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Posts Tagged ‘health insurance’

Countdown to Affordable Health Insurance

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Anticipation is building, and this month we start an important countdown, first to October 1, 2013, when open enrollment begins, and continuing on to January 1, 2014, the start of new health insurance coverage for millions of Americans. In October, many of you’ll be able to shop for health insurance that meets your needs at the new Marketplace at HealthCare.gov.

This is an historic time for those Americans who never had health insurance, who had to go without insurance after losing a job or becoming sick, or who had been turned down because of a pre-existing condition. Because of these new marketplaces established under the Affordable Care Act, millions of Americans will have new access to affordable health insurance coverage.

Over the last two years we’ve worked closely with states to begin building their health insurance marketplaces, also known as Exchanges, so that families and small-business owners will be able to get accurate information to make apples-to-apples comparisons of private insurance plans and, get financial help to make coverage more affordable if they’re eligible.

That is why we are so excited about launching the newly rebuilt HealthCare.gov website, where you’ll be able to buy insurance from qualified private health plans and check if you are eligible for financial assistance — all in one place, with a single application. Many individuals and families will be eligible for a new kind of tax credit to help lower their premium costs. If your state is running its own Marketplace, HealthCare.gov will make sure you get to the right place.

The Marketplace will offer much more than any health insurance website you’ve used before. Insurers will compete for your business on a level playing field, with no hidden costs or misleading fine print.

It’s not too soon to check out HealthCare.gov for new information about the Marketplace and tips for things you can do now to prepare for enrollment.  And, make sure to sign up for emails or text message updates, so you don’t miss a thing when it’s time to enroll.

There is still work to be done to make sure the insurance market works for families and small businesses. But, for millions of Americans, the time for having the affordable, quality health care coverage, security, and peace of mind they need and deserve is finally within sight.

What if I don’t want health insurance?

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

New York – I’m one of the nearly 50 million Americans who don’t have health insurance. I don’t want it, either.

But the bill the House of Representatives is debating would force me to buy it. How good can any product be if Congress compels me to purchase it?

Politicians and interest groups have been trying virtually all my life to foist medical insurance on me. But their proposals rest on mistaken and even insulting assumptions.

First, they presume that everyone wants, needs, and should have abundant medical attention. But I come from a long-lived and healthy family, I’ve been a vegetarian since childhood because I’ve never liked the way meat tastes, I don’t smoke, and I love to hike – the more miles the better.

I am disgustingly healthy, so much so that the only doctors I see – or try to: I’m near-sighted – are ophthalmologists. Could I be hit by a bus tomorrow when I head out for my daily walk? Possibly. But that’s such an unlikely disaster that I’ve chosen to spend my money on more personally pressing needs than medical insurance.

On the other hand, unlikely disasters do happen. So I might purchase catastrophic coverage if it were reasonably priced – just as I might visit doctors for lesser complaints if their care were reasonably priced.

But the government’s meddling is what helped mess-up the medical market to begin with.

The federal government perverts costs with its Medicare and Medicaid programs: Recipients of this largess have no incentive to save money since someone else pays their bills.

In fact, the incentives run the opposite way as patients demand more procedures and tests while magnifying problems I resolve out of my medicine cabinet into emergency-room runs. Doctors who get away with charging Medicare hundreds for diagnosing Grandpa’s indigestion would charge me the same.

Meanwhile, state governments shackle the insurance industry, mandating that policies cover everything from chiropractic care to hormone replacement. These launch premiums into the stratosphere. I’d much rather pick and choose the coverage I want at a price I’m willing to pay than buy the plan bureaucrats and special interests decree.

But the universal-healthcare crowd thinks it knows better than I do how to spend my money. Why can’t they leave me alone? I’m not forcing them to eat flaxseed and bike to meetings instead of hopping into their limousines. It’s time for them to return the favor.

Besides, if that bus does hit me tomorrow, I want – and will pay for – top-notch care. And that’s not what government-run medical systems dispense. Delays, expedient rather than proper treatment, and double standards of care depending on who you are and whom you know characterize universal-healthcare systems.

Which makes sense. We live in a world of finite resources and infinite desires, where medical care must be “rationed” like all other products and services.

Though we can’t choose whether goods are rationed, we can choose how they are. Either the politicians and bureaucrats who bring us long lines at DMVs, failing public schools, and the endless war in Iraq will decide who gets what kind of treatment, or the free market will.

