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Religious Health Care; ‘The Big Lie’ About Expanding Medicaid

KHN’s Matthew Fleming selected these interesting articles from around the Web for weekend reading options.

The Atlantic: A Christian Alternative To Health Insurance
The Affordable Care Act has a section that exempts members of health care sharing ministries from purchasing insurance. The Amish, Mennonite, Christian Science and Indian tribe communities also are exempt from the penalty that will be incurred on Americans who fail to purchase health insurance by 2014. Since the law was passed in 2010, membership for Medi-Share and Samaritan Ministries has risen by about 40 percent.  Christian health sharing ministries are largely unregulated, except by themselves. This means members cannot go to an insurance commissioner with a complaint, rates aren’t reviewed by an independent regulator, and there is no way to ensure they are following anti-discrimination laws (Kimberly Leonard, 7/20).

The Nation: ‘We Can’t Afford It’:  The Big Lie About Medicaid Expansion
In his letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius rejecting the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, Texas Governor Rick Perry tells a whopper. Expanding Medicaid, he writes, would “threaten even Texas with financial ruin.”… In the first six years of the expansion, from 2014 to 2019, the total cost of insuring these Texans would be about $55 billion—not an inconsiderable sum. But the federal government would pay more than 95 percent of that amount; Texas’s share would be just $2.6 billion. That’s not chump change—but threaten Texas with financial ruin? Not by a long shot (Richard Kim, 7/20).

National Journal: States Wrestle With Medicaid Budget Bind – Even As They Expand Coverage
Many blue states are finding themselves in a Medicaid bind these days. Several, including Illinois, have warmly embraced major expansions of their programs as part of President Obama’s landmark health care law. At the same time, budget pressures have forced them to wring cost savings out of existing programs, often by cutting benefits, reducing payments to providers, or eliminating coverage for optional populations.  The latest California budget includes more than $1 billion in Medicaid cuts. Maine is eliminating coverage for more than 15,000 beneficiaries. Minnesota cut provider pay rates in 2010 and again in 2011. Connecticut cut provider rates and reduced benefits last year, including dental and vision. In the last two fiscal years, every state in the country has cut its program in some way, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study, including 46 that cut rates paid to providers over the two-year period, and 18 that cut benefits in the last fiscal year alone (Margot Sanger-Katz, 7/25).

Forbes:  “David Clause” In Obamacare Ready To Slay The Healthcare Cost Beast
I have called this new model “concierge medicine for the masses.” Officially, it is called Direct Primary Care (DPC). … Proponents of DPC state that the best way to pay for healthcare is to pair DPC with a high-deductible wraparound policy. The idea is you use insurance what it’s best for — rare items (house fires, cancer, major car accident). For day-to-day healthcare, DPC is paid for in a model that is akin to a gym membership — a flat monthly fee regardless of how much one uses it (though some have co-pays mainly due to state insurance regulations). As an observer of the evolution of health plans, I’ve been stunned by how slow insurance companies have been to capitalize on the DPC opportunity (Dave Chase, 7/24).

Mother Jones: Top Obamacare Critic’s Op-Eds Drafted By PR Firm That Reps Drug, Health Care Clients
Last Tuesday, a week after the Supreme Court’s ruling upholding Obamacare, Sally Pipes appeared before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to enumerate the evils of the law. The president of the Pacific Research Institute, a San Francisco-based free-market think tank, Pipes warned members of Congress that if they didn’t act quickly Americans would soon suffer the rationed care and long waits supposedly plaguing her native Canada. … All of this cemented her status as a leading voice of Obamacare opposition. Along with a constant stream of op-eds and TV appearances in recent years, she has also authored three books since 2008 lambasting health care reform. If Pipes seems supernaturally prolific, there’s a good reason. To assist with her written output, PRI employs a DC-based ghostwriting and PR firm with drug and health care industry clients (Stephanie Mencimer, 7/19).

The Oregonian: The ABCs Of Getting Your Zzz’s:  Why We Need Sleep, And How We Can Get More
One glance at U.S. coffee sales will give you a sense of America’s sleep habits.  Sales of the caffeinated beans rose 19 percent last year and have continued to thrive in the first half of 2012. Americans, more than ever before, apparently are sleep-deprived masses muddling through the day in a zombie-like state. Studies have linked lack of sleep to issues ranging from judgment lapses and poor academic performance to obesity and stroke. And getting five hours per night during the week, then compensating with an 11-hour weekend sleep marathon doesn’t cut it (Kelly House, 7/24).