With medical insurance reform legislation only 2 months old, Americans are showing a growing dissatisfaction with the new healthcare reform law. As some state lawmakers push to opt out of the federal requirements, recent national polls continue to display that Americans aggressively favor the law's repeal.
The newly released Rasmussen poll shows that 63% of Americans now are in favor of repealing the medical insurance reform legislation. That number has skyrocketed, and is up 7 points since only last week and shows the largest increase in public support for repeal since the legislation became law 2 months ago.
A recent CBS News poll showed that 47% of Americans still overwhelmingly disapprove of the new medical insurance reform law. What's more astonishing is that 36% of Americans believe that the law will harm, rather than help them.
A new report released Thursday shows that the new high risk medical insurance pools, brought about by the new medical insurance law, does not have enough money to cover the more than 5.6 million Americans with pre-existing conditions. The report by the Center for Studying Health System Change found that the $5 billion that is set aside for these high-risk insurance pools would only cover about 200,000 people a year.
Towers Watson, a benefits consultant company, reported that most executives at America's largest companies think that the medical insurance reform law will increase costs, which will make them reduce coverage to make up the difference. Towers Watson took a poll of executives at 661 companies and learned that 94% of them share this belief. Of those polled, 88% intend to shift those costs to their employees; while 74% believe that they will reduce medical care benefits and programs. Almost 75% of executives said they intend to continue offering shared cost medical insurance coverage to active employees.
In 2010, the total medical bill for a family of four is $18,074. In 2009, it was about $16,774. Over the last 10 years, this is the highest cost increase. While there are many factors to consider, the report reveals that these rising costs are largely driven by increases in the underlying costs of care.
Further, despite passage of federal medical insurance reform, the underlying drivers of increasing medical care costs are not expected to immediately change.
One of the biggest questions surrounding healthcare reform has been, "how would corporations react to the new bill". A recent CNN.com article maybe shedding some light on that question. The article reports some fortune 500 companies are considering the possibility of dropping their employee medical insurance plans.
Before the bill was passed, congress had requested internal documents related to the employee benefit plans of some of the largest employers in the US, companies such as AT&T and Deere. Upon an examination of those documents by Fortune, it appears that the greatest fear of the bill's supporters maybe coming true. Many large employers are examining the savings they would realize by dropping the company medical insurance plan and paying the penalties required by the healthcare reform bill, for not carrying an employee health plan. If employers take this course, America's employer based healthcare system would collapse and the cost of the bill would be hugely magnified.
Caterpillar and AT&T actually spell out the cost differences: Caterpillar did its estimate in November, when the most likely legislation would have imposed an 8% payroll tax on companies that do not provide medical insurance coverage. Even with that immense penalty, Caterpillar stated that it could shave $25 million a year, or almost 10% from its bill. Now, because the $2,000 is far lower than 8%, it could reduce its bill by over 70%, by Fortune's estimate.
AT&T revealed that it spends $2.4 billion a year on medical insurance coverage for its almost 300,000 active employees. The penalties that AT&T would have to pay if they decided to stop providing medical insurance to it's employee's would be $600 million.
What does it mean for health care reform if the employer-sponsored regime collapses? By Fortune's reckoning, each person who's dropped would cost the government an average of around $2,100 after deducting the extra taxes collected on their additional pay (employers dropping medical insurance would likely give their employees pay raises to compensate for the lost of benefits). So if 50% of people covered by company plans get dumped, federal health care costs will rise by $160 billion a year in 2016, in addition to the $93 billion in subsidies already forecast by the CBO.
Throughout the healthcare reform debate we have never question the fact that change is needed. The cost of medical insurance has gotten completely out of hand. I think most people would agree, that while the reform bill currently in place may offer great medical benefits to many uninsured Americans, it also ensures that healthcare costs are going to continue to escalate. Compare the average cost of family medical insurance by state (the government has issued a report on this), to see that Massachusetts has the highest family healthcare cost in the nation. Since the current healthcare reform bill was largely modeled on the state run system in Massachusetts, it seems fair to predict that costs will continue to rise. The government report shows the average family medical insurance cost ranges from a low of $9,365 in Idaho to a high of $14,138 in Massachusetts.
