Two Perspectives on the Health Care Reform Bill
The following articles present opposing views of the new Healthcare reform bill. The first presents primarily the best known features and benefits that have also formed the talking points for numerous media sources and people in favor of the legislation. The second presents a summary of some of the less discussed, but nonetheless real side effects and buried details of the bill and also suggests a practical alternative that would provide needed reform without creating a new massive federal bureaucracy.
February 1, 2011
ObamaCare: What is and isn't Included in Obama's Health Care Reform Bill
Massive controversy was spurred when President Barack Obama first announced his plan to implement health care reform in the United States. Pundits like Glenn Beck fanned the flames with unsubstantiated speculations about death panels, euthanasia, and abortion procedures being included in the bill. With all the misconceptions floating around it can be confusing to know what is and isn't part of the reform. The purpose of this article is to clear up some of the confusion surrounding health care reform.
The reform itself actually consists of two different bills. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act went into effect on March 23, 2010 and was amended just a week later on March 30 by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010. The provisions of these bills will be implemented over the course of four years in different phases. The overall purpose of the reform is to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of health care while making it more affordable and expanding coverage to 32 million Americans who are currently uninsured.
Most major changes to health care as we know it go into effect in 2014:
Medicaid eligibility will be expanded to include those making up to 133% of the federal poverty level, or FPL for short. (A one person household is under the poverty line in the U.S. If they make under $10,830 annually.)
In 2014, States will be required to expand Medicaid to include childless adults.
Also in 2014, the Federal Government will pay for 100% of costs for covering newly eligible people until 2016.
Illegal immigrants, however, are not eligible for Medicaid.
Anyone who still does not have health insurance coverage will have to pay a fine but by that time, many provisions will be in place to make health insurance cheaper, especially to those at or below the poverty line.
Most importantly, insurance companies will no longer be able to deny or increase costs sick patience or those with pre-existing conditions. (This provision went into effect for children six months after the bill was enacted.)
The bills will also force insurance companies to exclude lifetime and annual caps as well as to stop excluding payments for necessary care.
No health care plan has to include abortion coverage. Whether or not federal funds can be allocated to cover abortions is entirely up to the states. There is currently a push to include an amendment restricting federal funds from paying for abortions at all unless giving birth would endanger the life of the mother or if the pregnancy resulted from rape.
Contrary to what misinformed pundits on either end of the political spectrum may believe, there are no provisions in the bill that would authorize the government to make life or death decisions for citizens. Euthanasia and assisted suicide are highly illegal - you don't have to worry about para-military groups showing up at your grandmother's house.
February 1, 2011
Obamacare—no boon for Americans
As one with a "pre-existing" condition, which occurred after 30 years of paying into the private insurance system, I agree that we all need access to affordable health care insurance – but at what cost? What's the best alternative? Are the only two choices: a private insurance system that wants to take our premiums for decades, then dump us when we need the promised "benefit", or the new health care reform bill that creates a government-controlled system where the real costs are hidden by taxes elsewhere that pay for a massive new bureaucracy? Buried in the text of the health care bill, there are over 150 new departments and agencies, not to mention the reported 16,000 new IRS agents. Is all this required just to cover an additional 10% of our population, many of whom could buy insurance today if their priorities were in order?
The pros and cons of the House and Senate passed bill are unevenly divided among a handful of benefits—touted as valuable progress by those who advocate universal health care—and the overwhelming facts of the costs to the American economy and the loss of freedom of choice that will be the ultimate result, in spite of Obama's promises to the contrary.
One of the greatest concerns Americans have with Obamacare is that the centralization of power, especially in the FDA, will bring more politics, less science and common sense to our health care – and the loss of alternative medicine.
According to a 2005 Ohio State University report, studies in 2000 and 2002 revealed about 62% of American adults receiving alternative medical treatments – and 71% of older adults. In my state, naturopathic doctors (N.D.’s) are not recognized - but my M.D. can, and does, treat his patients using naturopathic and other alternative methods. And if I want to go to another state to see an N.D., I can. The FDA has been trying to shut down alternative medicine almost since its inception over 100 years ago. And they've been trying for decades to obtain the same control over vitamins and minerals that they have over prescription drugs. The FDA is so out of control – allowing deadly drugs to continue killing people while harassing doctors who are saving lives - that there are some health related organizations calling for its elimination. Obamacare’s centralized command and control, on the other hand, will certainly include more power for the FDA – and more restrictions in our health care options.
Obamacare gives bureaucrats in Washington the power to determine what is acceptable medical care. Given prior FDA history, is this the beginning of the end of alternative medicine? Are we Americans who receive alternative treatments now to suffer and die earlier in order to support even more “FDA approved” medicine? Modern medicine is full of FDA approved fad treatments that have made billions of dollars for the medical establishment, only to be withdrawn once the lawyers started suing over all the death and suffering that resulted.
Alternative medicine, on the other hand—which is only "alternative" because it doesn't involve poisonous drugs and life threatening, often unnecessary surgeries—involves tried and true, medically effective and radically cheaper treatments that the FDA and mainstream medical industry would like to eliminate because of their inability to make massive profit.
The top down control is evident in any astute health care bill overview, if a person only takes the time to truly think about the implications: private Insurance policies can include only “approved” coverage – doctors can only practice “approved” medicine—approved by those put in charge by Obama—people who were put in place without Congressional approval, but who will control what care Americans receive—or are denied. Will alternative medicine finally be eliminated, as the FDA has wished for a century?
The primary question in the debate should be: What’s the most efficient way to provide the needed services? Is it a taxpayer-funded bureaucracy that gives the Federal Government unconstitutional control over one of the most important aspects of American lives—something Obama vehemently but untruthfully denied; is it a privately owned system that struggles to make a profit, sometimes at customer expense - or is there a better way?
There already exists a better, in fact a very successful, alternative: it’s a co-op system, such as that proposed by Senator Kent Conrad. Co-ops are customer owned, customer funded, non-profit organizations. Any excess profits are returned to the customer-owners. It's a common sense solution that has worked well in other industries, at low cost to customers and taxpayers alike. Consumers across the country obtain electricity, car and home loans, and insurance, through co-op’s. In many states (including Senator Conrad's), farmers and other groups can already get health insurance from co-op’s. Why not expand a system that already works efficiently, rather than try a new boondoggle that has proven itself in Massachusetts and around the world to be overly expensive, possibly bankrupting, and ultimately resulting in long waiting periods and even lack of care?
Our Constitution leaves things like health care and insurance regulation to the States. Thus the States could easily capture the benefits contained in the New Health Care Reform Bill by setting up full-service insurance co-ops to provide services, including the high risk pools (for those with pre-existing conditions) that already exist in 35 states, long-term care, health, life, homeowners', auto, etc. They could provide a discount on the high risk insurance for those who purchase other products from the co-op, and high deductible HSA accounts should be offered. Also, small businesses should be able to participate by forwarding (and contributing to the cost if they so desire) the premium payments to the co-op for their employees, keeping the policies individual for portability. The co-op could still give a group discount to these individuals.
The states should also allow cross-state transfer of policies (co-op and private company) so that customers would have more freedom to move from state to state. The states, along with private companies, could also pool their purchasing power to reduce drug and other medical costs.
Finally, Congress should enact tort reform, specifically putting a cap on lawsuits and prohibiting frivolous lawsuits.