What IS the story so far with so-called healthcare reform being concocted by politicians in Washington DC? This post is intended to shed a little light on that. Recent polls reported in the news this week suggest most Americans support healthcare reform in Washington. But it also says that a majority of Americans are wary of the government meddling in these matters and that most are very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with their current healthcare arrangements. Those opinions seem to be at odds with each other. On the Sunday morning talk shows for example, George Will and others on ABC’s This Week were saying the public is largely in the dark about what is being proposed and may withdraw their support once Congress actually discloses the details on their proposal.
Last week Congress was involved with markup of the legislation and boasted they had dispensed with many amendments proposed and either passed or rejected them. Later it was reported they might spend the rest of the coming week finishing the markup. In the meantime the CBO scoring was released on the draft proposal of the bill with some startling conclusions as reported here and elsewhere earlier. Many thought the 1 to 1.6 trillion dollar price tag was excessive. Even more disturbing was the projection that about 50 million ‘non elderly’ individuals would be uninsured at the start of 2010 and 54 million would be at the end while a gain of insured would only increase by 10 million. So much for covering 95% of the population with this bill. But there are other significant obstacles with this government program as there are with many of them.
A transcript of the unveiling of this so-called healthcare reform provided the following statement from the Democrats involved. ‘President Obama’s asked us to draft the reform bill that will control cost, guarantee choice, and ensure quality and affordable health care coverage for all Americans.’ Since individuals would be required to obtain coverage or face a penalty the ‘guarantee choice’ element already seems in doubt. As for controlling costs, the CBO scoring, even with an incomplete proposal and certain caveats on the estimates, currently forecasts ‘On a preliminary basis, CBO and the JCT staff estimate that the major provisions in title I of the Affordable Health Choices Act affecting health insurance coverage would result in a net increase in federal deficits of about $1.0 trillion for fiscal years 2010 through 2019’ That doesn’t bode well for government meddling in healthcare. And the Americans polled by WSJ/NBC and NYT/CBS stated they were more concerned about deficits and government spending than boosting the economy or bailouts. That is why this blog suggests the polling result suggesting most Americans support government healthcare will not maintain that attitude once they understand what is being proposed.
Another note on guaranteeing choice is provided by the CBO report. This healthcare act would ‘Delegate authority to a Medical Advisory Council to establish minimum requirements for covered health benefits and to determine the level of coverage that individuals would need to obtain in order to qualify as having insurance.’ There’s another choice in selecting coverage that won’t be guaranteed. You have to have coverage to avoid a penalty and the government will tell you what the definition of coverage is.
And on the other side of the equation is at least one obstacle the insurers face. You may not feel that is your concern but essentially we’re all in this together if it is run by the government so yes, it is something that should concern you. ‘Require insurers to maintain a minimum level of medical claims paid relative to premium revenues (otherwise known as a “medical loss ratio”), or to repay certain amounts to policyholders; the HHS Secretary would have the authority to set the minimum medical loss ratio.’ Is it not enough that the government has spent your and your descendants money on bailouts, pork barrel spending and buying into private sector companies but now they will put you in debt for another trillion per year and tell the insurance companies how much they have to lose in a free market as well as what defines insurance coverage and quality care for you and your family?
If you are among the reported ‘most Americans’ who support government healthcare do you still feel that way after reading this post? This has just been a taste of what you can expect from Washington on healthcare reform and more will be posted here in the days ahead. You might want to express your concern to your elected representatives on this issue. Or you can just pay your share of a trillion per year and pass the rest on to your future generations as a little present. BTW, as legislation usually works the estimates are often a conservative forecast and changes will drive up costs even more.