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Good News For Consumers, Courtesy Of Late State Rep.

The late Rep. Cathy Harvin of Summerton, S.C.

New S.C. Law Protects Choice Of Doctor For Seriously Ill

By JIM DAVENPORT – Dec 29, 2010
By The Associated Press

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolinians with serious medical conditions get a new benefit Saturday with a health insurance law that bars insurers from charging them more for at least 90 days when they drop doctors from their provider networks.

Health insurers will be required to continue coverage for several months for serious conditions such as cancer, heart disease and pregnancy at no extra cost when their in-network doctors drop out of an insurer’s network. The in-network coverage lasts for 90 days or until the end of the policy’s term, and during that time the insurer cannot impose higher deductibles or premiums. It affects all group or individual health insurance policies in the state.

The bill was pushed by the late state Rep. Cathy Harvin, a Summerton Democrat who died from complications of breast cancer Dec. 4, and was supported by the South Carolina Medical Association. Harvin’s colleagues said doctors being dropped from health insurer’s networks sometimes made Harvin’s own cancer fight more expensive.

“She was penalized because of those very issues,” said Sue Berkowitz, executive director of the advocacy group South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center.

That personal experience drove Harvin to push the legislation, said House Democratic Leader Harry Ott of St. Matthews.

Under current law, consumers can pay higher deductibles and out-of-network charges when an insurer and doctor part ways and the patient wants to continue seeing the same care provider.

Berkowitz said people are caught in the middle. “Why should you be penalized because the insurance company doesn’t want to pay the doctor the rate he says he needs to operate his business?” she said.

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So Much For The Mandate To Repeal Health Care Reform (For Now)

From U.S. New & World Report:

Majority Either Like Health Care Law Or Want It More Liberal

By Robert Schlesinger

Posted: December 29, 2010

You may have noticed the CNN/Opinion Research poll released earlier this week, which had this all too familiar top-line: 54 percent of voters oppose President Obama’s healthcare reform law. But drill down a bit and you’ll find another number familiar to those who have paid attention–but one generally lost amid the noise of the conservative healthcare narrative of backlash against government overreach. Only a relatively small minority of Americans dislike the new law because it’s too liberal.

From the poll:

“Do you oppose that legislation because you think its approach toward health care is too liberal, or because you think it is not liberal enough?”

Favor 43%

Oppose, too liberal 37%

Oppose, not liberal enough 13%

No opinion 7%

Or to put it another way, 56 percent of Americans either like the law or would prefer that it was more robust.

As Steve Benen notes:

So, when you see the top-line results and see that 54% oppose the law, this is not to say that 54% have bought into the right-wing demagoguery and think Republican criticisms have merit. On the contrary, one could look at the same results and say that a 56% majority either support the law or want it to be even more ambitious in a liberal direction.

When Republicans try to gut the Affordable Care Act next year, insisting that the country is with them, it’s worth remembering a pesky detail: they’re wrong.

That said while Democrats can take comfort in poking that hole in the right-wing view of healthcare—and the fact that approval for the law has inched better overall—they should look with concern on the fact that public disapproval is growing against the individual mandate.

That is a place where the GOP may be able to bring along the bulk of the public (who of course don’t realize that the mandate was a Republican idea in the first place).

ACA Imposes Transparency On Premium Rate Hikes

New proposed Affordable Care Act regulations announced today by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will bring new transparency and scrutiny to proposed health insurance rate increases.  These proposed rules allow HHS to work with States to require insurers to publicly disclose and justify unreasonable rate increases.

“Year after year, insurance company profits soar, while Americans pay more for less health care coverage,” said Secretary Sebelius. “The Affordable Care Act is bringing unprecedented transparency and oversight to insurance premiums to help reign in the kind of excessive and unreasonable rate increases that have made insurance unaffordable for so many families.”

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For Mass., Individual Mandate Makes All The Difference

Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 18, 2010; 3:58 PM

Unless someone can drop into Anthony Kennedy’s dreamspace and, “Inception”-style, either figure out what he thinks of the individual mandate or simply tell him what to think of the individual mandate, it’s not worth spending much time speculating on the ultimate legal fate of the provision. The case will eventually make its way to the Supreme Court, and when it does, Kennedy will decide which side has the majority, and until that happens, the various legal decisions are little different from op-ed columns.

