The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather

    Excerpt:

    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower

    Excerpt:

    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships

    Excerpt:

    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

7 months ago

When it comes to health care, one-size-fits-all benefits none

(C. Cannon/Contributed)

Alabamans face enough challenges when it comes to accessing high-quality, comprehensive health care — particularly in our many rural communities where families are more likely to be uninsured or underinsured. While the promise of Medicare for All or a public option may sound alluring, these kinds of government-controlled health care insurance systems would likely only make it that much harder for patients in need to access and afford the vital care they need.

According to a recent study released by FTI Consulting, introducing a public option to “compete” on the ACA’s health care exchanges would eventually crowd out the individual insurance marketplace and force millions of Americans off their private insurance. In fact, the study found that after the introduction of the public option “20 percent of state marketplaces would no longer offer a single private insurance option by 2028.” By 2050, that figure would grow to nearly 70%, “representing nearly a quarter of marketplace enrollees.”

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The study also found that within the first year following the introduction of a public option, “over 130,000 Americans enrolled in ACA coverage would be forced off of their existing health care plan.” Over a decade, that figure would swell to up to 2 million, and by the end of that decade, over 7 million Americans would no longer have access to private health insurance. Instead of giving patients more options, the study found that the public option would reduce choices and force Americans into a one-size-fits-all government health insurance system.

As someone who has worked in the health care insurance industry for 16 years, I can attest to the fact that one-size-fits-all rarely works when it comes to health care coverage. That is part of the reason that policymakers should be working to strengthen and protect the current blend of private coverage, employer-sponsored plans, and government programs like Medicare and Medicaid that currently provide so much flexibility for patients.

Instead of supporting this level of choice and flexibility, a public option or Medicare for All system would only lead to higher costs for hardworking American families, less access for and a lower quality of care, and less control over the doctors and treatments that would be covered for patients in need. Patients would end up spending more for poorer health care outcomes as private and employer-sponsored premiums rise because the public option or Medicare for All system would slash payments to doctors, forcing providers to shift those costs to those in the private market. This is no way to solve America’s health care woes.

Instead, we need to consider innovative ways to bring care directly to the underserved populations and rural areas while lowering health care costs in Alabama and across the country. Services such as telemedicine and direct primary care (DPC) allow more Alabamians to get access to the primary care services they need even if they lack existing insurance coverage. Since much of the state’s rural areas do not have access to adequate internet, Alabama must improve broadband access in these areas to even offer services like telemedicine. By offering mobile health services, patients are able to access healthcare services at a lower cost than face-to-face consultations.

I have said it before and will say it again—our health care system may not be a perfect one, but with the passage the Affordable Care Act (ACA), it is one in which roughly 290 million Americans have access to health care coverage, including essential benefits. The path forward should not be to scrap all the progress we have made, but to continue to build upon, improve and strengthen the ACA through practical reforms that will help lower costs and expand coverage to more Americans who need it.

Ultimately, it is through these small, but practical policy improvements — like continuing to expand Medicaid in the states that have yet to do so, increasing federal subsidies to help working-class Americans not covered by their employers afford coverage, reprioritizing education around enrollment periods and offering innovative ways to bring telemedicine to rural and underserved areas — that we can strengthen our health care system. That’s what legislators should be focusing on instead of pushing for absolute governmental control over our health care insurance system.

Curtis Cannon is a board member and speaker for Employee Benefit Advisors and Managing Partner of Axis Recovery, a healthcare consulting firm in Alabama.

11 months ago

Real-world solutions to expand coverage, lower costs in health care

(C. Cannon/Contributed)

While the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is not perfect, it has helped create a system in which more Americans have access to comprehensive health care coverage than ever before. The next steps from a policy standpoint should be to continue improving upon the ACA in order to expand coverage while bringing down costs, particularly for patients who already face higher hurdles to getting the care they need —including working families that are uninsured or underinsured.

That is what makes recent discussions regarding an array of policy proposals — including single-payer, the public option, Medicare for All, or Medicare “buy-in” — so disconcerting. As someone who works with local, rural physicians to connect these patients with the health care services and treatments they need, I fear any one of these proposals would take us down a road to government-controlled health care that could undermine all the progress we are making to provide quality care for those who need it most.

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In my current role, I am specifically focused on supporting initiatives that provide affordable, high-quality health care to working families and local businesses. Securing, protecting, and improving employer-sponsored health insurance coverage is a critical part of that mission. Supporting a move toward a more government-centric model of health care insurance runs counter to that effort and would have a tremendous, negative impact not only on employee-sponsored plans, but on patients and health care facilities, particularly in rural parts of Alabama and the rest of the country.

The fact is, a government-run health care insurance system would eventually eliminate any private or employer-base plans currently on the market. Even just introducing a public option would make it nearly impossible for private and employer-sponsored plans to compete. How could they when their “competitor” has the full financial backing of the federal government without any of the traditional overhead costs of private insurance companies? Eventually, only the government option would remain, and fewer options have never yielded lower costs or increased quality for consumers in any sector.

Moreover, a government-run health care insurance system could potentially be detrimental for patient access to care, quality, and affordability—especially for Alabamans and all Americans living in rural communities. A recent study found that offering a government insurance program like the public option, which would reimburse hospitals and other providers at Medicare levels, could put up to 55% of America’s rural hospitals “at high risk of closure.”

That represents more than 1,000 rural hospitals in 46 states that provide upwards of 420,000 much-needed, highly skilled jobs. Even for those facilities that are not placed at such high risks of closure, a public option could “negatively impact access to and quality of care” by forcing hospitals to potentially eliminate services or reduce staff, the study found.

Moreover, the economic toll that threatening America’s rural hospitals would have on rural Alabama is reason enough to avoid any government-run health care scheme. For many rural communities, here in Alabama and across the country, local hospitals are often the largest source of jobs and economic stimulus around. Undermining those contributions would threaten the strength of local economies nationwide.

When it comes to government-controlled health care, the risks are simply not worth the rewards. Rather than chasing unrealistic fantasies of uprooting and eliminating the ACA in favor of Medicare for All, a public option, or single-payer, policymakers and candidates running for president should focus on ways we can make practical improvements to our health care system. Ultimately, that is how we will be able to bring costs down while ensuring all Americans have access to quality, affordable and comprehensive health care coverage.

Curtis Cannon is a board member and speaker for Employee Benefit Advisors and managing partner of Axis Recovery, a healthcare consulting firm in Alabama.