PHILADELPHIA REFLECTIONS
The musings of a Philadelphia Physician who has served the community for six decades

249 Topics

Health Savings Account Proposals, a Summation
New topic 2015-06-23 01:15:40 description

Multi-Year, the Future of HSA
We've spent a lot of time on the 1980 version of Health Savings Accounts. It's already rolling along in action, with only a couple of suggested additions to make it better. But there are several other variations which would need some legislation, but could possibly take the basic idea into new directions.

New Health Savings Accounts
The project is too ambitious, but it generates some ideas for the future.

(2) Obamacare: Spare Parts for a Book
New topic 2015-07-22 16:02:02 description

HIDDEN ECONOMICS OF HEALTHCARE
Here are samplings of the reasons Healthcare Reform still isn't going anywhere.

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Philadelphia Reflections is a history of the area around Philadelphia, PA ... William Penn's Quaker Colonies
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What HSA Does for Poor Folks: A Proposal

When I give talks about Health Savings Accounts, there often seems to be some person in the front row who doesn't seem to be listening. But he's usually the first to raise his hand with a question, which goes more or less like this: "Well, what does this do for poor people?" So here's my usual answer.

Poor people are all poor, but they are poor in different ways. For preliminary discussion, let's divide them into three classes.

On Their Way Up. Most Americans came here at the bottom, and worked their way up. Poverty may once have been their condition, but it wasn't their ambition to stay there. Everyone, particularly the newcomers, can see that cheaper means more people can afford something they once couldn't afford. It's the job of Health Savings Accounts to make healthcare cheaper, but if you subsidize more than half of the population, and then set a threshold of 400% of poverty, you tend to hold people in place. You tend to make subsidies hard to surrender, which increases the number of subsidized people, and ultimately makes subsidies too expensive to continue. It may be well-intended, but it makes things worse. The Latin expression Primum non nocere is the medical profession's motto, meaning "The least you can do for somebody, is not make their problem worse." On the other hand, by making healthcare cheaper, more people can afford it, so you've done a lot of good.

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Like Tolstoy's Unhappy Families, Poor people are Poor in Different Ways. {bottom quote}

Stuck at the Bottom. It's true a dismaying number of people are permanently unemployable. Not just unemployed, but unemployable. The Mayor of my little suburb tells me 8% of the school budget is devoted to "Special education", which mostly means mental defects of one kind or another. In spite of special education, a large proportion of mentally retarded kids will never be able to support themselves. And despite movies about Nobel prize winners with Lou Gehrig's disease, a lot of other people born with neurological conditions will never be self-supporting, either. My profession is working hard to reduce the number of permanently disabled, and quite often it is fiercely expensive to treat them, but we keep doing it. For the most part, these disabilities are easy to recognize, and with few exceptions it is society's obligation to subsidize them indefinitely. But it is not the role of Health Savings Accounts to define, identify or treat these people. In fact, it would injure our performance to take on a non-financial role. Give us the money and we will expand it and then pass it along. We will even contribute toward its cost, but much prefer to have government pay its own bills, and not disguise their taxes as part of our operating budget. Who made it government's duty? Our elected representatives in Congress did, and we try to follow their rules.

Temporary, Borderline and Political. For a while, I acted as a referee on Disability Determination. Let me tell you, it's often pretty hard to tell who is malingering, from who is eligible among a host of different assistance agencies, and who has long since recovered from a disabling condition. It's therefore expensive to administer Disability Determination, and physically exhausting if you take it seriously. It isn't the proper job for a Health Savings Account, which would do it very poorly, dragging down the performance of what else we would really like to do perfectly. Which is to reduce the effective cost of healthcare, by adding an unexploited source of revenue in the financial field.

HSA Proposal for the Poor. The proposal, therefore, is we should start with what is least controversial in almost everybody's mind, which is catastrophic health insurance. This type of insurance comes closest to what everyone would agree we owe all our citizens. No money is expended on the basis of income or social circumstances, it is decided individually at the hospital door, usually by accident room physicians. Its volume of component services would be controlled by an improved DRG, and its retail price should be determined by outpatient costs determined in turn by the marketplace, or by a relative value scale when no comparable outpatient service exists. It may be advisable to reconstitute the PSRO (Professional Standards Review Organization).

It may be desirable to dispense this catastrophic insurance through an HSA, although it is not essential. If it is the only benefit provided, it still would be useful to provide an accordion mechanism for additional services for those who rise from poverty, who are reimbursed through special programs in a variety of ways, or who find ways to supplement the cost themselves. Ultimately, it should provide a vehicle for integration, temporarily or permanently, into the private sector.