So rather than sit around and wonder about a world without an individual mandate, let’s talk about a world that has one. We don’t have to go into hypotheticals to get there. We just have to go to Massachusetts.

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Celebrity Economist Urges Protection Of Medicaid

Ben Stein, economist.

From The Post & Courier:

Stein differs with GOP on care

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Celebrity economist Ben Stein said cuts to Medicaid, including those to take effect in South Carolina in February, are a ‘tremendously, tremendously serious problem.’

Stein, who will be in Charleston next month to speak at a Roper St. Francis Healthcare fundraising event, said he does ‘not agree with my Republican colleagues who say we should drastically cut federal aid to states for stuff like health care.’

State Medicaid cuts have made headlines across the country. In South Carolina, the state Department of Health and Human Services plans to cut Medicaid payments for hospice care and some prescriptions for diabetics beginning in February. Other states have made more drastic cuts. Arizona, for example, has cut Medicaid funding for certain organ transplants.

In an interview with The Post and Courier this week, Stein compared Medicaid cuts with elements of the $858 billion tax cut bill President Barack Obama signed into law Friday.

‘There are some things worse than raising taxes,’ said the former speech writer for Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. ‘One is letting innocent people die.’

Stein also chimed in on Monday’s federal court ruling on the health care overhaul, in which a U.S. district judge in Virginia ruled that requiring all Americans to carry insurance is unconstitutional.

‘It’s not going to stick,’ Stein said. ‘The idea is that the government cannot compel people to buy insurance.’

But that’s already being done: ‘They make people buy car insurance,’ said Stein, who thinks ‘all Americans should have health care,’ but that the federal overhaul has ‘made it way too complicated.’

Stein, whose son attended Presbyterian College in Clinton, lives in Los Angeles. The 66-year-old author, lawyer and university professor also is a popular actor, having played the iconic monotonic high school teacher in the 1986 film ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.’

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PolitiFact’s 2010 Lie Of The Year

Opponents Of Health Care Reform Recognized For Mendacity

By Bill Adair, Angie Drobnic Holan
Published on Thursday, December 16th, 2010 at 11:30 p.m.

The claim that the Democratic health care law is a “government takeover of health care” is our 2010 Lie of the Year.

In the spring of 2009, a Republican strategist settled on a brilliant and powerful attack line for President Barack Obama’s ambitious plan to overhaul America’s health insurance system. Frank Luntz, a consultant famous for his phraseology, urged GOP leaders to call it a “government takeover.”

“Takeovers are like coups,” Luntz wrote in a 28-page memo. “They both lead to dictators and a loss of freedom.”

The line stuck. By the time the health care bill was headed toward passage in early 2010, Obama and congressional Democrats had sanded down their program, dropping the “public option” concept that was derided as too much government intrusion. The law passed in March, with new regulations, but no government-run plan.

But as Republicans smelled serious opportunity in the midterm elections, they didn’t let facts get in the way of a great punchline. And few in the press challenged their frequent assertion that under Obama, the government was going to take over the health care industry.

PolitiFact editors and reporters have chosen “government takeover of health care” as the 2010 Lie of the Year. Uttered by dozens of politicians and pundits, it played an important role in shaping public opinion about the health care plan and was a significant factor in the Democrats’ shellacking in the November elections.

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SC Proposes Cutting Hospice, “The Best, Cheapest Option”

Andy Burriss aburriss@heraldonline.com – – Nurse Jill Ray checks a patient on Monday.

SC Hospices Say Medicaid Cuts Would Be ‘Devastating’

By Andrew Dys – Herald Columnist


Somebody gets “hospice,” they get dignity for the final days, or weeks, and rarely, months.

Yet if proposed cuts in South Carolina’s Medicaid program go through, more than a thousand patients across the state – and their families – will lose hospice care before death.

Dignity will die, as will the patient.

Dignity happened anyway Monday at Hospice & Community Care in Rock Hill, in the room of a lady patient.

Nurses Jill Ray and Marsha Wellmaker and Dr. Amy Robbins went over the life of a woman with words that included “easing suffering” and “grace” and “love.”

