Wednesday, December 30, 2009

H.R. 3590

On December 24, 2009 the Senate approved it's version of the health care reform bill. Now the differences between the House and Senate versions need to be resolved so that one version can be presented to President Obama. Some of the differences according to Humana Health Insurance are:

•Abortion: The House version includes stricter language designed to prohibit the use of federal funds for abortion coverage, except in cases of rape, incest or when the mother’s life is in danger. That helped appease House conservatives, but abortion was even more of a make-or-break issue in the Senate, so that chamber’s slightly milder language could win out.

•Taxes: The House and Senate bills would fund health reform in entirely different ways. The House bill would tax individuals making more than $500,000 a year and families making more than $1 million. The Senate bill would tax so-called “Cadillac” or high-cost health plans – an idea opposed by labor unions and many House Democrats. The Senate version would also impose annual fees on health insurers starting at $2 billion in 2011 and going up to $10 billion in 2017.

•Public plan: The House bill includes a government-run plan that progressives fought hard to include. Instead of a government-run plan, the Senate version would instruct the federal Office of Personnel Management to contract with private insurers to offer at least two national health plans for individuals and small businesses. One of those plans would have to be nonprofit. Conventional wisdom says the final, combined bill will not include a public plan, but House leaders could seek other tweaks in exchange for dropping the idea. Possibilities include increasing federal subsidies to help low- and middle-income people afford coverage, creating a single, national insurance exchange instead of one in each state, or introducing those exchanges earlier – in 2013, a year earlier than the Senate bill stipulates.

•Medicare Advantage: Each bill would cut funding for the Medicare Advantage program, but the amount differs substantially. The House bill includes cuts of $170 billion over ten years. The Senate bill would trim reimbursements by $118 billion over the same ten-year period.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

NAHU & Health Care

This came from the National Association of Health Underwriters

On Saturday, December 19, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) released his manager's
amendment to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2009, or H.R. 3590. This
383-page amendment, which makes substantial changes to the 2000+ bill, has only been available
for Senators and the American people to read and digest since Saturday morning.

Over the course of the weekend, through a series of deals with various Senators, the Democratic
leadership secured the 60 votes they needed to move forward with the legislation on the Senate
floor. At about 1:15 a.m. on Monday, December 21, the Senate voted 60-40 on a cloture vote
on the manager's amendment to H.R. 3590. This vote sets the Senate procedural clock hurling
toward an eventual vote on the entire reform bill later this week. No opportunity will be allowed
for our Senators to debate or make changes to the manager's amendment between now and then.

The need to pass a health care reform bill before Christmas is an artificial deadline, and it does
not give our Senators enough time to read and thoroughly debate this $878 trillion dollar bill that
will dramatically impact all Americans and 1/6 of our nation's economy. Unless a Democratic
Senator agrees to switch his or her vote and oppose the overall bill, H.R. 3590 will pass this
week and a conference committee with the House will begin in the New Year.

NAHU has many concerns with H.R. 3590 as currently structured, as it contains many elements
that will only serve to drive up private health insurance costs significantly for millions of Americans
families and businesses. Instead of passing this flawed measure under a compressed time-frame
during a holiday week, we need to encourage our Senators to instead work together on a
bipartisan basis to develop an affordable and responsible means of achieving the needed reforms
to our nation's health care delivery system.

Monday, December 21, 2009

More Health Reform News!

According to the Washington AP here is an update on the health care legislation that is going on in Washington right now. Washington is trying to push the vote through before Christmas. A time when most Americans are only thinking of the holidays.

The legislation represented the culmination of a year's work for Democrats, pressed by President Barack Obama to remake the nation's health care system. Sadly this reform will only make insurance more expensive for those who have it.

Under Senate rules, Democrats needed 60 votes on three separate occasions to pass the measure. While it looked like this many not happen for while things feel in to place and Democrats were able to secure the 60 votes they needed.

Democrats hoped Republicans would relent in the face of a clear 60-vote majority, but if GOP critics choose to do so, they could delay a final vote on the bill until early Christmas Eve.

The House has already passed legislation, and attempts to work out a compromise are expected to begin in the days after Christmas.

The Senate legislation is predicted to extend coverage to more than 30 million Americans who lack coverage and would ban industry practices such as denial of insurance on the basis of pre-existing medical conditions. The Congressional Budget Office said it would reduce deficits by about $132 billion over a decade, and possibly much more in the 10 years that follow.

At its core, the legislation would create a new insurance exchange where consumers could shop for affordable coverage that complies with new federal guidelines. Most Americans would be required to purchase insurance, with subsidies available to help families making up to $88,000 in income afford the cost.

In a bow to Senate moderates, the measure lacks a government-run insurance option of the type that House Democrats placed in their bill. Instead, the estimated 26 million Americans purchasing coverage through new insurance exchanges would have the option of signing up for privately owned, nonprofit nationwide plans overseen by the same federal agency office that supervises the system used by federal employees and members of Congress.

Sen. Ben Nelson D-Nebraska won numerous changes, including tougher restrictions on abortion coverage and an estimated $45 million in federal Medicaid funds, enough to completely cover his state's costs of complying with an expansion of the program mandated by the bill.

Vermont and Massachusetts also won additional Medicaid funds; plastic surgeons were persuasive in their bid to strip out a proposed tax on elective plastic surgery; hospitals in the Dakotas, Wyoming and Montana won additional Medicare funds; and there was more money for hospitals in Hawaii to treat the uninsured.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


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