand Corp. study of 29 years ago to see what works and what doesn’t work. After all that is said what matters are results in decreasing costs, not your political ideology.

The Rand Corp’s political leanings are more left of center than right of center. The Rand Corp tries not to be biased by these leanings in its scientific studies. Its conclusions from its own data are sometimes skewed to the left ignoring its own evidence.

The Rand Health Insurance Experiment looked at consumers’ healthcare consumption in healthcare plans with different deductibles as well as an HMO. It monitored the results and reported its findings in 1982.

The findings were:

  1. Patients are responsive to out-of-pocket costs (the more they have to pay, the less health care they buy).
  2. Changes in the amount of spending have no apparent impact on health care outcomes in most cases.
  3. Judging from the difference in behavior between HMO doctors and fee-for-service doctors, physicians are also very responsive to economic incentives.
  4. Consumers with high deductibles were as likely to cut back on useful health services, as they were to cut back on unnecessary care.
  5. The critics of the consumer driven model have used this last point as proof that consumer driven healthcare doesn’t work. They claim that these consumers will not get appropriate care if they have a high deductible and try to save money.

If health care was free, spending soared with no improvement in health status. In the government controlled model government has to limit individual choice of care and access to care in order to keep consumption of care down.

The 1982 RAND study proved to me that consumer driven healthcare can work. Healthcare consumption is driven by the economic incentives the healthcare system offers consumers, physicians, hospital systems, pharmaceutical companies and healthcare insurers. Consumer driven healthcare patients used services they felt were essential to them and did not spend money on services they felt were not essential.

A consumer driven healthcare system would stimulate the growth of full-service diabetes centers that would force physicians into competing for diabetic patients because patients would be managing their own healthcare dollars. CDHC could energize the chronic disease healthcare market. It would create specialized centers competing for the care of patients with chronic diseases. Preventing the complications of chronic disease with education about self-management is in the interest of patients with the disease as well as society. The medical care of the complications of chronic diseases consume 80% of all healthcare dollars. Consumers and physicians respond to economic incentives. The healthcare social contract is really between consumers and physicians not government and hospital systems.  

A 2011 Rand study of more than 800,000 families from across the United States found when people shifted into health insurance plans with high deductibles their healthcare spending dropped an average of 14 percent compared to families in health plans with lower deductibles.

In October 2010 Cigna released a report covering 5 years of real-world experience with 897,000 plan members, about half in “traditional” coverage plan and the rest in consumer-driven plans. 

All of the results show that CDHPs are working beyond anyone’s expectations.

  1. CDHPs save 15 percent in the first year, 18 percent in year two, 21 percent in year three, 24 percent in year four, and 26 percent in year five.
  2. All this while individual out-of-pocket exposure is about the same (17 percent) in both types of plans.
  3. Using Cigna’s quality measurements (which are wrong), there is 8 percent to 10 percent higher use of preventive services in the CDHPs.
  4. CDHP enrollees are 9 percent more likely to get evidence-based treatment in the first year and 14 percent more likely in the second year of enrollment.
  5. CDHP enrollees are five times more likely to complete a health risk assessment.
  6.  CDHP enrollees are19 percent more likely to work with a health advocate.
  7. CDHP enrollees are 40 percent more likely to use on-line cost and quality tools when making decisions.
  8. CDHP enrollees have a 13 percent decrease in the use of emergency rooms.
  9. CDHP enrollees are 9 percent more likely to switch to generic drugs.
  10. CDHP enrollees have a 14 percent lower prescription costs.
  11. CDHP enrollees are 21 percent more likely to participate in a disease management program.
  12.  CDHP reduce their costs by 21 percent for joint disease, 8 percent for diabetes, and 7 percent for hypertension.
  13.  CDHP enrollees are slightly more satisfied with their plans than people in traditional approaches (83 percent versus 82 percent).

Finally according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute(EBRI), 22 million people are enrolled in consumer-driven and high-deductible health plans.

