Press Enterprise (Riverside, CA)
Today’s health-insurance system and cost crisis have their roots in practices and reform efforts dating back to the 1900s.
Here are some milestones from the past half-century:
* The cost of hospital care doubles during this decade.
* The U.S. health-care system offers private medical insurance for people able to afford it. The federal government takes responsibility for the needy who are sick.
* The growing popularity of private health plans makes the concept of national health insurance seem less likely.
* The federal government, concerned about shortages of doctors and other medical staff, adopts measures to expand education in health fields.
* President Johnson signs Medicare and Medicaid into law in 1965.
* President Nixon renames private, prepaid group health-care plans as health-maintenance organizations, or HMOs.
* U.S. medicine enters a crisis stage. Health-care costs climb quickly, fueled by Medicare expenses, inflation, growth of hospital fees and profits, and changing practices, such as more use of drugs and high-tech equipment.
* The nation shifts toward privatizing and incorporating the health-care industry. Decentralized hospitals are increasingly integrated into corporate chains. Private enterprise also consolidates other businesses related to health care.
* More and more insurers complain that doctors are exploiting the traditional fee-for-service (indemnity) mode of payment. As a result, “capitation,” or fixed, payments to physicians become more common.
* Health-care costs soar at double the inflation rate. Growth of managed care helps moderate prices until the mid-1990s.
* The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) establishes privacy provisions, health-insurance reforms, ways to simplify administrative processes and a new Medicare Integrity Program.
* California’s Healthy Families Program, which subsidizes care for low-income children, is approved in 1997.
* In 2000, California establishes a Department of Managed Health Care, a first-in-the-nation project that helps people resolve gripes with HMOs. The agency’s clout includes the power to fine HMOs and take over management of those that flounder.
* By 2001, Medicare and Medicaid together account for 32 percent ofÃ‚Â all health-care expenditures in the United States. Some speculateÃ‚Â that Medicare is unsustainable and must be rescued.
* In October 2003, Gov.Ã‚Â Davis signs SB-2 into law, requiring businesses with 200 or more employees to provide health coverage -Ã‚Â and pay 80 percent of premiums by January 2006. Companies with asÃ‚Â few as 20 employees must comply by 2007.
* On Dec. 8, 2003, George W. Bush signs a Medicare reform bill. It includes a controversial prescription-drug benefit for seniors.
Sources: Jim Lott, Hospital Association of Southern California; EH.net Encyclopedia; Managed Care Magazine; Public Broadcasting Service; and Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights.