Political and Legal information on the Health Care Debate. View our freshly updated You Tube videos about health care on the right hand side of this blog. Includes ideas from politicians concerning Universal Health Care. Information on all things health insurance related from Medicare to short term health insurance.
Saturday, September 29, 2007
Plan for Poor Stalls
as President, Congress
Debate Government's Role
By SARAH LUECK
September 27, 2007; Page A4
Expanding health care for poor children was supposed to be easy -- or at least easier than a lot of other health-care issues facing Congress.
But tension between lawmakers and the White House is bogging down efforts to renew the Children's Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP. The stumbles -- despite cooperation between parties -- is a worrisome sign for Democrats seeking to make their agenda -- from spending bills to Iraq policy -- into reality.
At the heart of the fight, which could come to a head next week with a presidential veto, is a simple question: How involved should the government be in paying for health care for the uninsured? President Bush says Congress is spending too much to subsidize families who can afford private coverage. Democrats and some Republicans say expanding the program is the best way to provide insurance to more of the nearly nine million children who lack it.
Complicating matters further, the debate has unfolded amid a presidential campaign in which Democratic and Republican candidates are taking starkly different stances on health care. Because Congress will likely pass a patch to keep CHIP running past its Sept. 30 expiration, the argument is set to run for months.
When Democrats took the majority in Congress this year, they cited the expansion of CHIP as a priority, even as Mr. Bush took a harder line against growth in the program. The bill now moving through Congress represents a middle ground between what many Democrats wanted and what Mr. Bush said he would support. Democratic lawmakers scaled back their ambitions on both spending and policy in the interest of taking a unified stand.
If the state is going to determine that health insurance should be a requirement for poor families, why won't they demand life insurance for the parents of all the kids too? After all, we wouldn't want the kids to be a burden should something happen to their parents. Life insurance would insure the financial safety of these kids. So maybe the federal government should pay for life insurance plans for everyone too. Of course they shouldn't, but they shouldn't require coverage either unless they are in the insurance business (who they blame for the health care crisis in the first place).
Enjoy the article:
By Bill Ainsworth
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
September 29, 2007
SACRAMENTO – President Bush has vowed to veto legislation Congress passed this week to expand children's health insurance, but his own alternative would leave 600,000 California children without coverage over the next two years, state officials said yesterday.
A presidential veto would also place one more hurdle in front of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's universal health care proposal, which counts on more federal money.
“Our state's values have moved to the place where we want to cover all our children,” said Lesley Cummings, who administers Healthy Families, which is California's version of the State Children's Health Insurance Program. “But this would move us backward.”
Schwarzenegger, who campaigned for Bush in 2004 but has since clashed with his fellow Republican, has strongly lobbied in favor of the federal legislation. This week, he spoke with Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt on behalf of the bill.
Last month, Schwarzenegger said he was puzzled by the president's opposition to expanding the federal SCHIP program.
“We all sit there and say 'Where did that come from?' ” Schwarzenegger said. “You can't go wipe out the deficit on the backs of children.”
The legislation, passed with bipartisan majorities in the Senate and House, would expand the popular State Children's Health Insurance Program, which aims to cover children of the working poor by adding $35 billion over the next five years. The extra money, which would be paid for by a 61-cent per pack increase in tobacco taxes, would cover 4 million of the estimated 9 million uninsured children in the United States.
The program currently covers more than 6 million children from families that cannot afford health insurance but earn too much to qualify for Medicaid.
Bush is proposing $5 billion in new spending for the program while reducing the number of eligible children.
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday she is "praying" that President Bush has a change of heart and does not veto a bipartisan children's health insurance bill that he has labeled an unwarranted expansion of government-run health insurance.
"The tide is going a different way than a presidential veto would reflect," Pelosi, a California Democrat, said. "It was with great friendship that I reached out to the president this morning to say that I was still praying that he would have a change of heart and sign this legislation."
"I think I have to pray a little harder, but I will not give up," Pelosi said.
Pelosi's comments came a day after the Senate voted 67-29 for the measure, which would expand the State Children's Health Insurance program by up to 4 million children.