In 2010 EBRI conducted “Consumer Engagement in Health Care Survey” (CEHCS) analyzing the behavior and attitudes of 4,509 adults ages 21–64 with private health insurance coverage.

The findings were;

  1. People who enroll in these plans are more cost-conscious than those who have traditional health insurance policies.
  2. 53 percent routinely check to see whether their plan would cover specific care, compared with 47 percent of traditional policyholders.
  3. More than 50 percent check if a generic drug is available, compared with 44 percent in traditional plans.
  4. CDHP enrollees were more likely than traditional plan enrollees to choose doctors based on their use of health information technology.
  5. CDHPs enrollees also were more likely to exercise and less likely to be obese compared with traditional health plan enrollees.

President Obama’s Healthcare Reform Act will eliminate consumer driven health care plans.  I believe this is ill advised. CDHPs have decreased the cost of healthcare by motivating consumers to drive their healthcare decisions. A government directed system will not achieve this goal.

The results above were gotten with Health Savings Accounts. The use of my Ideal Medical Savings Account increases the economic incentives for consumers.

The opinions expressed in the blog “Repairing The Healthcare System” are, mine and mine alone.

  • Emily

    I agree with the idea of CDHC, but as a consumer, I’m frustrated by the execution. I absolutely pay attention to price with the plan, but it is frequently a problem to know what the price is. I took my son to the ER after a fall and when I asked about price, they had NO IDEA. Not even a ballpark. In fact, by reading a sign posted in the room, I was more clear about the billing process than the woman collecting my billing information. Doctors often don’t know either when it comes to tests and meds. I don’t hold them entirely responsible or think cost can always be a leading consideration, but you can’t really even consider costs if you don’t know even know them. It’s a hassle to find them out too.
    If you want to look at prescriptions, look here The prices vary considerably from pharmacy to pharmacy. Who would pay over $600 for Topamax at Walgreens when you could buy it for $440 from Walmart? But, I’m guessing few would even consider that a great option if they realized it was under $25 at Costco. This is one of the more breath-taking examples, but it is not unique.

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The Role Of Government In Healthcare


Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE

I believe in the power of the free market if the rules are fair to all.  Logic and common sense should determine healthcare policy. I am suspicious of the validity of pilot studies designed to test healthcare policy initiatives. The studies usually are defective in their design. 

The rules of the free market in healthcare should be in favor of the consumer driven healthcare model . Physicians will listen to patients if the patients control the healthcare dollar. The primary stakeholders (patients) should own their healthcare dollar and their employer should continue to pay for the healthcare benefit. The healthcare insurance industry should not be in control of the healthcare dollar.

The proposed healthcare reforms of both presidential candidates cannot work because the healthcare insurance industry  controls the healthcare dollar and therefore the healthcare system.

Neither Presidential candidate has a chance at constructive healthcare reform.

In order for America’s economy to grow and prosper, America must promote the growth of a strong working middle class. A nation without a strong middle class having an opportunity to enjoy upward mobility is a nation that is stagnating and on the way to bankruptcy. The middle class has experienced a lack of growth lately because they have been disadvantaged to the benefit of the wealthy. They have been disadvantaged in healthcare, housing, finance, education and other social systems that have been declared broken.  Our artificial free market economies have rules that promotes the growth of narrow vested interests and stimulates greed.

The middle class must have the opportunity be educated. It must be provided with incentives to be innovative. It must have affordable healthcare and housing. These incentives must be available for all Americans. Education and health are our most valuable assets. America must develop a cultural atmosphere to encouraged citizens to practice civic and self responsibility. The environment must be free of pollution to protect citizens from disease and illness. The air that we breathe and the food that we eat must not be influenced by the greed of special vested interests.

In recent weeks we have experienced bailout proposals for our financial system.  The proposal initially ignored the protection of the middle class. In my view the first draft of the Bush bailout proposal was an insult to America’s intelligence. It favored special vested interests and furthered citizen mistrust of the federal government. The terms of the initial bailout were for the protection of Wall Street and not the protection of Main Street. The protection of Wall Street was supposed to trickle down to Main Street. The final agreement will hopefully have protections for Main Street  as well as Wall Street with no pork. These dual protections should have been embodied in the initial proposal. We should not reward corporate executives’ failure.

