- Politics and Social Issues
Health Care Q & A
How is this health care bill going to affect me?
This is the question on everyone’s mind these days. The question, however, can not be answered completely due to the fact that the bill has not reached its final draft. We don’t know what little gems they may slip in there at the last moment. Add to that, the Senate Bill and the House Bill are two very different bills and will need to be reconciled into one. The outlook for that looks to be time consuming and full of heated debate. We have all read about the short cuts being used to attempt a quick result. The Senate threatens a reconciliation process and the House is working on the Slaughter Solution but neither of those short cuts are a viable solution nor a solid foundation on which to build a good health care plan that will benefit all Americans
Let’s attempt to look at some of the most asked questions regarding specifics of this bill that will directly affect you, your family and your finances.
1. How much is this going to cost us?
As far as the individual costs, the dollar amount that each family has to pay has not been calculated but the Congressional Budget Office, CBO, is using figures that are on average the same amount that insurance companies are charging now for family coverage. The amount that the whole plan is going to cost is a hotly debated issue. The CBO just released the latest figures on March 11, 2010 putting the cost at $875 Billion over the next 10 years. The new provisions in the bill are estimated at an additional $94 Billion. The Obama administration has promised that taxes will not be raised on the middle class to pay for this however; those making over $350,000 a year will pay a surcharge, including seniors.
2. What is the public option and is it included in the bill?
The public option is a government health insurance policy and is not included in the plan now in front of Congress. The government would be the insurer and the public would be the insured. The insured (you) would pay premiums to the insurer (government) just like one would pay for insurance from an insurance company. It would be modeled after the Medicare which as we all know, is broke. The public option would be in direct competition to the insurance companies in hopes of keeping the insurance companies from continually raising rates and lowering coverage. Folks that are unable to pay the premiums required by insurance companies could buy into the public option, with those whose earnings are below whatever the poverty threshold ends up being, would be subsidized by the government. Fees and services under the public option would be regulated just like Medicare/ Medicaid now. Medicare, at this point, loses something close to $150 million PER DAY to waste, fraud and abuse. In a massive power shift, the Secretary of HHS would take over insurance regulation from the states and would define qualified plans, what they cover, what they should cost, and who should be covered. Competition and choice, the president's favorite buzz words, will disappear as HHS becomes the focal point of central planning for health care. Obama campaigned on the promise of a public option. He has stated many times that his preference is for a single payer program, which would eliminate the insurance companies altogether and the government alone would take care of all your medical needs. The public option would be a big step toward his goal of socialized medicine.
3. Are Death Panels really in this bill?
No, there are not ‘death panels,’ per se, written into the health care bill. But imbedded in the bill is an Independent Medical Advisory Board. In developing their recommendations, this Board shall take into account innovation in health care and consider how such standards could reduce health disparities. Their objective is to cut the growth in Medicare spending within a set budget. As the Wall Street Journal describes it:
“The various health bills stipulate that Congress will arbitrarily decide how much to spend on health care for seniors every year-and then invest an unelected board with extraordinary powers to dictate what is covered ...
The core problem with government-run health care is that it doesn't make decisions in the best interests of patients, but in the best interests of government.”
Health-care reform “will not be pain free.” Seniors are being told that they should be more accepting of the conditions that come with age instead of treating them. That means the elderly will bear the brunt.
4. Are illegal immigrants covered in this bill and who pays for them?
Yes, all citizens of the U.S. and all non-citizens residing in the United States will be covered under the new health care plan, illegal or otherwise. No special deals are mentioned for any illegal status. All persons will be required by law to participate in some form of plan under the new guidelines. For low income families, subsidies will be available.
5. Will the government have access to my bank account?
The only access would be if you set up an electronic bank transfer much like an automated debit from your checking account for your premium payments. Most Americans already have this set up for tax purposes using the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System . The scary part comes in by the panel set up to determine your eligibility for subsidies and enforcement issues of premiums, penalties and taxes as they do not have any plan of action written on that yet.
6. Do I have to get a National Health Care Card?
The bill does not stipulate clearly whether everyone would have to possess a health identification card, but indications are that a national health care card would be favorable to this administration. Under the guise of health care this ID may be the national ID card the Democrats have been angling for. Language in the House bill and provisions in a committee-passed Senate bill would require some kind of national tracking system because both bills mandate health insurance coverage for all Americans. The bill sets out the goals for electronic health recording. It says one goal should be real-time confirmation of which services a person qualifies for and how much they will have to pay. That could be achieved by machine-readable beneficiary cards, according to the legislative language. But the legislation does not require the cards.
Opponents of a National Card state the Senate bill includes a line that would "establish a national health plan identifier system," requiring "every entity providing health insurance" to send to the government the name, address and taxpayer identification number in addition to "such other information as the secretary may prescribe," including all health related matters.
7. Can I keep my own doctor?
This is a question that has bothered seniors the most. Under the current plan, you can keep your doctor and your current insurance plan. However, your insurance company and your doctor will be subject to a whole new set of regulations and fee schedules. Many doctors will opt out of the plans that do not meet their fee schedules by not accepting any new Medicare/Medicaid patients, just as we have seen in the past. Circumstances brought about by this monstrous health care plan may alter existing plans and existing coverage that may make you want to switch policies or even insurance companies and then keeping your own doctor may not be an option.
8. If passed, when will this health care plan take affect?
The language in both bills is very confusing for most people and hard to understand. The regulations to the insurance companies will be phased in over the next few years. The taxes and fees which the American people pay will start immediately. The implementation and benefits of the plan will not start for three years. The Exchange will not be open until 2014. With the addition of student loans and other earmarks attached to this bill, the actual date of activation for many of the aspects of this bill will be amended.
9. What is not covered under the proposed health care plan?
The list of items not covered is just too long to list here. However, two of the better known items that are not mentioned in the bill are tort reform and the issue of state boundaries for insurance companies. Another item, not even mentioned in the bill, which affects seniors as well as millions of other people, is chronic disease. Chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes are the leading cause of death and disability. According to major health care studies, 80% of health care costs right now are spent on chronic disease.
10. What don’t I know about this bill?
Although not specifically spelled out in the health care bill because the language is quite vague, is the idea of “complete lives system .” This lays out the argument that only the most productive deserve the best health care. What ever guidelines are ultimately chosen, someone has to make to make those choices. Sure, under our system now, these decisions are being made by some entity at every insurance company. Under the health care reform now proposed, that power and those decisions, will shift from the insurance companies to the government. The ideas set forth seem to favor the youngest and the most useful in society.
According to the Robert Woods Foundation, "The impact of the reform legislation will affect every facet of our health system. It will address how people get coverage, how health care is delivered, and how health care is paid for."
The concept of health care reform is something most Americans are interested in. We would all like to slow the growth of medical costs while improving coverage. Unfortunately, the current health care bill is just a monstrous take over plan with very little real reform involved. The government has been in control of Medicare/Medicaid for many years. These programs are the only coverage many people have. The government has proven over and over again that are incapable of running either program so why would anyone give them even more control?