Policy Analysis 3

Policy Analysis 3

Despite the huge benefits reaped from the U.S. health care system, all is not completely well. The United States is the only major industrialized nation that does not endeavor to provide universal access to health care for its citizens. The current mix of citizen having access to private insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, or not access at all (the uninsured) lead to enormous disparities in medical costs and health outcomes.
This analysis draws from selected content from Chapter 15 (Health Economics and Private Health Insurance) and a radio documentary about health insurance in the United States and dives deep into the bizarre incentive structure of our private health insurance industry.
The radio documentary is a joint production with the Planet Money economists and the storytellers from This American Life. The radio documentary titled “Someone Else’s Money” will bring you a deeper look inside the health insurance industry with stories about the dark side of prescription drug coupons, the history of private health insurance, pet health insurance and how it is changing human behaviors, and insurance company profit maximizing behavior.
The radio program is broken into 5 sections (4 segments, or acts, and the prologue). There are essay questions associated with each.
Familiarize yourself with the questions so your listening will be efficient.
Note: This paper should be about 2-3 pages single spaced, 12 pt Times New Roman font, with 1 inch margins.
Website for radio program: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/392/someone-elses-money
I. Prologue: Host Ira Glass talks to Rob Lamberts, a doctor and blogger in Georgia, who describes the crazy world of medical billing, where armies of coders use several contradictory different systems of codes…and none of it makes us healthier. (3 minutes)
a. Why are administrative costs to treat patients with private health insurance so high for doctor’s offices?
II. Act One. One Pill Two Pill, Red Pill Blue Pill: Planet Money’s Chana Joffe-Walt explains why prescription drug coupons could actually be increasing how much we pay, and prevent us from even telling how much drugs cost. (16 minutes)
a. How is the role of a copayment used as a signal of social costs?
b. How are “coupons” used to obscure these signals?
In your answer, use the section in your text related to moral hazard and health insurance on pages 433-435 and figure 15-3 below.
III. Act Two. Let’s Take Your Medical History: Alex Blumberg and Adam Davidson recount how four accidental steps led to enacting the very questionable system of employers paying for health care. (11 minutes)
Your text provides some additional information related to risk pooling and tax benefits on pages 424-426.
a. Describe the 4 steps (historical accidents?) that moved us from the previous to the current way we do medicine in the United States.
IV. Act Three. Insurance? Ruh Roh!: Planet Money correspondent David Kestenbaum investigates the growing popularity of pet insurance, and what it reveals about insurance for people. (15 minutes )
a. Do you have a “stop treatment” level for yourself? Does the existence of insurance change your “stop treatment” level?
V. Act Four. Sorry Johnny… It’s Only Business: This American Life producer Sarah Koenig reports on a very surprising reason why insurance companies dump members, and how this reasoning contradicts President Obama’s argument for what will lower health care costs. (12 minutes)
a. Describe how private insurers negotiate treatment prices with hospitals and medical providers.
b. How does the consolidation of hospitals and medical providers impact the negotiating power of insurance companies? What would happen to this negotiation process if there was only one buyer (insurer) of treatment? (use the information in your text about national health insurance to help answer this question)

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