I have written to both John McCain and Barack Obama about my thoughts on Repairing the Healthcare System. All I have gotten back is pleas from both campaigns requesting donations. My input has as many other citizens’ input been ignored by both campaigns.

The media has characterized the presidential campaign and debates as a boxing match. The media count who outscored who on points. I hear platitudes but no specific proposals on how to protect the middle class.

I hear John McCain say he is going to fight and fight hard for the middle class as he has done for 28 years. The few specific proposals he has presented protect wealthy vested interests.

Barack Obama says he is going to look after the middle class at the expense of the vested interested  high wage earners and investors. He does not tell us how he is going to go about it.

John McCain says he is opposed to regulations yet deregulation has gotten us in the position we are in. He reversed himself at twhen it was obvious our economy was about to collapse. A few days earlier he said our economy was basically sound. He did not project the perception of knowledge of economics to America. 

It sounds like Barack Obama wants to fix everything with regulations.  We have seen historically that regulating everything does not work. A simple example is the failure and perverse effects of price controls. A true market economy works if the correct rules are in place for the benefit of all. I am against government regulations that are oppressive to incentives and innovation.

Our legal system is also broken. It is not easy to enforce the law. Corporations, organizations, and citizens get around the law if they can afford the legal expense at the expense of the middle class. There is little penalty for misrepresentation. Congress is controlled by lobbying groups. Who are the peoples’ lobbying groups? The congress should be the lobbying group for the all citizens. Instead, Congress is lobbied and influenced by vested interests.

Government should make and enforce appropriate and fair rules. It should get out of the way and let consumers drive the system. Americans are smart enough to purchase the best products for themselves given the appropriate information. 

I have criticized the healthcare insurance industry. John McCain wants to give the control of the institutions of Medicare and Medicaid to the healthcare insurance industry in order to eliminate this entitlement. The healthcare insurance industry does nothing for the middle class and small businesses and everything for its own bottom line. Obscene healthcare insurance executives’ salaries and corrupt payoffs occur at the expense of ordinary people.

Once again, it is healthcare insurance contract time for hospital systems and employers paying for healthcare insurance. Again, there have been examples of difficulty between the healthcare insurance industry, hospitals physicians and employers. Once again Unitedhealthcare  is using the same tactics they used in the Denver market last year. Neither Congress nor the State Insurance Boards have taken action to protect the middle class.


The headline in the Kansas City Star reported that

“St. Luke’s Hospital system in Kansas City and UnitedHealthcare go their separate ways as the price of healthcare insurance goes up and the coverage goes down.”

“In July, after a year and a half of trying to come to agreement, the nonprofit St. Luke’s — which encompasses 11 hospitals and several physician practices in the region — said it was done negotiating and would stop accepting United benefits after Feb. 28, 2009”

“St. Luke’s perspective, negotiations had been going on for a year and a half without significant progress. It announced a firm split with United in July so patients and businesses would have ample time to find new coverage if they wanted to stay in St. Luke’s network

Bonner, who is senior vice president of business development for St. Luke’s, said the increase the hospital asked for would have brought reimbursement rates from United in line with other insurance carriers.”

I suspect both are wrong. I suspect the negotiating tactic UnitedHealthcare uses is the same used in Denver. They yield when they start losing subscribers.

United, which has 504,000 “members” in northwest Missouri and all of Kansas, would continue negotiating if St. Luke’s came back to the table, Tracy said, but he admitted reconciliation is highly unlikely.”

“United’s insurance-carrier competitors said they are seeing a windfall. Since St. Luke’s announcement this summer, Humana has been writing about 40 policies a month for companies leaving United, said David Miller, president of Humana in Kansas and Missouri.

The losers are the middle class who would buy insurance if they could afford the premiums. The State Insurance boards must develop and enforce real  transparency rules for the healthcare insurance industry. If the rules are not followed the healthcare insurance company should lose its license to sell insurance in the state.  The rules must be made and enforced by the insurance board and state hospital boards before negotiation comes to this point. Presently, there is no simple mechanism for adjudications. State boards of insurance and hospital systems’ mandates must have effective consumer protection.