Much of the health care reform debate was focused on the pricing practices of medical insurance companies. Now focus is moving towards the pricing practices of medical providers. In Massachusetts, for example, the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating whether one of the state's hospitals are guilty of violating antitrust laws. According to an editorial in the Boston Globe, the DOJ inquiry was launched after it was shown that some hospitals are demanding "rates much higher than others ... for identical procedures." Meanwhile, the same editorial cites a report by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley that showed that hospitals with "geographic monopolies" use their market clout to push rates up "and contributes to annual increases in medical insurance premiums that greatly exceed the cost-of-living index." Finally, an admission that high medical insurance premiums are a symptom of high healthcare costs!
Under the new health reform bill it was sugested that by requiring young adults to get medical insurance, medical insurance costs would be balanced out. As a large percentage of young adults have always opted out of having medical insurance coverage, the average age of the insured population has always been higher than it otherwise would be. As a remedy to this problem the current reform bill fails significantly! The way the law is written it would be cheaper for young adults to pay the penalty for not having medical insurance rather than actually buying medical coverage. Then they could just buy the medical insurance coverage when they get sick, as per-existing conditions are no longer a factor in getting a medical insurance plan.
The National Federation of Independent Businesses has joined the lawsuit filed by 20 state attorneys general and governors challenging the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The main argument of the lawsuit is that the government has no power to force individuals to enter into an intrastate contract. According to an article by the Associated Press regarding the NFIB's support of the suit, the government argues, "the decision to opt out of medical insurance is not merely a matter of an individuals personal choice. It has consequences for others, since uninsured people will get sick, or have accidents, and someone must pay for their medical care if they can't afford it. Individual decisions to forgo medical insurance coverage, in the aggregate, substantially affect interstate commerce by shifting costs to health care providers and the public." The court battles will go on for a long time as both sides have a reasonable argument.
While healthcare reform
is certainly needed, and millions of Americans will benefit from medical insurance
reform. The question of how we pay for reform is still very much unanswered.
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius issued a letter to Congressional leaders this week touting the Administration's early success in implementing certain provisions of health care reform. Meanwhile, officials from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported on Tuesday that the health care reform legislation will cost about $115 billion more in discretionary spending over the next ten years than the original cost projections.
The CBO representative pointed out that if Congressional lawmakers approve this additional spending, the total cost of the health care reform law will exceed $1 trillion over the next ten years. A Republican spokeswoman for the House Appropriations Committee responded saying, "If Congress were to approve all of this new discretionary funding authorized in the health care bill, almost all of the administration's highly touted savings would be made null and void."
According to a recent Rasmussen report, 63 percent of Americans believe the new health care reform law is likely to increase the federal deficit. Further, 56 percent of voters continue to favor repealing the health care reform legislation, while 58 percent feel this new law will increase health care costs.
Young adults are currently one of the population segments who are most often without medical insurance and stand to benefit greatly from the health insurance reform. They will find that health care is much more affordable and accessible for them, as rates will be lower and there will be more options available to them.
Reduction In Cost
The health insurance reforms have established the goal of offering preventative care free of charge to all people with insurance. This will help to turn the system from one that is dictated by sickness to one that is proactive about good health. Illnesses can be prevented in this way. Such illnesses also have a better chance of being caught in the early stages so they can be effectively treated and cured.
Changes in the system will mean that everyone, including young adults, will have to bear less of the health care cost burden themselves. Medical insurance companies will be forced to respect caps on co-pays, deductibles and other out-of-pocket expenses. There will also be no more yearly limits or lifetime maximums on claims, taking much of the stress out of serious illness or injury.
Medical Insurance Choices For Young Adults
Young adults often do not need or want the same types of medical insurance coverage as older people or those with families. However, when their main option is health insurance through their employer, they often end up choosing to go without it because the cost is just too high. However, with the new plan that has a health insurance exchange where people can pick and choose the coverage that best fits them, more young adults are likely to carry affordable coverage to meet the needs of this time in their lives.
The health exchange system will allow young adults to compare and contrast the different options available to them. Insurers will be more competitive than ever under the new system that demands increased accountability. The added benefit is that with this new way to purchase coverage comes security. Health insurance will no longer be dependent on an employer. Therefore young adults who are susceptible to regular job changes, moving and even periods of unemployment will have the security of knowing they have health insurance they can afford no matter what.
