Whatís twenty-seven hundred pages long, has zero bipartisan support, and represents the largest government social services expansion since Medicare? Oh, and lest we not forget, what wasnít read by one member of Congress in its entirety before passing the bill. Yes, you guessed it, itís our new Health Care bill.
Twenty-four hours after its passage, states began assembling their legal teams in order to sue the Federal government. Apparently the states are going to be saddled with enormous costs as a result of this bill. What started out as a good idea, reforming some of the glitches in the health care system has turned into something that has divided the country in ways never before seen.
As I researched the Health Care bill for this article, one thing became abundantly clear, itís expensive, confusing, complex, and will change the health care system as we know it. It will also, over the coming years, be challenged in court by individuals, states, and companies.
Letís take a look at the pros and cons of the bill.
The Huffington Post compiled a list of the top seventeen immediate effects of the Health Care bill. Highlights include
the following. First, the new plan will end the practice of denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions, and insurance companies will not be able to cancel an existing plan when an individual gets sick. They now also must cover preventive health care, must show what they pay for overhead expenses and all new plans must have an appeal process for patients. †
Seniors will get a rebate covering gaps in their prescription drug program and young adults will have coverage through their parentís insurance through age 26. Early retirees, age 55-64 will be covered in a new temporary program. Other immediate changes include a 10% tax on tanning salons, new screening to help prevent fraud, and Medicare availability in small rural hospitals. †
Chain restaurants will be required to post nutrient-content disclosure statements, better consumer information will be available on the web and a temporary credit will be set up to encourage investment in new therapies.
On the downside, the negatives can be summed up by those opposed to the bill as leading to more taxes, higher costs, more government control, and less individual freedom. According to one watchdog website: ďA cursory reading of the bill exposes 19 new taxes or tax increases.Ē
Although the majority of the big changes in the bill wonít kick-in until 2014 ó after the next presidential election cycle ó certain aspects of the bill will begin immediately. For example, states will be required to set up emergency insurance pools for those with pre-existing conditions who canít find a reasonably priced insurance through regular channels. This comes at a time when the majority of states are in debt and cutting their budgets across the board.
Many tax increases will take effect in the coming months. We can expect to see a Medicare tax increase, an excise tax on ďCadillacĒ health plans, an increase in health industry fees and excise taxes, and a limiting of medical expense deductions. When you couple these tax increases with the expiration of George Bushís tax cuts, which cause dividend and capital gains taxes to go up substantially, you have many economists more than a little concerned.
Many of the benefits touted come with an unacknowledged price. For example, plans covering preventive health care, or the pre-existing coverage clause, will force insurance companies to raise rates. Obviously, we can expect insurance premiums to go up, thereís no getting around it.
Also, about 5% of Americans (15 million) wonít be covered under this bill for various reasons, religious (Amish), etc. †And, there are an estimated 15 million illegal immigrants in the country who wonít be covered. This totals at least thirty million people not covered under this bill. Who will pay the tab when these people show up at the emergency room? Did I mention that this bill isnít well thought out?
I think itís fair to say that words like billions and trillions have no meaning when it comes to government spending. If Congress wants to do something, they just do it whether itís billions to bail out auto companies or trillions to add to the national debt. Roughly speaking, the new bill is going to cost a trillion dollars. To pay for this bill, Medicare will be cut by a half a trillion dollars on one end, and taxes will be raised a half a trillion dollars on the other end. This is happening at the same time that †baby boomers are about ready to enter the ranks of retirement and Medicare by the droves.
All government estimates as to costs notoriously fall short. For example, when the prescription drug program was enacted by congress in 2006, its estimated costs were to be a half a trillion dollars over a decade. In four short years, those costs have sky rocketed five-fold. Why should the new Health Care bill be any different?
The Health Care bill will also shift billions of dollars of costs for Medicaid to the states, at a time when states, like California, are teetering on bankruptcy.
The Health Care bill represents politics at its worst. In order to get an uncommitted elected official on-board with a bill that many disagreed with, there were bribes galore. Many Democrats who knew they would be voted out of office (for voting yes), were told they would be given ambassadorships, or other high governmental posts if their yes vote caused them to lose an election.
The 180-degree turn around vote by Dennis Kucinich is an egregious example of the flawed process. At first, he called the bill †ďcorrupt and harmful to the people of his district.Ē Twenty-four hours before the bill was passed, Dennis Kucinich was given a ride on Air Force One, and miraculously decided to vote for the bill.
The Health Care bill is going to be in the news and in the courts for months, perhaps years to come. And, it will undoubtedly influence mid-term elections. I suspect aspects of the Health Care bill will even make their way up to the Supreme court.
Some argue the Health Care bill is a step in the right direction, others say itís a step in the wrong direction. I suppose it all comes down to one question: do you support increased government involvement in health care? With passions high on each side of the issue, the lines have definitely been drawn.
Robert Ross can be reached at: SanDiegoRoss@Yahoo.com
Copyright © 2010 by Robert Ross, all rights reserved