Better, but More Complicated: Lifetime HSAs

Health Savings Accounts are a big improvement over traditional health insurance, and this book stands behind them -- as is, without major adjustments. Go ahead and get one right now, regardless of what other coverage you have. Let me repeat: Their secret "economy" lies in keeping everyone spending insurance money as carefully as he would spend his own -- but not being too dictatorial about it. No one washes a rental car, as the saying goes, so you can't act as if someone has committed a crime, just because he doesn't do everything for you. But just you let the individual keep what he saves, and millions of HSA owners will find ways by themselves to save up to 30% of traditional healthcare costs. HSAs provide an incentive for the medical consumer to shop more carefully, and consumers seem to respond. The difficulty is, some people are too sick to worry about rules. So, substitute a catastrophic high deductible for your present coverage if the law lets you do it (which is presently uncertain) but go ahead with a Health Savings Account and add to it when you can.

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Looking ahead to what might follow HSA, is one of the main reasons for doing it. {bottom quote}
In practice, the Savings Accounts (and their debit cards) are almost entirely used for out-patients, where an effective shopper can wangle a reduction in costs. For hospital bed patients there is no choice but to allow the hospital to set its own prices, but those prices must become more fair. Fair prices are mostly an accounting effort, concentrating on reducing indirect overhead cost attributions, with a few legal rules to ensure uniformity. But everyone must wait for that to be made possible. Having repeated it all as a preamble, we now look ahead to how we might extend it to lifetime coverage, instead of the year-at- a-time variety. Looking ahead to what might follow it, is one of the hidden features of doing it.

One further idea. We have all assumed that catastrophic coverage is basic. If everybody ought to have something, he ought to have a very high deductible for a bare-bones indemnity policy. But just consider an alternative: insurance for the health costs of the first year of life, plus the last year of life. That's technically simple to do retrospectively, although it takes most people a few moments to get it. And 100% of the population would receive both benefits, at a restrained cost by remaining uncertain just what the last year of life is, until it is too late to run up the cost. Indeed, transition costs would be minimized by eliminating the first part of costs for the existing population, and phasing in the ongoing expense. Ask your friendly actuary; he'll get it, immediately.

Revised DRG coding and Methodology. Either way, if you guarantee to provide something for everyone, you better have a plan for controlling its extent. Inpatient costs affect patients too sick to argue about price, so hospital bed patients might as well be presented with some different options. They are more or less suitable for the DRG approach, but we have gone to some length to show what's wrong with the DRG coding methodology. The coding, among other things, must be fundamentally modified.

DRGs ("Diagnosis Related Groups") are something Medicare started, which with more precise coding could be made ideal for the catastrophic insurance part of Health Savings Accounts. Medicare now contributes half of average hospital revenue, so its rules effectively dictate most other methods of hospital reimbursement. There are many problems with Medicare, but paradoxically, escalating inpatient cost is not one of them. Inpatient billing has been so muddled, most people do not realize that DRG has been a somewhat overly effective rationing device. Office and hospital outpatient costs are quite another matter, so the whole hospital accounting system has been turned on its ear. In particular, components of inpatient costs must be re-linked to identical outpatient charges, in the instances where they are really market-based. Then, a system of relative values needs to be applied to that base. For that, we will need a Google-like search engine for translating the doctor's exact words into a more precise code.

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Single payer is not a solution, it is pouring gasoline on the flames. {bottom quote}
The Single-Payer Delusion. If the eyes glaze over at this endless complexity, take a moment to unveil this thing called single payer, which sounds as though it ought to be a great simplification. It's just Medicare for all ages, what could be better? Entirely too many people now spend their money on luxuries which they really can't afford. In a sense, the whole country plays make-believe that serious sickness is for old folks, who will be generously cared for, by Medicare. The facts are that Medicare is already running unsupportable budget deficits, and depending on foreigners to lend the money to pay for it. Extending that process to a lifetime of single payer is not a solution, it is pouring gasoline on the flames.

Furthermore, both catastrophic insurance and last year of life insurance are more similar than they sound. What most people don't appreciate is the risk of a catastrophic health cost is rather remote in any given year. But in a whole lifetime it is almost certain to happen at least once, which is often the last year of life. When you consider an entire lifetime, you cannot delude yourself it won't happen. Someone must plan for it, and the books must roughly balance.

Add Many Years to Lifetime Compound Income. Mathematically, it is fairly easy to show that healthcare costs will go down at the end of life; it's cheaper at 95 than at age 85. But that's probably a trick. We don't know what diseases will terminate life a century from now, so we can't count them. They are not cheaper, they are just unknown, and so we record the cost of the survivors of the race of life, not the average runner who will take time to catch up. If we are looking for lifetime healthcare revenue, recognizing that practically all revenue is now generated by members of the working age 21-66, a lifetime system needs to extend its revenue even further to other lifetime age groups. It seems only right that everyone's longevity should be included, but laws may currently block the way.

