August 18, 2009

Fact versus fiction: What’s really in the Democrats’ health care reform bill

Posted in Healthcare, Social Policy tagged at 2:55 AM by minoritybrief

It is really unfortunate and sad that there are some in the media (Fox News) that purposely lie to and mislead their viewers. There is more than enough for people to genuinely debate the merits of healthcare reform. Instead, those who pander to the lowest denominator and feed people’s fears and insecurities would rather focus on half-truths and hyperbole. Their goal is two-fold: maintaining the status quo for the privileged and destroying the presidency of the Obama Administration. They will succeed if people continue to wallow in ignorance and reject what could be their own best interests. So maybe its time to back away from the talking points and the comparisons to Hitler and Nazism. Let the following be a first step:

BY TODD SPANGLER
Detroit Free Press

The health care reform debate in Washington has led to many charges and countercharges about what the proposals would or wouldn’t do. Here’s a look at the House Democrats’ bill.

QUESTION: Would the legislation require people on Social Security to have end-of-life treatment consultations with their doctors?

ANSWER: No. It would allow Social Security to pay for such consultations every five years, though, if the patient wants one. It’s not mandatory.

Q: Could I keep my current insurance, like President Barack Obama has said?

A: Maybe. If you have your insurance through your employer like most people, and your employer decides to keep offering it (and it already meets federal minimum standards that will be set), then sure. But those standards aren’t set, so it’s hard to say what they would require – and it’s tough to know how many employers would keep offering health care if a public plan was available.

Q: I have an individual insurance plan, but not through my employer. Would I be able to keep it?

A: It could be grandfathered in, yes. But if the insurers made any change – like in benefits or premiums – they would have to meet the federal standards.

Q: Would I have to have health insurance?

A: Yes. Otherwise you would face a tax penalty.

Q: Would I have to enroll in the new public insurance plan?

A: No. In fact, if your company offers health insurance, you couldn’t. The new plan would be for individuals and small businesses that can’t afford coverage. Big companies could provide insurance or pay 8 percent of payroll and let employees find their own insurance as individuals on the health care exchange (which would include the public plan and other providers).

Small businesses would participate in the exchange, offer their own insurance or pay 2-6 percent of payroll to let workers find their own insurance as individuals.

Q: What if I couldn’t afford the premium of the new public plan?

A: The legislation would provide “affordability credits” that would help households with incomes up to four times the federal poverty limit (or about $88,000 for a family of four).

Q: Would the plan cover people living in the country illegally?

A: No.

Q: How would the public plan affect private insurance?

A: The Lewin Group, a health care consulting firm, says the number of people without insurance would drop by 33 million (out of a projected 49 million in 2011). If all employers are eligible for the exchange, the number of people with private insurance would drop by 83 million. If only small employers were eligible for the exchange, private coverage would drop by 35 million.

Q: How much would the change cost?

A: The Congressional Budget Office estimates government costs would increase by more than $1 trillion over 10 years, but additional revenues and cost-saving measures would bring the impact on the federal deficit down to $239 billion over 10 years.

Q: Would there be new taxes to pay for it?

A: There could be a sliding surcharge on the income of the top 1.2 percent of earners. It would apply to families with income of more than $350,000 a year and individuals making at least $280,000. The surcharge would be only on income over the thresholds. It would range from 1 percent to 5.4 percent (for families making more than $1 million).

Q: Would the legislation require insurance plans to pay for abortion?

A: No. Abortion coverage could not be part of the most basic coverage plan in its present form. But that doesn’t mean abortions couldn’t be covered in other plans. There is, however, a restriction on the government paying directly for the procedure.

Q: How would the legislation control costs?

A: It calls for applying cost-containment formulas intended to protect against overpayment to various services, including hospitals, hospice and home health care. It also calls for cutting payment rates for Medicare Advantage plans, saving $156 billion over 10 years.

Sources: Kaiser Family Foundation, Congressional Budget Office, Detroit Free Press research

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