Fans of universal healthcare deride the market: They say it’s cold and cruel because we each have to pay for the care we demand. But government healthcare can be far colder and crueler. Its care is inferior: Contrast an inferior, run-down veteran’s hospital with a general one. And it’s expensive. Dr. Jeffrey Anderson recently wrote in Investor’s Business Daily, “Since 1970 ­– even without the prescription drug benefit – Medicare’s costs have risen 34 percent more, per patient, than the combined costs of all health care in America apart from Medicare and Medicaid….”

Absent such meddling, the price of medical care would return to reasonable levels. It benefits no provider of any service to charge such astronomical fees that customers can’t afford to patronize him.

Then, too, in a market free of the state’s stranglehold, doctors and hospitals would compete with one another to lower prices and attract the ill or injured.

That doesn’t mean everyone could finally buy all the procedures they wanted or even needed – but that’s where private charity would come in. Humanitarians who send inner-city kids to summer camp and volunteer their time or money at soup kitchens would strive to ensure that needy Americans received medical care.

President Obama says, “We have no choice but to fix the healthcare system because right now it’s broken for too many Americans.” But the only fix we need is for government to get out of medicine.

Becky Akers is a freelance writer and historian.

Don’t Tread on My Family’s Health

Monday, June 8th, 2009

AP sources: House Dems favor insurance requirement

By DAVID ESPO, AP Special Correspondent David Espo

WASHINGTON – Senior House Democrats drafting health care legislation are considering slapping an unspecified financial penalty on anyone who refuses to purchase affordable health insurance, a key committee chairman said Monday.

In addition, officials said Democrats are considering a new tax on certain health insurance benefits as one of numerous options to help pay for expanding coverage to the uninsured. No details on the tax were immediately available, and no final decisions were expected until next week at the earliest.

These officials said drafters of the legislation will include a government-run insurance option as well as plans offered by private companies. The government option draws near-unanimous opposition from Republicans and provokes concerns among many Democrats, as well, although President Barack Obama has spoken out in favor of it.

Under the emerging House Democratic plan, individuals and small businesses would be able to purchase coverage from a “health exchange” and the government would require all plans to contain a minimum benefit, these officials added. No applicant could be rejected for pre-existing conditions, nor could they be charged a higher premium, they said.

House Democrats also are considering a wide-ranging change for Medicaid that would provide a uniform benefit across all 50 states and increase payments to health professionals, according to several officials. Medicaid is a state-federal program of health coverage for the poor.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they did not want to pre-empt a presentation to rank-and-file Democrats on Tuesday.

At the same time, Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, confirmed the proposed penalty for those who refuse to purchase coverage they can afford, referring to it as “play or pay.”

“There is no use having a mandate without a contribution,” he said.

Waivers would be available for those who could not cover the cost of insurance.

The disclosures came as the pace of activity quickened in both the House and Senate on health insurance legislation, a top priority for the administration. Obama is scheduled to meet Tuesday afternoon at the White House with several Democrats.

Democratic leaders hope to pass legislation in both houses by the first few days of August, and complete work on a compromise measure in the fall for Obama’s signature.

Obama has stepped up his own involvement in the issue in recent days, and there has been a flurry of negotiations involving outside interest groups who have pledged to take steps to achieve savings within the private insurance market.

Alongside those efforts, financing Obama’s plan to spread coverage more widely carries a price tag estimated at higher than $1 trillion over a decade. House Democrats are considering cutting projected Medicare payments to home health care, pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, hospitals and others to cover costs.

The option for taxing insurance benefits is also under consideration as part of legislation taking shape across the Capitol in the Senate Finance Committee.

Numerous options are possible, many involving either a tax levied according to the value of an individual’s employer-provided health plan, or on the benefits received by upper-income taxpayers.

The issue poses multiple potential problems for Obama, who has pledged not to raise taxes on individuals making less than $250,000 and also ran commercials during the presidential campaign criticizing GOP rival Sen. John McCain’s call for a tax on health benefits.

In recent weeks, the president and his aides have sought to straddle the issue, neither accepting it nor ruling it out.

Equally troublesome politically is the issue of a government insurance option. Critics argue it would render private companies unable to compete, and it has emerged as a key sticking point in the Democratic search for a bipartisan plan in the Senate.

All the Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee except one wrote Obama recently telling him he was making a mistake if he insisted on a government option. The exception was Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, who has been trying to find a compromise that would make a government plan available as a last resort if health insurance remains unaffordable for many families even after Congress overhauls the system.

Even before last fall’s general election, health care was a key issue in the battle for the Democratic presidential nomination. Obama proposed requiring parents to buy health insurance for children, with a possible fine if parents refused. But he would not insist that all adults buy insurance.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was a New York senator at the time as well as a presidential candidate, said a mandate was essential. At one point, she said she was open to garnisheeing the wages of anyone who refused to comply.