It would help a lot to include the first 21 years, adding several doubling time periods. It would also be useful to let HSAs run for a full lifetime instead of mandatory rolling-over to IRAs at 66. Obviously, the idea behind terminating at age 66, was that Medicare would take care of everyone's medical needs. But with time, Medicare has consistently run big deficits, to the point where it is 50% subsidized by other federal funds, or by international borrowing. Adding forty years would multiply extra investment returns by four doublings at 6%, and at little cost to the government. This would be particularly useful during the transition, when many people start their Accounts at zero balance, but at a more advanced age. It would be a significant improvement to all these programs to end them with at least one optional alternative; terminating a program at a fixed age is something to avoid.

Proposal 13: Health Savings accounts should include the option to be individual rather than family-oriented, and therefore should include an option to extend from the cradle to the grave, rather than age 21-66, as at present, and consider options for Medicare buy-out and transfers within families between accounts.

Permit Tax-free Inheritances of Funds Sufficient to Fund One Child's Healthcare to Age 21. In other words, we should make some sort of beginning to the knotty difficulty of creating state responsible for what used to be the family's responsibility. A second adjustment would recognize that essentially all children are dependent on their parents for healthcare support, until they themselves start to work. Children's health costs are relatively modest, except for costs associated with the first year of life, and the bulge would be even greater if insurance shared obstetrical costs better between mother and infant. Even as we now calculate it the baby's health costs, from birth to age 21, are 8% of lifetime costs. A cost of 3% for the first year of life alone, makes lifetime investment revenue essentially impossible for many young families to support lifetime costs, because the balance starts from such a depleted level. So, the idea occurs that a considerable surplus appears when many people become older, if grandpa could effectively roll enough of his surplus to one grandchild or designee. The average American woman has 2.1 children, so it comes close to a 1:1 ratio of children to grandparents. Young parents often have a big problem financing children, whereas in a funded system, the transfer from grandparents could be supported by a fraction of it by application of compound interest, even more so with passive investing.

With two statutory adjustments along these lines, financing of lifetime healthcare by its investment revenue becomes considerably easier.

Whole-life Health Savings Accounts.(WL-HSA) It has developed in my mind that Lifetime Health Insurance would become even better for cost savings, with the addition of one more feature, copied from life insurance, and combined with the needed DRG revision. It is, broadly, the difference between one-year term life insurance, and whole-life insurance, which offers multi-year coverage, even lifetime coverage. Life insurance agents frequently argue that whole-life is much cheaper in the long run than term life insurance. What they may not tell you is that most of the profitability of term insurance derives from so many people dropping their policies without collecting any benefits at all. Comparing apples with apples, whole-life insurance is not just cheaper, but vastly cheaper.

For those who don't understand, a one-year term insurance covers illnesses for a single year, and then is open for renegotiation. By contrast, a whole life policy covers a lifetime of risk, overcharging young people for it in a certain sense, but meanwhile investing the unused part for later years when health risks are greater. Does that start to sound familiar? The client is seemingly overcharged at first, but in the long run his lifetime insurance cost is far cheaper. Not just a little cheaper, but just a fraction of what a chain of yearly prices would cost.

It doesn't mean you must enroll at birth and remain insured until death; it means any multi-year insurance becomes cheaper, depending on the age you begin and the age you cash out -- often at death but not necessarily. What makes the saving so astonishing is the way life expectancy has lengthened. We have been so uneasy about rising medical costs we didn't much notice that people were living thirty years longer than in 1900. As a rule of thumb money earning 7% will double in ten years; in thirty years, it become eight times as big. If you lose half of it in a stock market crash, you still end up with four times as much. This is what would be new about lifetime accounts, and it can be easily shown that overall savings for everyone would be more than anyone is likely to guess.

Let me interject an answer before the question is asked. Why can't the government do the same thing? And the answer is, maybe they could, except two hundred years of history have shown the American public is extremely averse to letting anyone be both a player and an umpire. For more than a century at first, there was a strong political resentment of the government running a bank, or even borrowing money with bond issues. Yes, the government could invest in businesses, but we would then be guaranteed a century of rebellion if we tried to have government do, what any citizen is free to do on his own. Indeed, a review of Latin American history shows what disaster we have avoided by retaining this negative instinct to allowing the camel's nose under the tent. The separation of church and state is a similar example of how our success as a nation has been based on gut feelings. The separation of business and state is at least as fundamental as separating church and state. And for the same reason: we instinctively avoid having the umpire play on one of the teams.