Patients are not included in the free market determination of price. They are the victims of a market price controlled by the healthcare insurance industry (secondary stakeholders).

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Stinkin’ Thinkin’ Part 2 Health Costs: More Cost Burden on the Employee

Stanley Feld M.D., FACP, MACE  

Sound Bytes are deceiving. The Republican Party’s Presidential candidate, Republican Party politicians, and Republican policy wonks have often quoted reports that health care costs are expected to ease slightly for employers in 2009. There is deception in this fact. The overall decrease in healthcare costs for businesses is the result of its shifting the burden of costs to their employees. The result is a decrease in cost for the employers nationally. Therefore the sound byte is inaccurate. The cost of healthcare actually will rise 5.7% for the employers. This represents a decrease from last years rise of 6.1%. The direct costs to the consumer increases 29% next year. Once again, the devil is in the details. We can not rely on sound bytes.  The healthcare insurance industry triumphs again.  The result will be an increase in healthcare insurance industry net profits.   



What does all this mean in the present Presidential campaign?  Why are healthcare insurance premiums increasing when the provider reimbursement is decreasing? Why is the burden of the cost of healthcare insurance shifting to patients away from the government and the employers? President Bush and a McCain presidency’s goal is to shift the burden of healthcare costs to the employee. Is this going to improve the uninsured problem? No! It will make it worse.

It looks like the healthcare insurance industry is killing the goose that lays its golden egg. It looks like John McCain wants to help the healthcare insurance industry accomplish this feat without either of them realizing it.  It will happen at the expense of the consumer until the consumer cannot tolerate it any more.

It also looks like John McCain’s policy of more of the same is helping Barack Obama and the Democratic Party justify universal healthcare coverage by a single party payer. An equally disasterous strategy. Where are the principles that have made America great? All politicians should be forced to read Adam Smith’s “Wealth of Nations“.

Dick Swersy’s comment on my blog about the Nobel Prize winning technique to repair the healthcare system is noteworthy.   Mechanism Design to Repair the Healthcare  is the art and science of designing rules of a game to achieve a specific outcome, even though each participant may be self-interested. This is done by setting up a structure in which each player has an incentive to behave as the designer intends. The game will then implement the desired outcome. The strength of such a result depends on the solution concepts used in the game. 

Mechanism designers commonly try to achieve the following basic outcomes: truthfulness, individual rationality, budget balance, and social welfare. However, it is impossible to guarantee optimal results for all four outcomes simultaneously in many situations, particularly in markets where buyers can also be sellers. Significant research in mechanism design must decide on making trade-offs between these qualities and vested interests. The most desirable outcome in the healthcare system should be sustaining patients’ welfare and physicians’ incentives for innovations in care. These goals will strengthen our healthcare system not weaken it.

Our Presidential candidates are not thinking of these goal as they formulate programs to sustain the goals of the secondary stakeholders. How can you create affordable insurance when coverage decreases, deductibles increase, and the price decreases are defined by increasing the price 5.7% vs. 6.1% a year. It is a charade designed to fool Americans. The charade works because Americans are not paying attention to what is going on. We will complain when it is too late.

“America is at its most powerful and most influential when it is combing innovation and inspiration, wealth building and dignity building, the quest for big profits and the tackling of big problems. When we do just one, we are less than the sum of our parts. When we do both, we are greater than the sum of our parts- much greater” Thomas Friedman

  Our Presidential candidate are way off base. It is up to the people to pay attention and force  politicians to stop their Stinkin Thinkin.

The opinions expressed in the blog “Repairing The Healthcare S
ystem” are, mine and mine alone.