Under the changes in health insurance reform, young adults can remain covered under their parents' policy until they turn 26. This will make a huge difference in the number of uninsured young adults, which is currently at 33% of those in that age range.
These changes will make a huge difference in the lives of many young people. They will now have access to health care that they presently don't have with the current system. Many of them will even qualify for the premium assistance programs that will be available to them. Health insurance will finally be accessible and affordable for everyone.
This post continues a series of blog articles focused on just the possible benefits of medical insurance
reform. No one is certain how the healthcare reform
bill will continue to evolve or how it will be financed, but these are some of the benefits that will be enjoyed by many:
- Increased regulation for medical insurance companies to ensure consumer protection. Medical insurers will be prevented from establishing lifetime limits on healthcare coverage or arbitrarily dropping coverage.
- Immediate health insurance options for people who have not been able to obtain it. This includes even those with conditions such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure (which together make up over 30% of the general population). Those deemed "high risk" will also be able to find affordable medical insurance.
- Increased investment in wellness/prevention programs, which will save money overall.
- Increased medical insurance coverage for early retirees, who have seen their coverage steadily declining over the past decade. Reforms could reduce premiums for retirees and their families as much as $1,200.
- The elimination of overpayments which cut into the pocketbooks of Medicare subscribers.
- Increased prescription drug coverage, by reducing the "doughnut hole" coverage gap.
- Free preventive services for seniors through Medicare. For instance, a colonoscopy that can cost $800 would be covered for free. If caught early treatment is much less expensive.
- Tax credits for small businesses for health care.
States would also see benefits through lower employee premiums and coverage increases.
Health insurance exchanges empower families to make their own decisions on health care that fits their current situation, even in transition or if medical needs change. They will benefit taxpayers, as increased coverage means less uncompensated care, which is often passed onto state governments. They will also see an increase in long-term care and community-based services.
Many of these changes-such as the promotion of health screenings and other preventative services-will pay for themselves. They will also prevent unnecessary readmissions, which is an issue since it is estimated that as many as 20% of discharged Medicare patients are readmitted to the hospital within a month. Reducing the bureaucracy will also make things easier on medical practitioners, who spend an average of $68,000 a year on navigating the paperwork trail.
In a shocking recent news release Reuters accused health care giant Wellpoint of rescinding medical insurance
policies for women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Wellpoint firmly denies such a policy and defends itself against the allegations.
In its own statement, Wellpoint underlines the fact that it has worked and continues to work diligently to prevent breast cancer. It promotes early detection of the disease through regular testing and are proactive about getting treatment started quickly for those who have been diagnosed. Wellpoint goes on to discuss how claims are monitored and possible fraud is investigated when warranted. The in-house statistics state that fewer than 10% of Wellpoint's individual medical insurance policies were rescinded in the past year.
Wellpoint also addressed the issue that its parent company lobbied against having a third-party verify rescission decisions. This was in fact false. The company actually began such practices on its own in 2008 and was the first health insurance company to do so. They also created an application review committee, a single point of contact for those in danger of rescission and an appeals process to help deal with the issue of rescission.
Wellpoint reiterates its commitment to research in the field of breast cancer. Its guidelines recommend mammograms for all women over 40. Wellpoint even makes telephone contact with female clients to encourage them to undergo the preventative screening tests that are recommended for their age.
It is important to bring dubious and dishonest policies to light in the medical insurance world, but accusations should be proven without a doubt before such allegations are made public, potentially damaging the reputation of medical insurers who do take good care of those with serious illnesses.
Wellpoint has done an excellent job of confronting the allegations made by Reuters and has reaffirmed confidence in many when it comes to their treatment of those with breast cancer.
We wanted to post a blog regarding the benefits of healthcare reform for American families. This blog article does not consider the financial impact of the proposed healthcare reform bill on the US economy. That will be the subject of many blogs to come.
The White House has released information about how the health insurance reform plan will impact your family. Overall, families will see that an abundance of good things are coming their way as a result of the proposed plan.
