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Archive for March, 2011

Will Health Care Reform Be Repealed Following GOP Gains?

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

So Be ItHouse Republicans, who are recovering control, are taking aim at health care reform. Their ultimate goal is to dismantle or repeal legislation.

Although House Republicans have a historic and broad majority, they have challenging obstacles to overcome in order to deliver on their top campaign promise, which is to dismantle or repeal comprehensive health care reform. The Republican attack against health care is largely due to the health mandate (a requirement that individuals must purchase health insurance if they have none – or face penalties), and state health exchanges (which require states to set up health insurance marketplaces).

Health Repeal Must Make it Past the Democrat-heavy Senate

A direct repeal must make it past the Senate, which is currently controlled by the Democrats, and even more forbiddingly a Democratic president in the Oval Office, who has personally made health care reform a number one priority. Unfortunately, the Republicans do not hold the two-thirds majority that they need in both Houses in order to have the power to overthrow a veto by the president.

On the contrary, an outright repeal may very well be the first vote on the floor, following the vote for Speaker, when Congress comes together at the beginning of the next year.

GOP Speaker Boehner says Health Reform Kills Jobs

At a recent press briefing for GOP leaders, presumptive House Speaker and Republican Representative John Boehner of Ohio said, “The health-care bill that was enacted by the current Congress will kill jobs in America, ruin the best health-care system in the world, and bankrupt our country.” He went on to say, “That means that we have to do everything we can to try to repeal this bill and replace it with common-sense reforms that will bring down the cost of health insurance.”

President Barack Obama is standing his ground on the new health care law. In a recent press briefing, he said, “I’m sure this is an issue that will come up in discussions with Republican leadership, but I think we’d be misreading the election if we thought that the American people want to see us for the next two years re-litigate arguments that we had over the last two years.”

Creative Commons License photo credit: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

Will Voters’ Voices be Heard on Health Reform?

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

Voter CardDepending on which exit poll you read, the primary issue that drew the voters to the polling booth was the startling and unprecedented growth of government that has occurred in the last two years. And, while the issue of jobs and the economy were foremost in most voters’ minds, as many as 45% of those polled say it was the health care reform law that tipped the scales for them because it symbolizes the uncontrolled encroachment of government into their lives.

Other polls and surveys are more pointed in their assessment of the public sentiment towards Obamacare.  A pre-election survey conducted by Rasmussen shows that 59% of Americans are in favor of repealing the law.  But, a closer study of the actual election results paints the darkest picture of the electorates disdain for Obamacare and anyone who dared support it.

Voters Cleaned House on Health Reform Mandate

Of course, the Democrats who cast their votes for the health care law took the brunt of voter backlash with nearly 90 losing their House seats and six losing their Senate seats. The lone Republican House member who cast his vote for Obamacare was also defeated.

More telling are some of the results of some of the local elections. The voters in two states, Arizona and Oklahoma passed constitutional amendments that are aimed at stopping the individual mandate from taking effect in those states.  And, with six new Republican governors elected, we can expect the number of states challenging Obamacare in the courts, currently numbering 22, will increase to somewhere near 29.

Obamacare was a defining issue for voters on the opposite side of the issue bringing out those who feel that the new measure needs to be supported and even expanded.  They represent a small minority of voters, approximately 19% who feel the Obamacare is good for America. Another 8% feel that it doesn’t go far enough.

Reading the Voters’ Tea Leaves Regarding Health Insurance

So what can we expect to happen with Obamacare after the voters have spoken?  The Republicans are using the election results to support their contention of a mandate to repeal it. Democrats are spinning the results to their contention that the voter mandate is not to repeal it, rather that they want Congress to work in a cooperative, bipartisan fashion to address the many ills of the country.  With each party controlling one of the houses of Congress, we should count on little in the way of bipartisanship on this issue.

Still, Republicans plan on taking the fight to the House floor by forcing vote after vote on actions to repeal. They’ll get shot down in the Senate, but at least their voices and the voices of at least 59% of the voters will be heard.  They will also chip away the law with attempts to defund specific components that come up for funding. They can also bury certain parts of the bill in committee hearings that could prevent them from seeing the light of day for a long while.

There is a still a lot to be decided in the courts as well, as at least one of the lawsuits brought by the states continues to move forward.  There will more. In the meantime, bits and pieces of the health care reform law continue to take effect. Thus far, there has been little in the way of positive effects that could possibly change the public’s sentiment.  In fact, the more they see, the less they like it.  It’s going to be a very interesting, if not entertaining next 24 months.

Creative Commons License photo credit: j_bary

Government and Health Insurance Rate Increases

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

Increases on RatesThe recent announcement by the federal government that it will require health insurers to seek its approval for any “unreasonable” rate increases continues to put the squeeze on health insurers as they try to adjust their business models to cope with the pressures of Obamacare. While these attempts at health insurance price controls may seem like a good idea to consumers, their net effect could be the erosion of access to medical services that may no longer be covered by insurers.

This latest announcement from the Department of Health and Human Services comes on the heels of its warning to insurers last summer that high premium increases could result in their exclusion from the insurance exchanges. Since the passage of the health care law last December, most major insurers, in direct response to the new law, have increased premiums or proposed plans to do so, some in excess of 35%.

Obamacare: Your Insurance Rates Will Go Down. Really?

These immediate rate increases and predictions of more to come are not the response that the Obama administration wanted to see at a time when it still is trying to convince the public that the health care law will result in lower premiums. Such has not been the case, and all indications are that insurers will continue to press for premium increases as more of the law’s provisions go into effect.

premiums

The new requirements will establish a state and federal oversight of insurers rate increase proposals on individual and small group plans that exceed 10%, above which may be deemed as “unreasonable” unless otherwise justified by the insurer. If an insurer demonstrates a pattern of excessive premium increases, the state may exclude it from the insurance exchange. The federal government reserves the right to step in if it determines that the state’s review was not sufficient.

Insurance Rates vs Coverage – Something Has to Give

As the government steps up its oversight and keeps its downward pressure on premium rates, the insurers will be forced to cut their costs, which means the possible elimination of certain covered services and treatments. Within the first 9 months of the law’s enactment, insurers have already dropped maternity coverage, child-only policies, and mental health coverage. For consumers, they may benefit from caps on premium increases; however, their access to medical services may suffer as a result.

The tug of war going on between the insurers and the federal government over insurance premium rates will do little to address the core issue of reigning in medical costs. Rising insurance premium rates are merely a symptom of the much larger, structural problems of the health care system that have resulted in the world’s highest medical costs.