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What The Debt Deal Means For Health Reform

10:40 AM ET, 08/04/2011

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For a law regularly at the center of controversy, there was surprisingly little talk of the health care reform law during the debt ceiling debate. It certainly factored into some discussions — House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) reportedly pushed for the individual mandate’s repeal as a trigger — but the issue never emerged as a deal breaker. That’s a big difference from the budget debate in April, where Republicans demanded a defunding vote as one of their must-have items.

Health policy analysts are still digging through the 74-page debt deal, and are starting to come to a few important conclusions about how it would effect the health care law. The general takeaway: if the trigger goes off, the law comes out a little bruised, but relatively unscathed. But no one knows what the Supercommittee will do.

Legislators have not shied away from using reform funds as an offset: they financed the last doc-fix, for example, by shaving off some funds to the health insurance tax credit. The Gang of Six would have repealed health reform’s longterm health insurance plan, the CLASS Act, to save $86 billion; Republicans have repeatedly voted to defund the health reform law’s $15 billion Preventive Health Fund. It’s changes like these, on the table heading into the next round of the deficit debate, that have the most potential for a serious impact on the Affordable Care Act’s future.

If the Supercommittee does not come up with enough savings, and the trigger cuts go into effect, the Affordable Care Act comes out in relatively decent shape. Medicaid, which will expand up to 133 percent of the Federal Poverty Line in 2014, is shielded from the trigger. So are most of the provisions to cover the cost of insurance premiums for lower -income Americans. Since the funds are provided as refundable income tax credits, they also can’t be touched. Continue reading

Increasing The Medicare Eligibility Age: A Smaller Bargain

From Politico:

By JENNIFER HABERKORN | 7/28/11 12:41 PM EDT

President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner failed to strike a “grand bargain” on the nation’s deficit, but they may have pulled off another trick: revolutionizing the debate over Medicare.

When they both accepted the idea of increasing the Medicare eligibility age to 67, they gave a controversial idea more legitimacy and high-profile support than it’s ever gotten before.

The White House’s Fiscal Commission, led by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, listed the idea of raising the eligibility age with the likes of such dramatic structural changes as the public option, block grants or an all-payer system. Alice Rivlin and former Sen. Pete Domenici didn’t even bring up the idea in their deficit report. And the top Democrats in both the House and Senate brushed aside the concept just last month.

But now the idea of raising the eligibility age has gotten the support of Obama and Boehner. While the age change is not expected to be part of the latest debt ceiling compromises, the idea is now likely to be a permanent fixture in the Medicare debate and, someday, to become a reality.

The idea has been loosely supported by Republicans in the past. Continue reading

Hypocrisy Alert: The GOP’s Jilted Individual Mandate

By Noam N. Levey

Washington Bureau

May 28, 2011

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Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has renounced it. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich says he doesn’t believe in it anymore. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman has brushed off suggestions he even considered it.

As the three have discovered, there is hardly a bigger black mark against a Republican presidential candidate today than the hint of past support for requiring Americans to get health insurance — as President Obama‘s new healthcare law mandates.

But Republicans were not always so hostile. Until the healthcare law passed last year, requiring medical insurance had a long history as a mainstream GOP idea.

It was promoted by conservative policy experts at places like the Heritage Foundation more than 20 years ago. In the 1990s, the concept was championed by Republicans on Capitol Hill.

And it was ultimately implemented by Romney in Massachusetts; in 2006 he became the first elected official from either party to sign a mandate into law.

“I still don’t see what the objection is to the idea that people should not be allowed to run around without at least some basic health insurance,” said Mark Pauly, a conservative health economist at the University of Pennsylvania‘s Wharton School.

Emphasizing personal responsibility, Pauly and other conservatives have argued that the uninsured incur medical bills as other Americans do; the tab is just picked up by someone else. Continue reading

Rep. Paul Ryan’s Medicare Plan Vs. Affordable Care Act

From The White House Blog:

No Comparison

Posted by Stephanie Cutter on April 27, 2011 at 05:40 PM EDT

Earlier this week, Speaker John Boehner said Rep. Ryan’s plan to privatize Medicare “transforms Medicare into a plan that’s very similar to the President’s own health care bill.” This comparison is deeply flawed. Here’s why:

No Guaranteed Coverage

The Congressional Republican plan privatizes Medicare, ending the program as we know it. Insurance companies would be under no obligation to offer insurance to seniors, so many older Americans could be left with no insurance at all.

The Affordable Care Act preserves Medicare and improves it by making prevention and prescription drugs more affordable, lowering its costs, and improving the quality of care. And health reform extends the life of the Medicare Trust Fund and helps ensure Medicare will continue to provide coverage to seniors in the decades to come.

Get Older, Pay More

The Republican plan repeals Medicare’s current policy where seniors are not charged more because of their age. Under the Republican plan, seniors could be forced to pay more for their health care every year, simply because they’ve grown older.
Continue reading

How The Big “Obamacare” Lie Drowned Out The Truth

From Mother Jones:

Illustration: Steve Brodner

The secret campaign behind the phrase “government takeover of health care.”

