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Health System's Income Skyrockets; Medicaid Cuts Ahead

On the same day Kaiser Permanente reported it had nearly tripled its income in 2019, governors of both parties warned that a proposed Trump administration regulation could lead to huge Medicaid cuts, reducing healthcare access for vulnerable, low-income Americans.

While neither of those facts are directly connected, combined they're a microcosm of what is wrong with healthcare in America today and the mindset that currently prevails among Trump and his Republican Congressional supporters.

As some Democratic presidential candidates, such as Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, rail against the healthcare corporations and insurance industry for ripping off the American people and failing to provide the affordable care and coverage we have a right to expect, Kaiser Permanente is "riding a wave of both strong operating performance and strong investment performance," according to industry publication Modern Healthcare.

The Oakland, CA-based integrated health system reported net income of $7.4 billion, compared to $2.5 billion in 2018.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that an arcane fiscal accountability rule proposed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) could lead to big Medicaid cuts. That's in addition to the administration's plans to turn Medicaid into a block grant program and give states more power over the health plan that's designed to serve low income individuals. That plan could dramatically reduce healthcare availability for millions of low income individuals.

Under the proposed rule, CMS would tighten federal oversight and approval over complex financing strategies states have used to help pay their share of the $600 billion program, AP reported. Also targeted are certain payments to hospitals that treat many low-income patients. Public comments closed last week amid a chorus of criticism from hospitals, nursing homes, insurers, doctors, and advocates for the poor.

“States may be unable to adequately fund their Medicaid programs, which could lead to unintended consequences that would negatively impact Medicaid beneficiaries across the country,” wrote Govs. Kate Brown, D-Ore., and Charlie Baker, R-Mass., in official comments on behalf of National Governors Association.

Here's what these two unrelated reports combined look like to me:

While big business health plans are rolling in the dough, money pouring in from every income source imaginable, investments, fees charged to patients, profits from drugs, whatever, people who can afford it the least -- those with the lowest incomes -- are once again about to get screwed.

Is that the way it should be? I don't think so.

Perhaps this Medicare-for-All idea isn't so wacky after all.

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