They whispered over that woman and acted so gingerly and all their focus was on making the end of life less painful.

It was beautiful.

That beauty at the end of life could soon be cut.

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Sorting Fact From Fiction Re: Health Insurance Premiums

From the nonpartisan, nonprofit Factcheck.org:

The Truth About Health Insurance Premiums

The new law has brought increases for some. But GOP leaders exaggerate.

November 19, 2010


Leading Republicans in Congress are blaming the new health care law for double-digit rate increases being sought by insurance companies in Washington state, New York and Connecticut. But insurance regulators, leading health care experts and the companies themselves mostly blame an old culprit: rising medical costs.

Improved benefits required by the new law are responsible for a relatively small portion of the increases. Furthermore, the increases apply mostly to those buying policies individually, not the majority who get private insurance through employers. Those with employer-provided plans won’t see as much of an increase in premiums, since many of their policies already include the required benefits, a spokesman for an insurance trade association told us.

Some Republicans have claimed the law is responsible for “whopping” premium increases, but they have misrepresented the facts in the process. For example:

  • House Speaker-in-waiting John Boehner said premiums will “skyrocket” because of the law, citing a report on rising premiums by the Kaiser Family Foundation. But the Kaiser report covered increases that took effect before the law was signed.
  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell points to a news story about a Washington insurance provider that blamed premium increases on the health care law. But the state insurance commissioner says the increase had “absolutely nothing to do with health care reform,” and the insurance company later admitted the law is only partly at fault.
  • Both politicians refer to premiums for new plans on the individual market, where only about 6 percent of those with insurance now get their coverage.

Stories about some big increases may come as a shock to those who recall President Barack Obama’s often-repeated promise that the new law would reduce most people’s premiums and bring about lower medical costs — optimistic promises that remain question marks at this point. Still, Republicans go too far when they say the law, rather than rising medical costs, is chiefly responsible for big premium hikes.

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More Pain For The Poor Of South Carolina

SC Medicaid Plan: End Adult Dental, Hospice Care, Etc.

Associated Press

The state’s Medicaid program plans to stop paying for adult dental, vision and hospice services and cut home health visits by a third for the state’s elderly and disabled in February.

Meanwhile, the agency plans to eliminate routine infant circumcisions, cut prescription drug benefits and shoes for diabetics. The reductions even include umbrella and crutch holders for people who use wheelchairs while telling people to use powered wheelchairs for seven years instead of five before they can be replaced.

The state Department of Health and Human Services faces a $228 million deficit and hopes those cuts will help convince the state’s financial oversight board on Tuesday to allow it to operate in the red for the rest of the budget year.

It’s the largest single agency deficit the Budget and Control Board has considered in at least 25 years. Four of the five members on the board chaired by Gov. Mark Sanford have to agree to it.

If it fails, the agency has said it will have to stop all Medicaid payments to doctors and hospitals in March.

It’s a vote that pits health care for more than 836,000 of the state’s poor, disabled and elderly against a cash-strapped state’s ability to pay for services to keep people healthy. And it is a financial gamble for the state: If state revenues don’t grow fast enough, Medicaid’s shortfall would wipe out much of the state’s $347 million cash reserves.

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Small Biz Tax Credits Available – Get Forms Here!

James Rosen | McClatchy Newspapers

last updated: December 03, 2010 04:44:22 PM

WASHINGTON — As many as 58,000 small businesses in South Carolina may qualify for a new federal tax credit for providing health insurance to their employees, the Treasury Department said Friday.

The Internal Revenue Service is sending postcards to the companies, urging them to take advantage of the credit created in the landmark health care bill that President Barack Obama signed into law in March.

If all eligible businesses in the state use the credit starting with their 2010 tax filings, it will save them as much as $574 million in total by 2019, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office — an average discount of almost $10,000 per company.

Companies with fewer than 25 workers who receive average annual wages below $50,000, excluding owners’ salaries, are eligible for a partial tax credit if they provide health insurance.

Those businesses can recoup up to 35 percent of their insurance premium costs.

Smaller companies can recover up to half their premium costs through the tax credit. To qualify for the full credit, they must employ no more than 10 people with an average salary of under $25,000, excluding owners’ compensation.

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