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino on Friday said Bush still intends to veto the bill when it arrives at his desk. Perino also said the disagreement between Congress and the White House was a simple policy difference, not "about who cares about children more than the other."
"The president is saying, 'Let's take care of the neediest children first, let's not put scarce federal dollars toward a program that was meant for the poorest children and let it creep up to middle-income families with incomes up to $83,000 a year,' " Perino said.
12-year-old records Democrats' weekly radio address; measure calls for funding boost
By Matthew Hay Brown | Sun reporter
The Frosts, the Baltimore family who helped congressional Democrats this week sell expanded funding for the State Children's Health Insurance Program, have returned to Washington for a repeat performance.
On Tuesday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, introduced Bonnie Frost and her 9-year-old daughter, Gemma, on the House floor. Pelosi described the family's reliance on the government-funded insurance program after Gemma and her brother Graeme were severely injured in a 2004 car accident.
This morning, 12-year-old Graeme Frost came to Capitol Hill to record the Democrats' weekly radio address. His comments on S-CHIP will be broadcast nationally tomorrow.
Friday, September 28, 2007
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Health care could undergo its biggest revolution in decades under the proposals of presidential hopefuls trying to fix a system that has left one in seven Americans without insurance.
No other major industrial democracy has such a large number of people without health coverage.
Opinion polls have shown health care to be the top domestic issue for Democrats. At least one survey found that Democrats ranked it as important as Iraq. Republican voters also are paying more attention than in past years.
Democratic candidates are proposing universal health coverage through a mix of public and private plans. Republicans say they will make insurance cheaper and more accessible through tax and market changes that may speed up the shift away from an employer-based system.
"This will be the broadest philosophical debate we've had about health care in a long time," said Robert Blendon, an expert on health politics and policy at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.
Candidates are churning out health plans that are unusually detailed for this point in a campaign, although none are likely to become law without significant evolution, compromise and input from Congress.
Even that may not be enough. The country has wrestled with health coverage off and on for decades without consensus.
This shows what 'Universal Health Care' from the government will be about. It is nothing but a tax and spend system of entitlements. The money from this will come from a 61 cent tax on cigarettes. Surely in 10 years the revenue will be less from tobacco because people aren't smoking as much thanks to smoking ban legislation. Once again I direct you to the hypocrisy of the government who makes more money off of tobacco than anyone else yet is not the subject of any tobacco settlement lawsuit.
Any health care program that is universal in nature and comes from the Congress will be tax and spend. It doesn't address the rising cost of health care, it just throws more money (tax money) at the situation and kicks the can down the road for some future generation to decide how to fund. Enjoy the article.
By JONATHAN WEISMAN and CHRISTOPHER LEE
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON | The Senate, with an overwhelming bipartisan vote Thursday, sent President Bush a $35 billion expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, launching a fight that will reverberate into the elections.
Bush has vowed to veto the measure, but he has faced strong criticism from many fellow Republicans reluctant to turn away from a popular measure that would renew and expand a program aimed at low-income children.
Democratic leaders, while still two dozen votes short in the House, are campaigning hard for the first override of Bush’s presidency.
They secured a veto-proof majority Thursday night in the Senate, with the 67 to 29 tally including “yes” votes from 18 of the 49 Republicans, including some of the president’s most stalwart allies. Among them were Sen. Kit Bond of Missouri and Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas.
Every Senate Republican facing a difficult re-election bid bolted from Bush on Thursday. Most House Republicans in swing districts abandoned him Tuesday when the House approved the bill 265 to 159. Those Republicans “took the vote that was easiest to explain,” said House Minority Whip Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
She says that the single payor (government pays) is the only way. But she neglects to say that if the government pays, the government decides your treatment (not you or your doctor). She also neglects to say that (government pay) means YOU pay through taxes.
By Susan Feiner
The Big 3 Democratic contenders' health insurance plans all look alike to Susan Feiner. She sees triple versions of the same scheme to enrich the medical industrial complex at the expense of women. Only Dennis Kucinich gets her thumbs' up.
(WOMENSENEWS)--So who's got the most women-friendly health care plan?
