Healthcare plan provides options

In the state that boasts the nation’s most uninsured residents, about 17.2 percent of Harris County residents are living without health insurance.

CBS News reported more than 46 million people without insurance and beginning reforms on the rising cost of health care is part of President Obama’s first-100-days agenda.

‘Costs are high because there is a lot of administrative inefficiency in health care industry,’ economics assistant professor Elaine Liu said.

Liu said in addition to administrative inefficiencies, physicians practice defensive medicine and perform unnecessary medical services, which may not benefit the patients, but helps minimize physicians’ risk of being sued.

‘Another reason medical costs are rising is because the U.S. government cannot negotiate prescription drug prices with pharmaceuticals,’ Liu said. ‘This means that U.S. patients are paying more for brand name prescription drugs than other countries.’

In 2003, a law was passed to prohibit the government from negotiating prices with pharmacies to pay for research and development of newer and better drugs.

‘One way to lower drug prices is to lift this ban,’ Liu said. ‘Canada is paying lower prices because its government negotiates with the drug companies.’

Though critics of the Obama-Biden healthcare plan say it is pushing the U.S. toward a socialization of medicine, Liu said the coverage of the plan is far from universal.

‘President Obama’s health plan is only universal for children, while adults would have the options to choose between a private insurance plan, employer-provided insurance or a new Federal-government provided insurance plan.’ Liu said. ‘There could still be people who are uninsured if they can’t afford it.’

The Obama-Biden plan promotes employer-based health insurance by providing a tax credit to small business owners who offer employees health coverage.

Obama has proposed investing $50 million to $65 million in the healthcare system toward requiring hospitals and doctors to report health cost and quality data.

‘Going to electronic file recording will cause a shift in skilled labor. Less people who write the paper files and pull them will be needed, but more workers to input information electronically will be needed,’ Liu said.

This will eliminate some of the administrative inefficiency in hospital administration, Liu said.

Funding for the plan would come from the estate tax and from repealed tax deductions for families making $250,000 or more annually. Uninsured UH students can purchase University insurance.University insurance costs $420 per semester with $25 co-pay for name brand prescription drugs and $15 co-pay for generics.

The student health insurance covers illnesses and accidents. Hospital expenses are covered at 80 percent and visits to the University Health Center are covered by a small co-pay that depends on the service.

Many insurance companies have a separate prescription plan individuals or families have to pay for and the co-pays for name brand drugs can be as high as $50 a prescription.

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