Proposal 14: Congress should authorize a new, lifetime, version of Health Savings Accounts, which includes annual rollover of accounts from any age, from cradle to grave, and conversion to an IRA at optional termination. Investments in this account are subject to special rules, designed to produce maximum safe passive total return, and limiting administrative overhead to a reasonable, competitive, amount. The account should be linked to a high-deductible catastrophic health insurance policy, with permanently guaranteed renewal, transferable at the client's annual option. The option should also be considered of linking the HSA to a policy for retrospective coverage of first year of life and last year of life, combined.

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Lifetime Health Savings Accounts (L-HSA) would differ from ordinary C-HSA in two major ways, and the first is obvious from the name. In addition to meeting each medical cost as it comes along, or at most managing each year's health costs, the lifetime Health Savings Account would try to project whole lifetimes of medical costs and make much greater use of compound income on long-term invested reserves. The concept seeks new ways to finance the whole bundle more efficiently, and one of them is health expenses are increasingly crowded toward the end of life, preceded by many years of good health, which build up individually unused reserves and earn income on them. Since the expanded proposal requires major legislation to make it work, it must be presented here in concept form only, for Congress to think about and possibly modify extensively. This proposal does not claim to be ready for immediate implementation. It is presented here to promote the necessary legal (and attitudinal) changes first needed to implement its value. And frankly, a change this large in 18% of GDP is better phased in gradually, starting with those who are adventurous. By the time the most timid among us have joined up, the transition will have become routine. As a first step, let's add another proposal for the present Congress to consider:

Proposal 15. Tax-exempt Hospitals Should be Required to Accept the DRG method of payment for inpatients from any Insurer, althoug the age-adjusted rates should be negotiable based on a percentage surcharge to Medicare rates. The DRG should be gradually restructured, using a reduced SNOMED code instead of enlarged ICDA code, and intended to be used as a search engine on hospital computers rather than printed look-up books, except for very common hospital diagnoses. Also to be considered for those who are too sick for arms-length negotiation of hospital costs, are uniform reimbursements among insurance carriers and individuals, and between inpatients and outpatients, including emergency rooms, as well as a major expansion of specificity in DRGs.

Overfunding and Pooling. Lifetime Health Savings Accounts, beside being multi-year rather than annual, are unique in a second way : they overfund their goal at first, counting on mid-course correctionsto whittle down toward the somewhat secondary goal of precision -- amounting to, "spending your last dime, on the last day of your life". To avoid surprising people with a funding shortfall after they retire, we encourage deliberate over-estimates, to be cut down later and any surplus eventually added to retirement income . For the same reason, it is important to have attractive ways for subscribers to spend surpluses, to blunt suspicions the surpluses might be confiscated if allowed to grow. An acknowledged goal of ending with more money than you need, runs somewhat against public instincts, and is only feasible if surpluses can be converted to pleasing alternatives.

Saving for yourself within individual accounts is more tolerable than saving for impersonal groups within pooled insurance categories, but probably must constantly defend itself against the administrative urge to pool. Pooling should only be permitted as a patient option, which creates an incentive to pay higher dividends for it. The menace of rising health cost at the end of life induces more tolerance of pooling in older people, whereas small early contributions compound more visibly if pooling is delayed. Young people must learn it gets cheaper if you don't spend it too soon. The overall design of Lifetime HSAs is to save more than seems needed, but provide generous alternative spending options, particularly the advantage of pooling later in life. Because it may be difficult to distinguish whether underfunded accounts were caused by bad luck or improvidence, the ability to "buy in" to a series of single-premium steps should both create penalties for tardy payment, as well as create incentive rewards for pooling them. This point should become clear after a few examples.

Proposal 16: Where two groups (by age or other distinguishing features) can be identified as consistently in deficit or surplus -- internal borrowing at reduced rates may be permitted between such groups. Borrowing for other purposes (such as transition costs) shall be by issuing special purpose bonds. These bonds may also be used to make multi-year intra-family gifts, such as grandparents for grandchildren, or children for elderly parents.

Smoothing Out the Curve.There is considerable difference between individual bad luck with health costs, and systematic mismatches between average costs of different age groups. Let's explain. An individual can have a bad auto accident and run up big bills; as much as possible, his age group should smooth out health costs by pooling within the age cohort to pay the bill. On the other hand, compound investment income sometimes favors one age group, while illnesses predominate in a different experience for another. It isn't bad luck which concentrates obstetrical and child care costs in a certain age range, it is biology. No amount of pooling within the age cohort can smooth out such a systemic cost bulge, so the reproductive age group will have to borrow money (collectively) from the non-reproductive ones. With a little thought, it can be seen that subsidies between age groups are actually more nearly fair, than subsidies based on marital status or gender preference, or even employers, who tend to hire different age groups in different industries. On the other hand, if interest-free borrowing between age cohorts is permitted, there must be some agency or special court to safeguard that particular feature from being gamed. All of these complexities are vexing because they introduce bureaucracy where none existed; it is simply a consequence of using individual ownership of accounts to attract deposits which nevertheless must occasionally be pooled later. Because these borrowings are mainly intended to smooth out awkward features of the plan, every effort should be made to avoid charging interest on these loans. However, if gaming of the system is part of the result, interest may have to be charged.

