Anticipating Healthcare Challenges

February 1, 2012

The latest Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) report on US healthcare spending showed some surprising information: healthcare spending in the US increased at the slowest rate in half a century between 2009 and 2010. CMS analysts attributed the slowdown in spending to our ailing economy. While the rate of growth remained low at 3.9% in 2010, that rate of growth was still more than twice the general inflation rate. And total spending climbed to $2.6 trillion or 17% of the nation’s total GDP.

Many have pointed to the “slow” rate of growth as a real positive, that finally Americans are not seeking care that is not really medically necessary. They say that in a time when the economy isn’t great and many are pressed financially, we are making good choices about when to see a doctor and when to let nature run its course or find alternative means of healing.

The pessimists among them – and I will tip my hand and say that I’m biased toward this group – claim that many low- and middle-income Americans are actually foregoing care they truly need. One day, these same people may be hospitalized or show up at their doctor’s office acutely sick, and their care will either be picked up by their health plan (assuming they acquire insurance), some form of Medicaid, or be uncompensated.  The downturn in the US economy in the past few years has left millions of Americans unemployed, uninsured or underinsured, short of dollars beyond taking care of the real basics like food and housing, and therefore unable or unwilling to spend money on their healthcare.  These same Americans, due to poor diet, high levels of stress, and more taxing physical labor in their jobs when they are working, suffer at higher rates from chronic pain and diseases that only worsen if not properly cared for.

At MPTF, we saw visits to our health centers increase by roughly 5% in 2011. This is a positive trend and an indication, at least for now, that our industry members are still able to access health insurance and take advantage of the wonderful benefits offered by the many multi-employer plans. But as we roll into 2012, like everyone else, we are concerned that the higher milestones for eligibility will begin to erode the number of insured in our industry and create a situation similar to the one I previously described: uninsured or underinsured industry members denying themselves basic health care for some period of time and then, perhaps, returning to the industry health plans with untreated medical conditions, or worse.

Our Bridge to Health plan was designed, in part, to deal with this situation.  While it is specifically focused on urgent care (as opposed to “regular” doctor visits), it targets uninsured or underinsured industry members with inexpensive doctor visits, including radiology and labs. Through our Industry Advantage Insurance Services, we are also able to work with industry members to find health insurance plans that fit their financial and health requirements. And for those who need to lean on us for financial support related to health insurance premiums, our social service staff is available to review eligibility and expedite payments.

This is what makes MPTF so integral to the entertainment industry. We’re not just residential care, long-term care, palliative care, health centers, community care teams, Age Well, and social services – we are all of those and more and we are looking out for the future welfare of industry members like you.

About Bob Beitcher

Bob Beitcher is the President and CEO of the Motion Picture & Television Fund. He has been a senior executive in the entertainment industry for 30 years, having held leadership roles at Jim Henson Productions, Paramount Pictures, Panavision and MacAndrews & Forbes Media Group. Bob has been an MPTF board member since 2007. He became interim CEO in 2010 and was named permanent CEO in 2011.

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