Archive for July, 2012
Two new reports out yesterday continue to knock down President Obama’s promises about Obamacare: his “If you like your plan, you can keep it,” and the promise to significantly shrink the ranks of the uninsured.
According to a new study from consulting firm Deloitte, almost one of out of 10 employers said they are going to drop coverage for their employees because of Obamacare, while another 10 percent said they “remain unsure” about what they are going to do. As the vast majority of Americans have health insurance through their workplaces, this is a huge blow.
Yesterday the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) dealt another blow with its updated outlook on the health care law, as it attempted to integrate the Supreme Court’s ruling into its projections.
Although Obamacare spends more than $1 trillion to get people covered, CBO predicts it will still leave 30 million Americans uninsured, falling far short of what was promised.
CBO’s announcement said that Obamacare could cost less than originally projected—but the reason for the drop was that fewer people will be covered.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s large soda ban has received a lot of media coverage since he first proposed it as a step in his anti-obesity campaign. If only this thirst for health could be considered a sweet victory for all.
Seth Goldman, an entrepreneur in the health drink market, asks Bloomberg in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal to re-consider his proposal. As soon as government begins to meddle, “we [producers] quickly find ourselves considering scenarios that are not based on market realities or consumer needs.”
The ban will affect the size of products that Goldman’s company, Honest Tea, can provide. Because companies like Honest Tea serve a niche market, it will be much more expensive to adjust to the government’s arbitrary limits on size than it would be for a larger company.
Earlier today, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released an updated cost estimate for Obamacare that showed that the law will cost less over 10 years than last predicted—because fewer people will be covered.
Now, although Obamacare spends more than $1 trillion, CBO predicts it will leave 30 million Americans uninsured, falling far short of what was promised.
The reason for the changes to the law’s cost projection is the recent Supreme Court ruling. Though the Court allowed Obamacare’s individual mandate to stand as a tax, it deemed a separate provision—the Medicaid expansion—to be unconstitutional. As a result, states can choose not to expand their Medicaid programs and are no longer at risk of losing all their federal Medicaid dollars if they don’t. As Heritage health policy expert Nina Owcharenko explains, “If the Administration’s attempt to centralize health care decision making in Washington was unworkable, its unconstitutional imposition on the states has made its problems even worse.”
The Supreme Court upheld Obamacare’s individual mandate to purchase health insurance, but it also struck down part of the law. That part—forcing states to expand their Medicaid programs—offers governors some much-needed relief.
Expanding Medicaid, the government health insurance program for the poor and disabled, was one of President Obama’s main ways to increase the number of insured people through Obamacare. This was no magic solution for the uninsured, especially since Medicaid is in need of reform, not expansion.
States’ share of the cost of Medicaid is already crushing state budgets. “In the past decade, Medicaid spending has increased at nearly twice the rate of states’ tax revenue,” according to a new report.
The only ways to expand Medicaid are to raise taxes, cut other state programs, or slash health care providers’ reimbursements in Medicaid even more. And so far, the majority of America’s governors have not committed to making the expansion.*
Governor Bob McDonnell (R–VA) sent a letter to President Obama on behalf of the Republican Governors Association: “Before making any final policy decisions,” he explained, “governors must carefully consider the short and long-term implications of an expanded entitlement program and the consequences of significantly increasing the size of government to manage these programs.” The question of a Medicaid expansion faces every state, including Democratic governors who are still on the fence.
Health Care News
Last week, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) sent a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius raising questions over her legal authority to spend $8.3 billion on a quality bonus payment demonstration for Medicare Advantage (MA) plans.
The demo was the most expensive project ever undertaken by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and GAO concluded that it will be unsuccessful at improving quality and reducing costs.
Thus far, CMS has offered no response to the challenge of its legal authority. Section 402 of the Social Security Amendment of 1967 allows the Secretary to “modify methods of payment under Medicare to establish additional incentives to increase the economy and efficiency of services provided under the program by carrying out experiments and demonstration projects.”
Health Care News
Lawrence Baker, a Vietnam veteran, thought he was going to die as a drug addict. As an on-and-off user for the past 50 years, Baker had been incarcerated several times. It was only until his latest arrest in 2006 at Cook County Jail in the Chicago suburbs that he decided to stop using drugs. After his release, Baker was determined to maintain his drug-free status.