Medical Insurance Coverage Will Be More Affordable
One of the most important aspects of health care is preventative health care. If such care is insufficient, too many people will be diagnosed with illnesses only when they are too advanced to be treated. The health reform plan will also save families from the bills associated with many medical screening tests and other preventative medical care.
The medical insurance industry right now charges you a lot of money in the form of co-pays, deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses. The new health insurance reform will place limits on these types of expenses. This means more security for those who are sick.
U.S. Families Will Benefit From Increased Medical Insurance Options
The new health insurance exchanges that will open up in each state will provide a central location for shopping for health insurance in one place. It will be easier than ever to compare price, coverage and company reputation. Health insurers will be forced to compete in a way they never have.
Your family will have unparalleled security when it comes to their medical insurance coverage. Under the new plan your medical insurance coverage is secure no matter what the state of your employment is. If you move, change jobs or get sick, your health insurance will still be there. You will also have the option of high quality, yet affordable coverage unlike anything you have had before. Insurers will be held to a level of accountability that they have never experienced before become of this increase in competition.
All Americans Will Enjoy Affordable, Quality Healthcare
Your family will benefit from the fact that no one will be penalized or discriminated against due to prior health conditions. Currently an existing health condition can cause denial of coverage. Being a female can even cause you to pay more. You can even lose coverage if you become ill. These things will be things of the past with the new plan. (see healthcare reform for women)
Many families will enjoy the benefits of premium assistance to help them afford coverage. Even small businesses are protected by the government under the new plan ensuring that they offer their employees rates that are competitive and affordable.
Take heart in the new health care reform. It is bound to make improvements in the lives of families throughout the country, and between now and 2014 many of the holes in the bill should be filled-in.
Medical Insurance Coverage Disparities In The US
Setting aside the debate of how the health care system should be reformed, the disparities in medical insurance coverage throughout the country show that there's a definite need for change.
Despite the fact that the U.S. spent $2.2 trillion in healthcare in 2007, disparity grows. The current economic crisis is causing it to worsen as more people become unemployed and fall into the ranks of the low-income group. Change is greatly needed in order to render healthcare costs more affordable; increase accessibility; improve the choice of providers and medical insurers and to promote preventative care. If the current healthcare reform plan is able to reduce healthcare costs then medical insurance costs will follow.
Many of the gross disparities are caused by a lack of access to good quality health care amongst minorities and the poor in the U.S.
Here are some of the shocking statistics
- 33% of American Indians and Hispanics have no medical insurance coverage. 20% of African Americans have no medical insurance coverage. Only 12.5% of Whites have no medical insurance coverage.
- 40% of those with a low income are without medical insurance coverage.
- Almost 50% of the 46,000,000 without medical insurance are living in poverty. 33% of those without medical insurance have some form of chronic illness. Those people are 6 times more likely to not get medical treatment for a health issue than those with health insurance.
- Amongst those with high incomes, 94% have a medical plan.
- Hispanics are 50% less likely to have a regular health care than Whites.
- 50% of Hispanics, 25% of African Americans and 20% of Whites do not have a primary care doctor.
- People who are poor are at 3 times the risk of having no regular health care provider.
- Ethnic and racial minorities report poor communication with doctors more frequently than white people, which leads to a variety of medical problems.
Importance of Basic and Preventative Care
The shortage of regular health care and a focus on wellness is causing major medical problems in this country's health system.
- Without regular health care, individuals use the emergency department of hospitals more often. Twice as many African Americans use the ER compared to Whites.
- HIV can be slowed in its progression to AIDS. African Americans have higher rates of AIDS cases than any other group.
- Screening tests for colorectal cancer was done on 57% of Whites, but only 49% of African Americans and 37% of Hispanics in 2007.
- Vietnamese women are 50% less likely than Whites to have undergone a Pap smear, a medical test for cervical cancer, in the last 3 years.
- Women who are poor are 26% less likely to get mammograms.
- Fewer than 33% of those with low incomes receive adequate diabetes management. More than 50% of those with high income get adequate care.
- Complications of advanced and uncontrolled diabetes such as foot amputations and kidney disease are common amongst Hispanic and African American populations.
These disparities show an overwhelming need for reform in the American health system. This should not be the norm for the United States. All residents should enjoy equal and easy access to good quality health care. How we pay for it is another matter!