Health Care Changes: This Year

According to the White House – how health insurance reform will expand and strengthen coverage:

* This year, children with pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied health insurance coverage. Once the new health insurance exchanges begin in the coming years, pre-existing condition discrimination will become a thing of the past for everyone.

* This year, health care plans will allow young people to remain on their parents’ insurance policy up until their 26th birthday.

* This year, insurance companies will be banned from dropping people from coverage when they get sick, and they will be banned from implementing lifetime caps on coverage. This year, restrictive annual limits on coverage will be banned for certain plans. Under health insurance reform, Americans will be ensured access to the care they need.

* This year, adults who are uninsured because of pre-existing conditions will have access to affordable insurance through a temporary subsidized high-risk pool.

* In the next fiscal year, the bill increases funding for community health centers, so they can treat nearly double the number of patients over the next five years.

* This year, we’ll also establish an independent commission to advise on how best to build the health care workforce and increase the number of nurses, doctors and other professionals to meet our country’s needs. Going forward, we will provide $1.5 billion in funding to support the next generation of doctors, nurses and other primary care practitioners — on top of a $500 million investment from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Health insurance reform will also curb some of the worst insurance industry practices and strengthen consumer protections:
* This year, this bill creates a new, independent appeals process that ensures consumers in new private plans have access to an effective process to appeal decisions made by their insurer.
* This year, discrimination based on salary will be outlawed. New group health plans will be prohibited from establishing any eligibility rules for health care coverage that discriminate in favor of higher-wage employees.

* Beginning this fiscal year, this bill provides funding to states to help establish offices of health insurance consumer assistance in order to help individuals in the process of filing complaints or appeals against insurance companies.

* Starting January 1, 2011, insurers in the individual and small group market will be required to spend 80 percent of their premium dollars on medical services. Insurers in the large group market will be required to spend 85 percent of their premium dollars on medical services. Any insurers who don’t meet those thresholds will be required to provide rebates to their policyholders.

* Starting in 2011, this bill helps states require insurance companies like insurance company in Spring Grove, PA to submit justification for requested premium increases. Any company with excessive or unjustified premium increases may not be able to participate in the new health insurance exchanges.

Reform immediately begins to lower health care costs for American families and small businesses:
* This year, small businesses that choose to offer coverage will begin to receive tax credits of up to 35 percent of premiums to help make employee coverage more affordable.

* This year, new private plans will be required to provide free preventive care: no co-payments and no deductibles for preventive services. And beginning January 1, 2011, Medicare will do the same.

* This year, this bill will provide help for early retirees by creating a temporary re-insurance program to help offset the costs of expensive premiums for employers and retirees age 55-64.

* This year, this bill starts to close the Medicare Part D ‘donut hole’ by providing a $250 rebate to Medicare beneficiaries who hit the gap in prescription drug coverage. And beginning in 2011, the bill institutes a 50% discount on prescription drugs in the ‘donut hole.’

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Politics vs. Policy

It’s thrilling to see Rachel Maddow continue each night to point out the Republican’s hypocrisy in favoring politics over policy – trashing bills that they know have substance and will be good for their constituents. I really enjoy watching her show every day. I think I’ve learned more from it than any other news program on television.

It occurs to me that President Obama is doing something similar with health care, isn’t he? He’s continuing to try bipartisan measures in a congressional climate where they are just not going to be effective, and in doing so jeopardizes the policy that would be good for the American people. Isn’t continuing to reach across the aisle some measure of theatrics, where Obama wants to be seen as the guy who tries to work with everyone? Isn’t it about his image as a man of the people, rather than real reform?

And I don’t think that the tone of politics in Washington can be changed merely by “doing the opposite” of partisan bickering. Swimming against a rising tide is not necessarily the answer. There’s a reason why politics have arrived at the place they’re at right now. It seems to be that standing back and trying to understand why the tide is coming in the way it is right now is the key to fixing that.

It’s true there’s a major logjam in politics right now, but is he there to fix that problem, or is he there to get good legislation on behalf of the American people? It doesn’t seem like he can do both, and it seems like the latter should trump the former on the agenda. You can’t please all of the people all of the time, and in truth, it’s more important to help the American people than to please them – especially when so many people have no idea what they really want, but it’s pretty clear what they need.

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links for 2010-02-01

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Health Care Reform passes Senate

According to

WASHINGTON – Senate Democrats passed a landmark health care bill Thursday that could define President Barack Obama’s legacy and usher in near-universal medical coverage for the first time in the country’s history.You can also see this here.

The 60-39 vote on a cold Christmas Eve morning capped months of arduous negotiations and 24 days of floor debate. It also followed a succession of failures by past congresses to get to this point. Vice President Joe Biden presided as 58 Democrats and two independents voted “yes.” Republicans unanimously voted “no.”
The tally far exceeded the simple majority required for passage.

The Senate’s bill must still be merged with legislation passed by the House before Obama could sign a final bill in the new year. There are significant differences between the two measures but Democrats say they’ve come too far now to fail.

The legislation would ban the insurance industry from denying benefits or charging higher premiums on the basis of pre-existing medical conditions. The Congressional Budget Office predicts the bill will reduce deficits by $130 billion over the next 10 years, an estimate that assumes lawmakers carry through on hundreds of billions of dollars in planned cuts to insurance companies and doctors, hospitals and others who treat Medicare patients.

Like a lot of other Democrats, I’m concerned about this bill and whether the lack of a public option will keep costs down. But it certainly is historic, and I’m not an expert on insurance, so I can only hope for the best.

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I vote for “Not Joe Liberman”

About 2010, here is one thing I can say with certainty. Every cent of every dollar I spend on political contributions in the year 2010 is going to go to whatever Democrat is running against Joe Lieberman in his next election. I don’t care who it is, as long as it isn’t Joe.

According to the New York Times:

The day before, Mr. Lieberman threatened on national television to join the Republicans in blocking the health care bill, President Obama’s chief domestic initiative. Within hours, he was in a meeting at the Capitol with top White House officials.

And on Monday night, Democratic senators emerged from a tense 90-minute closed-door session and suggested that they were on the verge of bowing to Mr. Lieberman’s main demands: that they scrap a plan to let people buy into Medicare beginning at age 55, and scotch even a fallback version of a new government-run health insurance plan, or public option.

At this point, the health care reform bill has been stripped of so many provisions, it’s basically meaningless, and will serve only to help insurance companies — the same carrion birds that have been picking over the corpses of middle America for years now. There’s no point whatsoever in trying for reform. Ridiculous, futile and waste of time.

UPDATE: Howard Dean is apparently calling for the Senate to kill the Senate version of the bill as worthless and to return to the house bill through the reconciliation process. Probably the best idea for retaining some semblance of actual reform.

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links for 2009-09-20

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