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Can You Believe This? Health Savings Account Threatened By The “Taxpayer Assistance and Simplification Act

Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE

The House of Representatives passed a bill called the “Taxpayer Assistance and Simplification Act” last week that will essential destroy Health Savings Accounts and the quest for consumer independence from the government’s control of the healthcare system. I have criticized HSAs in the past because they only give consumers partial control and not full control of their healthcare dollar. If you do not use the money you lose it. In my opinion this creates a perverse incentive that does not stimulate wellness. It stimulates potential abuse. Patients keep the money they do not spend with my Ideal Medical Savings Account. The MSA would increase incentives for wellness and decrease abuse, because if patients abused the system they losing their own money.

“Democrats have made affordable health care a mainstay of their election agenda, but apparently only if you’re willing to get insurance through the government. Witness their stealthy assault on Americans who prefer the private-sector option of Health Savings Accounts.”

No one in the Democratic Party dominated House of Representative nor the Democratic Party’s presidential candidates seem to understand the government can not afford to have a government dominated system. It is also clear they do not trust patients to pursue their vested interest.

“The House passed legislation on Tuesday, the mis-named “Taxpayer Assistance and Simplification Act,” that contained the awful provision that would throw a mountain of paperwork at Health Savings Accounts.”

<President Bush sent a note to congress stating that he would veto the bill if it contained the anti HSA provision. I do not think the Senate will accept the provision either. The frightening thing is the lack of understanding by the Democratic Party of what is necessary to Repair the Healthcare System.

“A key player here is Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chairman Pete Stark, whose main purpose in politics is to give the U.S. a government-run health-care system. He is a known opponent of HSAs – once comparing them to “weapons of mass destruction” – because they introduce more individual choice into the health-care marketplace.”

“Mr. Stark and his friends want to impose the same bureaucratic overhead even on spending that consumers do with their own money. The Senate should stop this one dead in its tracks.”

I thought Pete Stark finally understood the folly of his thinking. He trusts neither physicians nor patients. I was misled by his comments in Forbes magazine when he admitted he made a mistake with his Stark Laws.

“This week, the House passed legislation that included a provision to require every HSA transaction be reviewed and verified as a legitimate medical expense. Democrats say this is to ensure that consumers are using their tax-free withdrawals for a knee replacement, rather than a new iPod. In reality it adds a layer of bureaucracy that could sharply reduce the appeal and cost savings of HSAs.”

Presently the healthcare insurance industry administers these health savings accounts and does not permit misuse to occur. Maybe the only way the Democratic Party can reach its goal of government controlled single party payer healthcare system is to destroy HSAs?

“Pushing for the provision was a company called Evolution Benefits, which has patented a system for the substantiation of health-care expenses. Evolution’s lobbyist, John McManus, was the former staff director of the Health Subcommittee under Republican Bill Thomas.”

Unfortunately, this is how the government works. It is influenced by vested interested other than the people it is suppose to represent. Republicans are furious at John McManus, a former Republican congressman’s staff director now a lobbyist.

“Liberals claim HSAs are insurance for the “healthy and wealthy,” but there’s little evidence this is true. “

There is no evidence that HSAs are only for the healthy and wealthy. It is a potential mechanism for the government to subsidize insurance for the poor and not so poor to promote patient responsibility and stimulate a substantial reduction in cost and increase incentive for citizens to improve healthcare habits. All congress has to do is pass a law saying everyone automatically will be insured using a community rating system and pre tax dollars.

“The high deductable insurance permits the insured to open an HSA and make an annual contribution up to $2,900 for an individual in 2008, which he can use to pay for ordinary health needs. Savings not spent in any given year can build up tax-free for medical expenses. HSAs also give consumers more reason to care about prices, bringing much-needed market discipline.”

A family contribution is over $5,000 in 2008.

“ In any case if people cheat on their HSAs, they are only cheating themselves.”

I wonder how many congresspersons really understand the problems in the healthcare system and what will motivate the people they represent?

The opinions expressed in the blog “Repairing The Healthcare System” are, mine and mine alone.

  • Ryan Murphy

    Dr. Feld,
    You are absolutely wrong, with Health Savings Accounts the individual does keep the money if they don’t use it. HSA’s were designed with precisely this premise.
    See more information here:

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