That’s where Catholic Charities stepped in to help. Baker went to Cooke’s Manor, a home operated by Catholic Charities for men recovering from addiction to drugs and alcohol.
“This is one of the best places I’ve ever been,” Baker recounted in story featured on Catholic Charities’ website. “This place is one of the reasons I’m doing so well.”
Baker is now working to get his driver’s license back. He attends self-help groups and has a sponsor to support his sobriety. He’s also in touch with his two children and four grandchildren.
“I want to be a role model to my grandchildren,” he said, “so when my name comes up they can be proud of me.”
It must be a tough job defending Obamacare, but someone’s got to do it. This week, that someone is Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, who wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post.
A Decrease in Health Care Costs? Not So Fast
Sebelius says national health expenditures have increased only by about 4 percent annually over the past two years, significantly less than in previous years.
Sure—health care costs did, in fact, slow somewhat over the last few years. But the trend started before Obamacare even became law. The real reason for slowed growth in health care costs, as Administration officials themselves explain, is the poor economic climate.
Now that the House has voted to repeal Obamacare, what happens next with H.R. 6079?
The “Repeal of ObamaCare Act” will go to the Senate for consideration. If Senators take a few simple actions, they can force a debate and recorded vote in the Senate this year. They might even be able to pass it, although unlikely because of the minority party’s aversion to hardball politics.
How to get it to the floor: Once the Senate receives the “Repeal of ObamaCare Act” from the House of Representatives, it is expected that a conservative Senator will use the Senate’s rules to force a vote. A Senator can use Rule 14 of the Senate’s rules to object to a second reading of the bill. This objection would place the House-passed Obamacare repeal bill in a position for debate on a motion to proceed to the bill and a roll-call vote on whether the Senate should consider the measure.
Legislation to repeal Obamacare under consideration in the House today makes clear in two significant findings the massive health care law’s threat to religious liberty, conscience rights, and the protection of human life:
(7) While President Obama promised that nothing in the law would fund elective abortion, the law expands the role of the Federal Government in funding and facilitating abortion and plans that cover abortion. The law appropriates billions of dollars in new funding without explicitly prohibiting the use of these funds for abortion, and it provides Federal subsidies for health plans covering elective abortions. Moreover, the law effectively forces millions of individuals to personally pay a separate abortion premium in violation of their sincerely held religious, ethical, or moral beliefs.
(8) Until enactment of the law, the Federal Government has not sought to impose specific coverage or care requirements that infringe on the rights of conscience of insurers, purchasers of insurance, plan sponsors, beneficiaries, and other stakeholders, such as individual or institutional health care providers. The law creates a new nationwide requirement for health plans to cover “essential health benefits” and “preventive services”, but does not allow stakeholders to opt out of covering items or services to which they have a religious or moral objection, in violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (Public Law 103–141). By creating new barriers to health insurance and causing the loss of existing insurance arrangements, these inflexible mandates jeopardize the ability of institutions and individuals to exercise their rights of conscience and their ability to freely participate in the health insurance and health care marketplace.
As a result, Obamacare’s multiple threats to religious liberty, rights of conscience, and the protection of human life remain.
Today, the House of Representatives is scheduled to take a vote—its second—to fully repeal Obamacare. House Speaker John Boehner (R–OH) said it best: “We will not flinch from our resolve to make sure this law is repealed in its entirety.”
Repealing the massive law may seem like a tall order, but the history of health policy shows that it can be done. As research by Heritage Foundation health policy expert Bob Moffit concludes, “Based on Washington’s record of health policymaking, ending or rolling back Obamacare is hardly implausible.” Moffit points to the repeal of the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act of 1988 and President Bill Clinton’s failed attempts at reform in 1994.
As Moffit explains, the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act of 1988 was originally enacted with bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, but it was repealed one year later. It was the disapproval of the American people that drove the law’s removal. President Clinton’s 1,342-page health reform plan of 1994 was initially so popular that its enactment was considered inevitable, but it later collapsed on the Senate floor. Again, it was the growing opposition of the public that changed the course of health policy.
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