Monday, March 22, 2010

If all Americans can get health insurance, life as we know it will never be the same...oh, wait

A funny thing happened this morning...the sun rose like it always has, there was no armegeddon overnight and since the religious zealots haven't mentioned anything, I guess it's pretty safe to say that hell didn't freeze over. Why is this so shocking? Because the Health Care Reform bill passed in the Congress last night with a gavel strike by *gasp* Speaker Nancy Pelosi! I've been mostly quiet about this because it's a very complex issue with complicated language, daily changes and with all the posturing from both sides, I wasn't comfortable putting my thoughts on the blog without complete confidence that all my facts were lined up. One thing I am sure about, when private insurance companies start randomly raising rates by as much as 40%, it was clear that the situation needed to be addressed. Today, a list of the top 18 immediate changes were listed on Huffington Post and I think it's important to point them out since Republicans are already promising to repeal this law once they regain power. After reading these new laws, I hope the GOP really is dumb enough to run on that platform. I think it's a bit misleading for them to keep pointing out that 52% of the country is against this bill. Statistically, that might be true, but at least half of those don't think the bill went far enough, not that we didn't want to see changes to the status quo. And because I've listened with interest to Wendell Potter, the former Cigna executive-turned-whistleblower and Dr. Howard Dean who managed to get universal coverage for children in Vermont under his Governorship, that this at least gets our foot in the door I would say our 26% + the already established support from 48% gives the Dems a 74% to 26% advantage!

  • Health Insurers cannot deny children health insurance because of pre-existing conditions. A ban on the discrimination in adults will take effect in 2014.
  • Businesses with fewer than 50 employees will get tax credits covering up to 50% of employee premiums.
  • Seniors will get a rebate to fill the so-called "donut hole" in Medicare drug coverage, which severely limits prescription medication coverage expenditures over $2,700. As of next year, 50 percent of the donut hole will be filled.
  • The cut-off age for young adults to continue to be covered by their parents' health insurance rises to the age 26.
  • Lifetime caps on the amount of insurance an individual can have will be banned. Annual caps will be limited, and banned in 2014.
  • A temporary high-risk pool will be set up to cover adults with pre-existing conditions. Health care exchanges will eliminate the program in 2014.
  • New plans must cover checkups and other preventative care without co-pays. All plans will be affected by 2018.
  • Insurance companies can no longer cut someone when he or she gets sick.
  • Insurers must now reveal how much money is spent on overhead.
  • Any new plan must now implement an appeals process for coverage determinations and claims.
  • New screening procedures will be implemented to help eliminate health insurance fraud and waste.
  • Medicare payment protections will be extended to small rural hospitals and other health care facilities that have a small number of Medicare patients.
  • Non-profit Blue Cross organizations will be required to maintain a medical loss ratio -- money spent on procedures over money incoming -- of 85 percent or higher to take advantage of IRS tax benefits.
  • Chain restaurants will be required to provide a "nutrient content disclosure statement" alongside their items. Expect to see calories listed both on in-store and drive-through menus of fast-food restaurants sometime soon.
  • The bill establishes a temporary program for companies that provide early retiree health benefits for those ages 55‐64 in order to help reduce the often-expensive cost of that coverage.
  • A two‐year temporary credit (up to a maximum of $1 billion) is in the bill to encourage investment in new therapies for the prevention and treatement of diseases.
  • The Secretary of Health and Human Services will set up a new Web site to make it easy for Americans in any state to seek out affordable health insurance options The site will also include helpful information for small businesses.
  • A ten percent tax will be imposed on indoor tanning services. This tax, which replaced the proposed tax on cosmetic surgery, would be effective for services on or after July 1, 2010.
I'm pretty sure that last one is the one that really makes orange Minority Speaker John Boehners blood boil. The nerve of those sneaky Democrats sneaking this into a health care reform bill just to spite him!

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