The Year of Moving Forward

The Year of Moving Forward
At our 4 person wedding reception in DC

Monday, January 3, 2011

As the 112th Congress begins

Republicans are going to do what over the next few days?

  1. Waste a colossal amount of time (thus, wasting taxpayers money)?

  2. Show themselves to be the uncaring souls that they are?

  3. Both?
The correct answer is (3. Both).

House Republicans are planning to force a vote on repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as health care reform (HCR), before the President's State of the Union Address.

Rep. Fred Upton (R - Mich) said undoing the law would be "top priority" for the new congress, and he thinks there is enough support to overcome a presidential veto.

It may be a priority for Republicans, but in spite of their claim that support for repeal of HCR is growing, I doubt that Americans want to do away with the gains we have already made. There are no reliable current polls on the matter.

I will review the changes that the bill has allowed later in this post, but when January 1, 2011 rolled around, another set of changes came into effect. Those include the following benefits for seniors and all Americans.

  • Offering Prescription Drug Discounts. Seniors who reach the coverage gap will receive a 50 percent discount when buying Medicare Part D covered brand-name prescription drugs.

  • Providing Free Preventive Care for Seniors. The law provides certain free preventive services, such as annual wellness visits and personalized prevention plans for seniors on Medicare.

  • Improving Health Care Quality and Efficiency. The law establishes a new Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation that will begin testing new ways of delivering care to patients. These methods are expected to improve the quality of care, and reduce the rate of growth in health care costs for Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

  • Improving Care for Seniors After They Leave the Hospital. The Community Care Transitions Program will help high risk Medicare beneficiaries who are hospitalized avoid unnecessary re-admissions by coordinating care and connecting patients to services in their communities.

  • Bringing Down Health Care Premiums. To ensure premium dollars are spent primarily on health care, the new law generally requires that at least 85% of all premium dollars collected by insurance companies for large employer plans are spent on health care services and health care quality improvement. For plans sold to individuals and small employers, at least 80% of the premium must be spent on benefits and quality improvement. If insurance companies do not meet these goals, because their administrative costs or profits are too high, they must provide rebates to consumers.

  • Addressing Overpayments to Big Insurance Companies and Strengthening Medicare Advantage. Today, Medicare pays Medicare Advantage insurance companies over $1,000 more per person on average than is spent per person in Traditional Medicare. This results in increased premiums for all Medicare beneficiaries, including the 77 percent of beneficiaries who are not currently enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan. The new law levels the playing field by gradually eliminating this discrepancy. People enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan will still receive all guaranteed Medicare benefits, and the law provides bonus payments to Medicare Advantage plans that provide high quality care.
Add to that the thousands of young people and previously uninsured children who have been added to the rolls of insured, and eliminating the lifetime limits on coverage, provisions to crack down on Medicare and other fraud, funding and strengthening community health centers, and more provisions that were enacted in 2010.

These are all significant changes that will strengthen the health care system, improve the way it is delivered, and reduce the costs for all Americans (or at least lower the rate of increases).

As for the grandstanding republicans in the House, even if you pass a repeal, the claim that you have a veto-proof majority (I doubt that) is useless, since repeal would never pass in the Senate, and the bill would never get to the President's desk for the veto.

But go ahead, start the new Congress by showing America that you are unwilling to move forward, that the "new Republican Congress" is no different than the previous Republican minority; uninterested in helping America move through the recession and back to prosperity, instead they are focused on obstructionism and partisanship.

At least we will have one vote from Alabama against the repeal of HCR. Terri Sewell will have replaced our latest embarrassment, Artur Davis, whose previous vote against Health Care Reform cost him the Democratic nomination for governor, and possibly the chance to be our next governor. He can now wander off into obscurity.

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