Is it Hillary, Obama or Edwards?
Answer: none of the above.
Only Dennis Kucinich offers what women really need: single-payer, universal health care.
To the others I have one question: Why are you ignoring over 50 years of experience in our peer nations, which show that the public provision of health care delivers far better results at far lower costs?
The national disparities in women's deaths between the United States and countries such as Canada, France and Germany are horrendous.
In the United States there are 77 female deaths from heart disease per 100,000 women, according to current World Health Organization data. In Germany that first key number is 68; in Canada 54; in France 21. For pulmonary disease the U.S. performance is even worse. The rate per 100,000 in the United States is 33; in Canada 13. In France and Germany it's 7.
But universal health insurance does more than fight the diseases that afflict women. By extending better coverage and care to everyone it goes to the heart of women's major inequity: our lower work-force participation due to the time we spend taking care of the preschoolers, sick kids, elderly parents and disabled spouses.
Women's wages are often reported to be about 80 percent of men's. But that figure seriously understates the actual loss of earnings due to gender and caretaking. The 2004 report "Still a Man's Labor Market" by the Women's Institute for Policy Research puts the gap closer to 60 percent.
But the proposals by the Big 3 will not stop women from being the ones to leave work--or not even attempt it at all--when the health care system breaks down.
article by Tom Walsh
Sept 27, 2007
The UAW is pushing all three Detroit automobile manufacturers to join with the union in forming a group to push for national health care reform, according to people involved with UAW contract negotiations.
General Motors Corp. has agreed to participate as part of its tentative contract deal, said the people, who asked not to be identified because of an official blackout on contract details.
The push to enlist the Detroit Three's support for the union's long-standing crusade for universal health care is indicative of the UAW's growing profile as a major player in the nation's health care policy debate.
Wednesday's historic deal to shift GM's $50-billion retiree health care obligation into a union-run independent trust, called a voluntary employee beneficiary association, or VEBA, means that the UAW now has some serious skin in the national health care game. If Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC also agree to a VEBA for retiree health care, the UAW would wield incredible clout as one of the nation's largest purchasers of prescription drugs and medical services, from MRI scans to artificial hips.
It's not clear whether the auto companies will be 100% in lockstep with the UAW on every detail of various national health care proposals. But the union's request that each company pledge to join what one person called a "health care institute" is definitely an attempt to rally their support for a federal system that ensures care for all Americans.
The two sides tentatively agreed Wednesday to a groundbreaking agreement that allows GM to move its unfunded retiree health care costs into an independent trust administered by the UAW. The union also agreed to lower wages for some workers. In exchange, the UAW won commitments from GM to invest in U.S. plants, bonuses and an agreement to hire thousands of temporary workers which will boost UAW membership, according to a person who was briefed on the contract. The person requested anonymity because the details haven't been publicly released.
Wall Street applauded news of the deal, sending GM shares up more than 9 percent.
The union said the agreement with the nation's largest automaker was reached shortly after 3 a.m. The UAW canceled its two-day strike about an hour later and workers were back in GM's 80 U.S. facilities Wednesday afternoon. GM lost production of around 25,000 vehicles due to the strike, according to CSM Worldwide Inc. Analysts had suggested a short strike could actually improve GM's outlook because it would cut back on inventory levels.
Shikha Dalmia | August 3, 2007
It is not within the power of United Auto Workers President Ron Gettelfinger to save GM, Ford and Chrysler. But it is certainly within his power to kill them. Whether he chooses to do so will soon become clear. What are arguably the most critical contract negotiations in the history of Motown's auto industry began this week.
America's former Big Three auto makers are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy—Ford's second-quarter profit notwithstanding. And one big reason for their dire state, apart from collective amnesia over how to make hit cars, is their ever-escalating health-care expenses. Every car they produce, they plaintively assert, contains $1,500 in health costs that their Japanese competitors don't face.
But Mr. Gettelfinger has already declared that he is not in a "concessionary mood." UAW workers at Ford and GM agreed to a health-care cost-sharing deal during an unusual round of mid-contract negotiations in 2005. Closing the competition gap with Japanese auto makers now, Mr. Gettelfinger insists, requires not more concessions by auto workers—but a Japanese-style government health-care system for all workers.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER
WASHINGTON -- Northwest Republicans were split as the House voted to expand health insurance for children despite a veto threat from President Bush.