Proposal 17: A reasonably small number of escrowed accounts within a funded account may be established for such purposes as may be necessary, particularly for transition and catastrophe funding. Where escrowed accounts are established, both parties to an agreement must sign, for the designation to be enforceable.(2606)
Escrowed Subaccounts.Both Obamacare and Health Savings Accounts are presently expected to terminate when Medicare begins, at roughly age 65. Nevertheless, we are talking about lifetime coverage, where we have a rough calculation of the cost ($325,000) and the Medicare data is the most accurate set, against which to make validity comparisons. We want to start with $325,000 at the expected date of death, spend some of it in roughly 20 installments, and see how much is left for the earlier years of an average life. Then, we repeat the process in layers down to age 25, and hope the remainder comes out close to zero. There are several things missing from this, most notably how to get the money out of the fund, but let's start with this much, in isolation for the Medicare age bracket, age 65-85. We are going to assume a single-premium payment at age 65, which both life expectancy and inflation in the future will increase in a predictable manner, and changes in health and health care eventually reduce healthcare costs, not increase them. Not everyone would agree to the last assumption, but this is not the place to argue the point.

We know:

(a) The average cost of Medicare per year ($10,900)

(b) How many years the beneficiaries on average are in the age group (18).

(c) Therefore, we know how much of the $325,000 to set aside for Medicare ($196,200),

(d) and know how much a single premium at age 65 would have to be, in order to cover it.($196,000 apiece)

(e) We thus know how much all the working-age groups (combined as age 25 to 65, 60% of the population) must set aside, in advance for their own health care costs, when they reach Medicare age($196,000 apiece).

(f) and by subtraction therefore how much is left for personal healthcare within age 25 to 65 ($128,800).

(g)We can be pretty certain average Medicare costs will exceed those of anyone younger, setting a maximum cost for any age.

(h) Alll of this calculation ignores the payroll deductions for Medicare and premiums. Since this is nearly half of the cost, it changes the conclusions considerably, depending on how you treat these points. During the transition phase, several approaches may be necessary. Furthermore, the size of accumulated debt service is unknown, or what the plans are, for it.

Shifts in age composition of the population produce large changes in total national costs, but should by themselves not change average individual costs. What they will do is increase the proportion of the population on Medicare, thereby paradoxically making both Obamacare and Health Savings Accounts relatively less expensive. Obamacare can calculate its future costs with the information provided so far. But the Health Savings Account must still adjust its future costs downward for whatever income is produced by investments. We don't yet know is how much each working person must contribute each year, because we haven't, up to this point, yet offered an assumption about the interest rate they must produce. We should construct a table of the outcome of what seem like reasonably possible income results. There are four relevant outcomes to consider at each level: the high, the low, and the average. Plus, a comparison with what Obamacare would cost. But there are two Medicare costs: the cost from age 25 to 64, and the cost from 65-85, advancing slowly toward a future life expectancy of 91-93. These two calculations are necessary for displaying the relative costs of Medicare and also Obamacare.

Children's Healthcare. Someone is sure to notice the apportionment for children is based on income rather than expenses. The formula can be adjusted to make that true for any age bracket, and a political decision must be made about where to apply an assessment if income is inadequate; we made it, here. We have repeatedly emphasized that if investment income does not match the revenue requirement, at least it supplies more money than would be there without it. Somewhat to our surprise, it comes pretty close, and we have exhausted our ability to supply more. Any further shortfalls must be addressed by more conventional methods of cost cutting, borrowing, or increased saving. In particular, attention is directed to the yearly deposit of $3300 from age 25-65, which is what the framers of the HSA enabling act set as a limit, somewhat arbitrarily.

Privatize Medicare? And finally but reluctantly, the figures include provision for phasing out Medicare, which everyone treats as a political third rail, untouchable. But gradually as I worked through this analysis, I came to the conclusion that uproar about medical costs would not likely come to an end, until the Medicare deficit was somehow addressed. I believe we cannot keep increasing the proportion of the population on Medicare, paying for it with fifty-cent dollars, and pretending the problem does not exist. So it certainly is possible to balance these books by continuing our present approach to Medicare. But it would be a sad opportunity, lost.

