Welcome to the Consumer Power Report.
A think tank should be a beacon on a hill, a light guiding elected officials as they steer the ship of state. Policies tend to outlast the tenure of the politicians who enact them. Similarly, think tanks tend to outlast the individuals who first made them influential.
Occasionally, a long-established think tank folds. This is not a sign of failure, although surely its detractors will spin it as one. A lighthouse no longer in use is no failure, as anyone who has visited a lighthouse knows. The moment its light fades, it becomes a monument—not only to its own bright past, but to all other lighthouses.
So it is with the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA), which shut its doors in July 2017 after 34 years of researching and promoting “free-market alternatives to government regulation and control, solving problems by relying on the strength of the competitive, entrepreneurial private sector,” according to NCPA.org.
NCPA’s self-description as promoting “alternatives” to government regulation and control signifies the crisis NCPA was founded to solve in 1983. It implies that too many elected officials, policy wonks, and voters view government regulation and control as the default solution to society’s problems.
Today approximately half the country would like to increase the government’s control over the systems and institutions important to everyday life. Approximately half the world felt this way when NCPA was founded in 1983, in the throes of the Cold War. The Soviet Union and satellite governments trusted central planners to control how money was made, who made it, and how much of it the government would confiscate in its socialist economy.
By contrast, NCPA boasts four landmark policy victories increasing the power individual citizens have over the money they earn—money which is by default their own, not the government’s. NCPA’s website states the following:
“Because of the NCPA idea of Roth IRAs, $265 billion in personal savings has been taxed once and will never be taxed again. …
“Because of the NCPA idea of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), 30 million people are managing some of their own health care dollars. …
“Because of the recommendations of an NCPA/Brookings Institute plan, half of all future 401(k) enrollees will be automatically enrolled in a diversified portfolio enjoying higher and safer returns. …
“Because of NCPA recommendations for Social Security reform, 78 million Baby Boomers will be able to work beyond age 65 without being penalized by Social Security.”
These four NCPA victories rebuke progressive-liberal and socialist-leaning ideologues who think the only people qualified to control people’s money are the people in power.
These victories also rebuke individuals quick to dismiss public policy analysis as abstract. Whether a retiree who worked 30-plus years has money in his retirement account is a concrete matter. So is whether a senior citizen is allowed to keep working without fear of losing Social Security. So is whether families are allowed to pay for each other’s health care needs before paying Uncle Sam.
Unfortunately, the individuals and businesses whose personnel are prospering because of these limitations on government overreach don’t always say “thank you” in the language every think tank must eventually learn: dollars and cents. NCPA’s Board of Directors is fluent:
“The decision to leave the world of think tanks comes after the organization has faced significant financial challenges over the last three years. The incident is not isolated, according to a June 29 article in Exempt Magazine [stating] … ‘more than half of surveyed nonprofits have frequent or chronic budget deficits; 40 percent have fewer than three months of operating reserves; and, 10 percent showed no reserves,'” NCPA’s website states.
For more than three decades, NCPA helped defend the self-evident, unalienable right to property, including the freedom to spend one’s money however one wants. This freedom cuts both ways. People are free not to give back, as the thinkers formerly associated with NCPA well know.
Thus, even in dissolution, NCPA pays tribute to the link between liberty and prosperity—a link NCPA dutifully illuminated. That’s a bright way to pass the torch.
— Michael T. Hamilton ([email protected], @MikeFreeMarket) is a Heartland Institute research fellow and managing editor of Health Care News, author of the weekly Consumer Power Report, and host of the Health Care News Podcast.
IN THIS ISSUE:
What is Christian Healthcare Ministries—and how did they end up getting to the top of Crain’s Largest Nonprofits list so quickly?
The organization didn’t even break the top 30 back in 2010. But much has changed since then.
That year, Congress passed the Affordable Care Act, which requires most adults to buy health insurance or pay a penalty.
Although Christian Healthcare Ministries doesn’t technically provide “insurance,” it does offer a different type of health care coverage that meets the standards of the law (also known as Obamacare). The group is considered a “health cost sharing ministry” where members (Christians, in this case) pay fees that are then used to help other members pay their medical bills.