Three of the six House Republicans in Oregon, Washington and Idaho voted against the Democratic-led plan Tuesday night, while three voted in favor.
The House voted 265-159 to expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP, by $35 billion over five years.
Republican Reps. Doc Hastings of Washington, Greg Walden of Oregon and Bill Sali of Idaho voted against the plan, while GOP Reps. Mike Simpson of Idaho and Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Dave Reichert of Washington state voted for it.
All 10 House Democrats in the region supported the plan, which Democrats call crucial to helping children from low- and middle-income families obtain health insurance.
Democrats have said they will depict Republicans who oppose the bill as anti-children, a charge the president and other Republicans reject.
Bush says he will veto the bill due to its cost, its reliance on a tobacco tax increase and its potential for replacing private insurance with government grants.
Hewitt Associates Data Reveals Rate of Increases for U.S. Health Care Costs Declines for Fifth Consecutive Year
Source: Business Wire
LINCOLNSHIRE, Ill.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Sept. 24, 2007--U.S. companies enjoyed a nine-year low in health care cost rate increases this year, but employers and employees should not expect to see that trend continue in 2008, according to Hewitt Associates, a global human resources services company. In 2007, average health care rate increases were 5.3 percent, down from 7.9 percent in 2006. However, Hewitt is projecting an 8.7 percent average increase for employers in 2008.
Outlook for 2008
According to Hewitt, the average health cost per person for major companies will increase from $7,982 in 2007 to $8,676 in 2008. The amount employees are being asked to contribute in 2008 will be $1,859, representing approximately 21 percent of the overall health care premium and up from $1,690 in 2007. Average employee out-of-pocket costs, such as copayments, coinsurance and deductibles, are also expected to increase from $1,576 in 2007 to $1,738 in 2008. Overall, employees' total health care costs -- including employee contribution and out-of-pocket costs -- are projected to be $3,597 in 2008, up 10.1 percent from $3,266 in 2007.
"It's encouraging to see rate increases soften because it means that companies are making a concerted effort to manage health care costs," said Jim Winkler, practice leader of Hewitt's Health Management Consulting business. "However, one of the primary ways employers have been accomplishing this is by passing a significant percentage of costs to employees, and we're seeing evidence that this strategy is prompting an increasing number of employees to forego necessary preventative care and/or not comply with prescribed medications. While some cost shifting is appropriate, it's critical that companies design their health care programs in a way that encourages employees to use them -- and use them wisely. Otherwise, they are essentially trading preventative care now for 'rescue care' later, which will lead to unhealthy employee populations, a decrease in employee productivity and ultimately -- higher health care costs."
Sep 20, 2007 11:45 PM EST
Five presidential hopefuls at Thursday night’s AARP forum fielded questions on everything from their plans to overhaul the nation’s health care system to the subprime mortgage crisis.
They took a few pointed shots at each other, but refused to take a stab at one of the major looming factors of the event: the absence of Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois.
Instead, they offered various solutions to repair the nation’s lagging health care system while using the opportunity to slam the Bush Administration in front of the mostly senior citizen audience.
Sen. Hillary Clinton (N.Y.), Gov. Bill Richardson (N.M.) and former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) all touted the need for universal health care.
“Been there, done that. Fifteen years ago I was advocating for universal health care and it was kind of lonely back then,” said Clinton. Republicans “don’t have a clue or the willingness to move forward on what we are committed to.”
Report: Health Care Quality Continues to Improve for 84 Million Americans, but More Than 100 Million in the Dark
The State of Health Care Quality 2007 report marks the eleventh consecutive year of health plan measurement and reporting on health care quality. Commercial health plans posted improvements in 30 of 44 quality of care measures, including important gains in childhood immunizations and colorectal cancer screening. Medicaid plans also reported impressive quality gains, improving on 34 of 43 measures.