In summary, we have concocted a guess of the outer limit of what the American public is willing to afford for lifetime health coverage ($3300 per person per year, from age 26 to 65), and added an estimate of compound income of 8% from passive investing, to derive an estimate of how much we can afford. From that, we subtract the cost of privatizing Medicare if our politicians have the courage for that ($98,000 -196,000) and thus derive an estimate of how much is available for health care of the rest of the population ($128,000). Because of the longer time spans available for compound income, at 8% it would cost more out-of-pocket to finance the $128,000 than the $196,000; it would actually be financially better to include it. The non-investment cost, on average, would only be $ 148,000 per lifetime, for an expense which otherwise almost insurmountably crowdis out everything else in the national budget. It might be $98,000 less because of Medicare payments, or it might prove to be more, depending on interest rates and scientific progress. Believe it or not, that could be a wide improvement over the present trajectory.

That's how it seems when you approach the topic of multi-year health insurance. But there are several exciting additions, when you really get into it. It plods along, and then it explodes.


SECOND FOREWORD (Whole-life Health Insurance)

This second Foreword is a summary of a radically modified proposal. It cannot be implemented without further changes in the law, or at least some clarifications of the Affordable Care Act. To state the issue, it is that increasingly larger segments of American society are not employed, and therefore are not able to take equal advantage of an employer-based system. Further, there is every reason to expect further migration of illness out of the employable age group. And finally, while there are signs of reasonableness, the mandatory stance of Obamacare is not greatly different from a package of mandatory "benefits" imposed on all attempts at innovation before they can be tested. If changes in the law are required before implementation, liberalization might as well be in place before innovations are proposed. No private company could proceed without advance assurances resembling cronyism. Everything else is negotiable, but the notion of mandatory pre-approval must be softened to something less sovereign.

Sickness itself has moved into the retiree age group, and will continue to migrate from employees to retirees. The means of payment cannot move from the employee group, so a two-step process is resorted to, with middle-man government controlling the flow of money. If we are ever to remove middle-man costs, this feature must be removed, as well. Meanwhile, the paraphernalia of medical care, the medical schools, hospitals and doctors, remain largely in the urban areas where employment formerly centered. So the government once more becomes a middle-man, and the system begins to resemble a virtual system, based on computer systems which do the same thing. Until everyone stops moving, duplication increases costs, degrades quality, and starts riots. We must move people less, and move money more. At one careless first glance, that sounds like shifting money between demographic groups, but picking winner and loser demography has repeatedly been shown to be too divisive; almost a prescription for a second Civil War. In short, we have fallen in love with a computerized virtual model, based on the faulty assumption that it is without cost. Here and there it might be tried experimentally, but it is far too early to make it mandatory. For example, it is much easier to re-design the payment system, shifting money between different stages within individual lives, than to make everyone find a new doctor. But it is absurd to make everyone move to Florida on his 66th birthday. Even redesigning transaction systems is not easy, but it is by far the easiest choice. There is still too much friction in the various systems to make such improvements mandatory.

The best model to adopt is that of the university president who ordered a new quadrangle to be built without sidewalks. Only after the students had worn paths in the lawn along their favored routes to class, did he cover the paths with concrete sidewalks.

The issue at the moment is the money concentrates with employers, supporting the whole system, but their employees no longer get very sick. To reduce complaints, they are given benefits to spend which they really don't need, raising the cost of transferring the money to retirees who do need the money, but are covered by Medicare. We are in danger of repeating that whole cycle with Medicare, piously calling it a single payer system, when in fact it would be a single borrower system as long as the Chinese don't collapse. Expensive sickness now centers in the retirees, but within fifty years a dozen diseases will be conquered, and we will then need Medicare money to pay for retirement living. Constructing massive systems without that vision will just make it harder to replace them. We are, in summary, in great need of a gigantic funds transfer system, since moving the people and institutions to match the funding is preposterous. But as long as the system has two champions, Medicare and the Employer-based system, in possession of all the money, we flirt with collapses in order to force rearrangements.

All of this is divisive, indeed. For years to come, the easiest thing to move around will be money. Eventually, institutions and clients can sort themselves out for geographical unity, and probably improved efficiency. But a financing system with the money for sickness in the hands of people who aren't sick, plus a governmental, system dedicated to an age group with almost all the coming sickness but unsustainable finances -- is a wonder to behold. Therefore, we offer the Health Savings Account as having the flexibility to collect money from the young and healthy, invest it for decades, and use it for the same people when they get old. It can cross age barriers and follow illnesses, or it can remain with survivors and pay for their protracted retirement. If Medicare is modularized, it can supply the money to buy pieces as they appear. It can redistribute subsidies to the poor if an agency gives it money, and it can adjust to changes in geography and science, since all it works with, is money. And it avoids redistribution politics by giving the same people back, their own money.