In 2011, Christian Healthcare Ministries broke into the top 20, but things didn’t really get crazy until 2014, when the individual mandate went into effect.
Since then, the group’s membership has grown substantially and its expenses (mostly consisting of medical reimbursements) have jumped from about $45 million in 2013 to $192 million in 2016 (the nonprofit topped the list last year, too). Expenses are projected to be between $288 million and $331 million in calendar year 2017. The organization submitted the higher number for the list (we accept projections for 2017 figures), but the group later noted that final figures depend on a few factors that remain in flux. One fact that’s not in flux: Membership is up by about 50% over the past 12 months, according to a statement from the organization.
The list is ranked by expenses, which makes Christian Healthcare Ministries look like it’s more than three times larger than the second nonprofit on the list, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Cleveland.
But by employment, Christian Healthcare Ministries is only ranked 31st—which makes sense given that it’s constantly taking payments and sending them right back out. …
SOURCE: Chuck Soder, Crain’s Cleveland Business
These are just two examples of how the rapidly growing field of telehealth or telemedicine can help healthcare facilities increase accessibility to more of their patients. …
Two health organizations in San Diego using this technology are La Maestra Community Health Centers and the Telemedicine Program at UC San Diego Health.
“Telemedicine can help someone who doesn’t have the means financially or otherwise to go to meet with their physician,” said Lisa Moore, project manager for the Telemedicine Program at UCSD Health. “Working parents may need to quickly find out how their child’s doing but can’t make it to their physician. The program provides access to see a physician if they need one. We want health care to be more accessible and convenient for patients.” …
SOURCE: Beth Wood, The San Diego Union-Tribune
A state appeals court has ruled that Wisconsin’s $750,000 cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice actions is facially unconstitutional because it imposes illogical burdens on catastrophically injured patients.
In Mayo v. Wisconsin Injured Patients and Families Compensation Fund, 2014AP2812 (July 5, 2017), a three-judge panel explained that the cap denies equal protection to severely injured victims “who have been awarded damages exceeding the cap, yet always allows full damages to the less severely injured malpractice victims.”
Two judges, Judges Joan Kessler and Kitty Brennan of the District I Appeals Court, found the cap facially unconstitutional. One judge, Judge William Brash III, found the cap unconstitutional, but only as-applied to the plaintiff who was injured.
Ascaris Mayo visited a Milwaukee emergency room and a physician diagnosed her with an infection but did not inform her of the infection or send her off with antibiotics, although she met the criteria for Systematic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (SIRS).
The next day, the untreated infection caused a septic infection, which caused organ failure and dry gangrene that required amputation of all extremities.
Mayo and her husband sued Dr. Wyatt Jaffe and others, alleging medical negligence and a failure to provide proper informed consent. She was not informed of the diagnosis or the availability of antibiotics to treat the condition, but was told to see a specialist. …
SOURCE: Joe Forward, State Bar of Wisconsin
Patients have lukewarm feelings toward price transparency tools, but better education and outreach from providers on these products could increase their use, according to a small study.
Researchers led by a team at Harvard Medical School surveyed 39 patients and found that 17 reported frequent use of pricing tools, 13 used such tools infrequently and nine had never used them. There were a number of barriers to regular use among these patients, the researchers found.
Some simply forgot they could use them, and others found they were not useful. Respondents in rural areas did not use price transparency tools often because of the limited number of providers they could choose from locally, according to the study. Other patients chose not to use price transparency tools because they were loyal to their doctors.
The results suggest that providers can do more to remind patients that price transparency tools are available, and to alert them to the appropriate uses.
“For price transparency tools to be used more effectively, the public needs education and reminders about how, when and why they should price shop,” the study team concluded. “They need reminders about the availability of price data and ideally to be provided with the data at the time of decision making, especially for services that could be defined as shop-able.” …
SOURCE: Paige Minemyer, Fierce Healthcare