Sunday, March 28, 2010

Health Care Reform: The Morning After

Guest post from Barbara O'Brien at The Mahablog

Many politicians and pundits warned us that the health care reform (HCR) legislation that just became law will destroy America. Government bureaucrats will take over health care decisions, we were told. The old and infirm would be hauled away by death panels. Everything about the way we receive our medical care will change, and change drastically, they said.

Medicare recipients have been frightened by stories that their benefits will be cut. Middle-age people are worried they will lose their jobs when the law’s dreaded regulations, or taxes, or maybe regulations with taxes, would destroy their employers’ businesses.

The truth is, very little will change for most people. If you were insured by employee benefits before HCR, you will be insured by exactly the same policy in exactly the same way after HCR. You will have access to the same doctors on the same terms. “Government bureaucrats” will no more be involved in your health care than they were before.

And the same is true of Medicare, which of course is a government program, although many of the people who opposed the HCR bill don’t seem to know that.

Here are the “cataclysmic” changes to health care that are now in effect, or which will go into effect within the next six months for people who are already in group insurance plans:

• The law says you can’t lose your insurance coverage because you get sick. Before, in many states, if you were stricken with a severe illness such as mesothelioma cancer that would be expensive to treat, your insurer could use just about any excuse to cancel your coverage. That is over.

• HCR has ended lifetime limits on coverage. As long as you are receiving medical care, your insurer pays the bills.

• Your children can be covered on your existing policy until they are 26 years old.

• In six months, insurers cannot refuse to insure people under the age of 19 because of “pre-existing conditions.” This provision will go into effect for everyone in 2014.

And if you are on Medicare, you will be asked to struggle with the following:

• You get a free annual checkup.

• The co-pays and deductibles on many preventive care services are eliminated.

• If you are in the Medicare D “doughnut hole,” you will get a $250 rebate check in a few weeks. The hole itself will be closed gradually and will be gone by 2020.

But what about all those terrible regulations and taxes that are about to drive businesses out of business? Um, there really isn’t much to report. Oh, wait, here’s one — a 10 percent tax on indoor tanning services that use ultraviolet lamps will go into effect July 1. That’s about it.

However, beginning this year a tax credit will be available for some small businesses to help provide insurance coverage for employees.

Soon the politicians and pundits will start trying to frighten you about the provisions that will go into effect after this year. I assure you they are about as scary as the provisions that go into effect this year, but I will discuss them in a follow-up post.

— Barbara O’Brien


Anonymous said...

Okay, let me play devils advocate here:

85% of Americans have health insurance/medical coverage.

At issue is the 15% that do not. Now, how many of these 15% are older and eligible for Medicare and not getting it? How many of them are poor and not getting Medicad.

How many of them are young people? How many of them are people with serious health conditions and have been denied coverage?

We just do not know. Now, to start we have allowed people with kids to cover these kids under their plans till they are 26...that will cost nothing.

Pre existing conditions? Who knows, but we do know that the impact will be down the road awhiles as the treatment starts.

So, while we are switching over and opening a new market for health insurers (the uninsured)the biggest issue I have is the fact that their is no cap on premiums and or profits.

When you give insurers 30 million new customers and you have no way of knowing what kind of experience these bring to a company then of course insurers are going to go with worst case scenario....

What if these 30 million are all young people who have no conditions? If insurers have assumed worst case scenario then they are going to make a killing!

What happens if these 30 million are all real sick and require life long treatment? Then the health insurers will be coming back looking for a handout...or raising our premiums every month...

I also would have liked to seen some mechanism to begin making healthcare more affordable and more efficient....which was not touched in this bill.

Anonymous said...

There are unintended consequences of the health care plan which will continue to surface as time goes on. For now, the $100m in extra costs borne by Caterpillar, among potentially thousands of other companies which will incur at least some extra costs, are enough to give pause:

Baltazar said...

This is just the start of something big...We don't realy know what will happen...How about World War Three...Thats more likely than any of the stuff that gets mentioned.



Here are the facts:

Catepillar and AT&T provide prescription drug benefits to their retirees, under the Medicare Prescription Drug bill they received a subsidy of 28% of their costs from the federal government....

They also received a tax rebate of 100% of their costs....which means while the drug benefits they provided only cost them 72% because of the subsidy they were able to deduct 100% of the costs...

That works out to a 28% gift and a 28% bonus.

Under the new plan they will still get their subsidy but they can only deduct 72% of the cost...because the truth is their expense is actually ONLY 72%!

Anonymous said...

Chairman Tao,

The federal subsidy for retirees and spouses is taxed under the new plan. This changes the math considerably. See WSJ article referenced above