By David Corn

IN THE SPRING of 2009, as the titanic fight over President Barack Obama’s health care proposal was beginning, Frank Luntz—an infamous Republican consultant who specializes in the language of politics—drew up a confidential 28-page report (PDF) for congressional GOPers on how they could confront, and defeat, Obama on this crucial issue. He suggested that they use a particular phrase: “Government takeover of health care.” And they did. Again and again, for the entire months-long debate. During one Meet the Press appearance, Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), then the House minority leader, referred to Obama’s plan as a “government takeover” five times (without once being challenged).

It was a clear falsehood. Obama’s system relies on private insurance and the market—especially after he abandoned a public option—albeit with additional government regulation. PolitiFact.com, a fact-checking site operated by the St. Petersburg Times, declared Luntz’s formulation the “Lie of the Year” of 2010. (Luntz didn’t have to make an acceptance speech.) Yet the line stuck. A Bloomberg poll conducted as Congress approved the legislation found that 53 percent of American adults believed it amounted “to a government takeover.” A USA Today/Gallup survey indicated that 65 percent thought the new law would expand government’s role in health care “too much.” Several months later, a Gallup poll found that 10 percent selected “government involvement in health care” as the No. 1 health care problem facing the nation—over access or cost. In 2008, only 1 percent had cited government interference as the top problem.

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House Backs Repeal Of Healthcare Reform

By Donna Smith

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Republican-led House of Representatives passed legislation that would repeal President Barack Obama’s landmark healthcare reform law on Wednesday in a mostly symbolic move likely to be scuttled in the Senate.

The House voted 245-189 to approve the Republican bill that would scrap the law, which was passed by Congress last year after a bitter debate and signed by Obama when his fellow Democrats still controlled both the House and Senate.

The unified House Republicans were joined by three Democrats in backing the bill, which also needs Senate passage but is unlikely to get it. The Senate remains under Democratic control and is not expected to take up the repeal legislation.

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10 Ways Healthcare Repeal Would Harm Children

From Huffington Post:

By Bruce Lesley and Lisa Shapiro

Posted: January 8, 2011 10:50 AM

As is the ritual in Washington every two years, this week Congress began a new legislative session with Republican John Boehner (R-OH) holding the Speaker’s gavel. In remarks opening the 112th Session, Speaker Boehner recognized the enormous challenges of our times, including the staggering national unemployment rate and mounting federal budget deficit. Boehner also acknowledged that health care costs are continuing to rise for families and small businesses. Boehner told the new class of lawmakers, “Hard work and tough decisions will be required of the 112th Congress. No longer can we fall short.”

On this we agree.

However, in light of this call to action it is disappointing that repealing health reform is at the top of Speaker Boehner’s agenda for the new Congress. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, health reform will not only reduce the budget deficit in the next ten years by more than $100 billion, it also will ensure that an estimated 32 million Americans who are uninsured or underinsured can get high quality, affordable health coverage they can rely on. Investing in our children’s health is investing in America’s future. When we help children grow and succeed, we are paving the way for our country’s next generation of workers and leaders to fulfill the American Dream.

While there are a wide array of opinions about health care reform and its impact, it is indisputable that our nation’s children, especially low-income children and those with special health care needs, are better off today because of the new law. Repealing health reform would be devastating for these the millions children and families who already are or soon will benefit from this historic legislation. Why? Here are 10 key reasons:

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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

Summary

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.

Continue reading

Factcheck.org Goes In-Depth On Anti-ACA Distortions

From factcheck.org:

The Truth About Health Insurance Premiums

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

November 19, 2010

Summary

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.

Continue reading

Guess Who Loves The Individual Mandate, Big Profits?

It’s a political pickle, all right. The same health insurance goliaths that secretly bankrolled  anti-Obama campaigns in the midterm elections, while publicly proclaiming cooperation with the White House, now have to persuade their politicians to lay off the individual mandate, no matter what their Tea Party supporters say.

From Bloomberg Businessweek:

By Drew Armstrong

When the White House and Democratic lawmakers wrote the health-care overhaul bill, they concocted a sweet coating for the bitter medicine the health industry would have to swallow. In exchange for tighter regulation and numerous new directives, insurers, drugmakers, hospitals, and physicians got some 30 million new paying customers under the individual mandate requiring almost everyone to buy insurance starting in 2014 or pay a fine.

The individual mandate is now under attack in the courts and on Capitol Hill by Republicans, libertarians, and Tea Party enthusiasts who call it an affront to personal liberty. The industry, however, views it as the bedrock supporting the entire health reform law and is lobbying to keep it. The prospect of a vastly bigger market has helped spark a 7.4 percent rise since Jan. 1 in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Managed Health Care Index of publicly traded health-care companies.

For insurers, eliminating millions of potential customers while keeping other aspects of the overhaul would be a “nuclear nightmare,” says Robert Laszewski, president of Health Policy and Strategy Associates, a consulting firm that works with insurers. It would leave insurers without the extra revenue to cover higher costs from the law’s ban on the denial of coverage to people with pre-existing conditions or charging sicker patients higher premiums. “It’s the No. 1 lobby issue in the insurance industry right now,” says Laszewski.

Continue reading