Tag Archive: Jonathan Gruber

Why medical care payment reform is a wicked problem

“You can have a picture of what the final system would look like,” says Katharine London of the University of Massachusetts, coauthor of a series of studies of a Vermont single-payer plan that eventually was abandoned. “But the biggest hurdle for single-payer is how you get from here to there.” That journey involves persuading voters that the system they’re so enthusiastic about in the abstract will function to their advantage in reality. That’s a hard task. “People by and large like the health insurance they have,” in part because most people have limited or infrequent interactions with the healthcare system, Gruber says. “They’re not willing to give up something they like enough for something unknown.”

Source: The challenges in setting up a California single-payer system are daunting — but not insurmountable – LA Times

Jonathan Gruber –who consulted on the drafting of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — is right on the money in his analysis. The pie chart below showing all forms of medical coverage in the nation’s largest state illustrates why medical care payment reform is such a wicked problem. Yes, it’s byzantine with all those slices of the pie covering different groups of people. But the people covered within each slice are generally satisfied with their coverage and thus not inclined to give up their slice in order to put everyone into one big pie of single payer where a governmental entity would pay all medical bills. That especially applies to employer group medical benefit plans that provide the bulk of private sector coverage to those under age 65.


Public sources account for 71% of healthcare revenues in California, including 60% from federal progSource: UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. Public Funds Account for Over 70 Percent of Health Care Spending In California. August 31, 2016.

Need a speaker or webinar presenter on the Affordable Care Act and the outlook for health care reform? Contact Pilot Healthcare Strategies Principal Fred Pilot by email fpilot@pilothealthstrategies.com or call 530-295-1473. 

Gruber warns of increased tendency toward cost shifting between health and workers’ compensation systems

The trend toward less generous employer-sponsored health coverage and increased employee cost sharing has increased the exposure of the workers’ compensation system to cost shifting, warns Jonathan Gruber. Gruber was the architect of the Massachusetts Health Connector a decade ago that served as the template for the health benefit exchange and individual and small group market reforms of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Cost shifting between the two systems occurs when, for example, an employee who sustains an injury or illness over the weekend and then files a workers’ compensation claim on Monday, asserting that the injury or illness originates in the workplace.

Heightening the tendency toward cost shifting is the difference in provider access between health and workers’ compensation insurance, Gruber notes, arguing that the two forms of coverage require greater harmonization. “If the workers’ compensation system stays behind, it will have the broadest possible network and the lowest possible cost-sharing, and it’s going to have people migrating into it more and more,” Gruber said in remarks to the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) in Boston reported by the Insurance Journal.

In 2007, then-California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed as part of his health care overhaul (based on Gruber’s Massachusetts’s model) a “24-Hour coverage” pilot program that would have combined the medical treatment component of workers’ compensation with group health coverage. State and local government employees would obtain medical care through the same providers used in a state run managed care program for work and non-work-related health care, with an option for private employers to participate on a limited basis.

According to a report prepared that year by the California Commission on Health and Safety and Workers’ Compensation, at least 10 states adopted legislation permitting 24-hour care pilots but only two — Oregon and California – implemented them. Merging medical treatment coverage for care needs arising out either vocational or non-vocational circumstances can potentially reduce frictional costs and achieve administrative efficiencies, but has proven problematic due to various legal, institutional and cultural impediments.


Need a speaker or webinar presenter on the Affordable Care Act and the outlook for health care reform? Contact Pilot Healthcare Strategies Principal Fred Pilot by email fpilot@pilothealthstrategies.com or call 530-295-1473. 

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