For all these reasons, Health Savings Accounts on a lifetime or whole-life model seem the logical place to fix the broken vehicle, while we somehow keep its motor running. If successful, it will grow too big, so it should remain modular from the start. It has feelers in the insurance, finance and investment worlds. It could easily arrange branch offices for retail marketing and service. It should have networks for research and lobbying. But as long as it retains the branch concept and avoids the imperial one, it should manage to keep the doctors, patients and institutions functioning as the whole universe rearranges itself -- at its own speed. The first major step in this process would be to clear up some regulations which did not anticipate it. With Classical HSA adjusted for interim role, the design stage can be undertaken to link the pieces of a person's health financing. Variations of lifetime Health Savings Accounts can be tried in demonstration projects, perhaps staying out of the way of the Affordable Care Act by unifying parts other than age 21 to 66, as the New Health Savings Account. And then seeing which version of lifetime HSA survives the squabbling. That isn't all. The really big picture is to absorb the pieces of Medicare, one by one, as sickness retreats from being the central cost.


SECTION THREE: Good Ol' Health Savings Accounts


SECTION SIX: Condensed Summary

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Posted by: Pamela   |   Aug 20, 2015 11:04 AM
I'm overwhelmed. I'm thinking of a one-line poem by William Blake: "Enough or too much" " stragglers who live from 85 to 91." Sorry to be a burden, but soon to be 91 I can still go a couple of rounds without huffing and puffing. You remind me of Dr. Melvin Konner.... professor.... anthropologist..... physician.
Posted by: Martin   |   Sep 27, 2014 5:16 AM
I want to thank you for this wonderful resource. I find it fascinating. May I offer one correction? In the section "Rittenhouse Square Area" there is reference to the Van Rensselaer home at 18th and Walnut Streets and its having a brief fling as a club. I believe in 1942 to about 1974/5 the Penn Athletic Club was located in the mansion. The Penn AC was a good club, a good neighbor and a very good steward of the building - especially the interior. It's my understanding that very unfortunately later occupants gutted much of the very well-preserved original, or close to original, interiors. I suppose by today's standards the Van Rensselaer-Penn Athletic Club relationship could be described as a fairly long marriage. The City of Philadelphia played a large role in my life and that of my family, and your splendid website brings back many happy memories. For me and many others, however, there is also deep sadness concerning the decline of so much of the once great city and the loss of most of its once innumerable commercial institutions. Please keep-up your fine work. Your's is a first-class work.
Posted by: John D. Mealmaker   |   Aug 14, 2014 2:24 AM
Dr. Fisher, The name Philadelphia University was adopted in 1999, as you write, but the institution dates to 1884 and has been on School House Lane since the 1940s. It acquired the former properties of the Lankenau School and Ravenhill Academy, but it did not "merge" with either of them. I hope this helps when you update your site.
Posted by: David Breiner   |   Jun 11, 2014 10:05 PM
Hello Dr. Fisher, I was looking for an e-mail address and this is what I could find. I must tell you my Mother who you treated for years passed away last May. She was so ill with so many problems. I am sure you remember Peggy Marchesani. We often spoke of you and how much we missed you as our Dr. You also treated my daughter Michele who will be 40. I am living in the Doylestown area and have been seeing the Dr's there.. I just had my thyroid removed do to cancer. I have my fingers crossed they get the medicine right. I am not happy with my Endochronologist she refuses to give me Amour. I spoke with my Family Dr who said he will take care of it. I also discovered I have Hemachromatosisand two genetic components. I have a good Hematologist who is monitoring me closely. I must say you would find all of this challenging. Take care and I just wanted to convey this to you . You were way ahead of your time. Thank you, Joyce Gross
Posted by: Joyce Gross   |   Apr 4, 2014 2:06 AM