The performance of health plans participating in Medicare lagged behind for a second consecutive year. Medicare managed care plans improved in only 7 of 21 measures of care. However, in 2006, 44 new Medicare managed care plans reported on quality for the first time, bringing the total to 211 publicly reporting plans this year. These results highlight the need for policymakers and plan leaders to refocus their quality improvement efforts by expanding the number and type of plans that are required to report on quality and to comparing that performance to the care delivered by the traditional Medicare fee-for-service program, for which no systematic quality reporting currently exists.
"For the 80 million Americans in accountable plans this is great news. These improvements mean better health and longer lives," said NCQA President Margaret E. O'Kane. "But we all need to be concerned about the 100 million Americans who are in the dark about their health plan's quality. The stakes are just too high."
The Kansas City Star
The federal government says it will keep a close watch on insurance companies that have been cleared to resume marketing Medicare Advantage private fee-for-service plans.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said this week that it had conducted a comprehensive review of seven insurers who agreed in June to stop marketing the plans because of reports of deceptive marketing.
The agency found “vast improvements to their internal controls and oversight processes consistent with regulations and guidance for Medicare private fee-for-service plans,” CMS acting administrator Kerry Weems said.
“But we’re not stopping there,” Weems said. “Medicare’s procedures to continuously monitor all (plans’) marketing, including the activities of their agents and brokers, are now in place.”
In August, the government cleared three of the companies in question to resume marketing Medicare Advantage private fee-for-service plans. They are Coventry Health Care, WellCare Health Plans and Universal American Financial Corp., which oversees Pyramid Life Today’s Options.
Attempts to reform the health care system must please insurance industry's Harry and Louise.
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle
Responding to Americans' desire for health care reform, a near-desperate desire in some quarters, almost all of the presidential candidates have put forth a plan to increase access to medical insurance. The resulting options range from market-based solutions to national health insurance. The most intriguing proposals, and possibly the most pragmatic, would build on the successes of the private health insurance market and mend the cracks of its failures.
All eyes are on Hillary Clinton's plan, which John Edwards' campaign claims is nearly identical to its own. These plans and several state reform efforts hinge upon requiring individuals to purchase health insurance. In the case of Clinton's plan this is coupled with a mandate to insurers to offer insurance to all who apply, regardless of health status or other qualifiers.
The 265-159 vote missed the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto. The Senate is expected to approval the legislation later this week. But President Bush appears to be firmly opposed to the expansion, and a temporary extension of the current program is likely, analysts say.
Enacted in 1997, SCHIP provides coverage for uninsured children living in families with incomes too high to make them eligible for Medicaid.
The proposed SCHIP legislation would expand the insurance programs for kids by $35 billion over five years from its current baseline of $25 billion. The president has called for Congress to temporarily extend the current program, which is set to expire at the end of the month.
Monday, September 24, 2007
Hillary Clinton has spent years trying to erase the memory of her failed attempt to bring socialized medicine to the United States, but this week the ghost of Hillary Care was lurking in the wings again as she unveiled her new plan to overhaul the nation's health system. Touted as an "American Health Choices Plan," Sen. Clinton's proposal is short on choice but full of government mandates, including a new directive that every American purchase health insurance.
Like her Democratic rivals — and even some Republicans running for president — Clinton makes it sound as if we are facing a health care crisis, one that only government can solve. But what exactly is the problem?
Advocates of universal health coverage like to trot out the statistic that about 46 million Americans lack health care coverage, a number based on Census data from 2005. But the figure is misleading. . .
Continue this article here
Monday, September 17, 2007
This is the reason that so many of the nation's presidential candidates talk about a new health care system. The rise in the cost for inusurance continues to outpace inflation by a wide margin. Of all the people in America approximately 158 million rely on employer based health insurance programs. The total number of uninsured in America went up another 5% over this time period because the cost of health insurance becomes less affordable.
America has the best health care system in the world. Our medical advances help treating diseases and assisting in quality of life for those who have chronic diseases all over the world. However something must be done to reign in these costs. Socialization is not the answer to this situation. The government has enough issues to deal with without becoming the country's health insurance provider too. The health care industry in the US is a 3 trillion dollar a year industry.