I come upon these articles from time to time and I always love them. Is the author still alive and available to talk with high school students? Larry Lawrence F. Filippone History Dept. The Lawrenceville School
Posted by: Lawrence Filippone   |   Mar 18, 2014 6:33 PM
Thank you for your articles, with a utilitarian interest, honestly, in your writing on the Wagner Free Institute of Science [partly at "...blog/1588.htm" - with being happy to post that url but the software here not allowing for the full address:)!] I am researching the Institute, partly for an upcoming (and non-paid) presentation and wanted to ask if I might use your article's reproduction for the Thomas Sully portrait of William Wagner, with full credit. Thanks very much for any assistance you can offer here. Josh Silver Philadelphia
Posted by: Josh Silver   |   Jun 2, 2013 1:39 PM
Thank you for your articles, with a utilitarian interest, honestly, in your writing on the Wagner Free Institute of Science [partly at "...blog/1588.htm" - with being happy to post that url but the software here not allowing for the full address:)!] I am researching the Institute, partly for an upcoming (and non-paid) presentation and wanted to ask if I might use your article's reproduction for the Thomas Sully portrait of William Wagner, with full credit. Thanks very much for any assistance you can offer here. Josh Silver Philadelphia
Posted by: Josh Silver   |   Jun 2, 2013 1:39 PM
George, Mary Laney passed away last November. I was one of her pall bearers. She had a bad last year. However, I am glad that you remembered her and her great work. I will post your report at St Christopher's and pass this along to her husband Earl. Best wishes Peter Hunt
Posted by: Peter Hunt   |   Mar 28, 2013 7:12 PM
Hello, my name is Martin. I came across [http://www.philadelphia-reflections.com/blog/1705.htm] and noticed a ton of great resources. I recently had the honor of becoming a part of a new non promotional project on AlcoholicCirrhosis.com. We decided to put together a brief guide about cirrhosis, and the dangers of drinking. We have received a lot of positive feedback and I wanted to suggest that we get listed on the above mentioned page under The National Institutes of Health. Let me know what you think and if you have any further requirements or suggestions.
Posted by: Martin   |   Jan 1, 2013 8:51 AM
I FIND THIS VERY INTERESTING, INDEED. I AM HOWEVER, SEARCHING FOR THE ANCESTOR WE HAVE BEEN TOLD WAS JOSEPH M. WILSON OF JORDAN TOWNSHIP IN WHITESIDE CO. IL USA. MY HUSBAND WAS ORPHANED AND WITH LITTLE CONTACT WITH HIS FATHERS SIDE OF THE FAMILY THE 9TH OF 10 SURVIVING CHILDREN SINCE ALL ARE DECEASED BUT, ONE). I HAVE HOPED TO FIND HIS CONNECTION AS TO THE STORIES RELATED BY SEVERAL OF HIS DECEASED RELATIVES THAT WE ARE CONNECTED TO THE WILSON MILL FAMILY HISTORY. OF JOSEPH AND FRANCES. MY HUSBAND WAS ALSO, FAMILY TO: GRANDFATHER RANSOM (ISABELLA)WILSON & HIS BROTHER WILLIAM; OF ELKHORN GROVE CARROLL CO. IL USA AND HIS SON JOSEPH WILSON(NANCY). I?WE( MY SONS AND NEPHEWS NEICES AND GRANDDAUGHTERS IN COLLEGE... WERE HOPING THAT NOW THAT I AM ON THE COMPUTER AND WITH YOUR HELP THRU THE GENELOGICAL SOCIETY TO YOUR ADDRESS WE MAY FIND THE FAMILY WE SEEK. MY LATE HUSBAND AND I DROVE PAST THE SITE OF THE FIELD WHERE JOSEPH AND FAANCES ARE BURIED , THE CEDARS ARE GONE AND IT IS NOW FIELD. I HAVE BEEN HOPING TO FIND THE LINK FOR OVER 30 FAMILY TO PAY TRIBUTE TO THOSE WHO HAVE GONE BEFORE AND PERSEVERED TO BRING US THE LIFE WHICH WE ENJOY AND SERVE, TODAY. I RECEIVED ONLY THIS WEEK BY A FLUKE AN EMAIL WITH PHOTOS FROM A 3RD COUSIN THAT FOUND MY EMAIL ON A COUSINS EMAIL ADDRESS AFTER INQUIRING AND INTRODUCING HIMSLEF: AND HE TOOK THE TIME TO SEND MANY PHOTOS AND HISTORY OF GRANDPARENTS AND FAMILY AS WE HAVE HAD NONE. WE STILL DON'T HAVE A PHOTO OF HIS MOTHER AND FATHER. WHAT I HAVE OF THE TREE, I AM ANXIOUS TO SHARE WITH FAMILY THAT IS SEEKING HISTORY, AS I STILL AM HOPEFUL TO FIND IT IN TIME FOR THE DEADLINE AUG. 30 TYPED AND DELIVERED TO MY MARTIN HOUSE MUSEUM WHERE I AM A MEMBER. MY HUSBAND WAS A MASTER MASON WHILE IN LODGE WITH THE COUPLE THAT DONATED THE HOUSE TO BE A MUSEUM. THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME AND THE GRAT WORK YOU HAVE ALL DONE ON THIS HISTORY. WE WERE LIFE MEMBERS OF THE LUTHERAN CHURCH BUT , THERE IS NOT ONE IN OUR TOWN, SO I FOUND THE REFORMED CHURCH,OF WHICH, I AM VERY HAPPY TO BE A PART. THANK YOU .
Posted by: SUSAN WILSON   |   Aug 12, 2012 12:49 AM

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