Archive by Month - March, 2010

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Poll: Health Insurance Reform Changes Our Nation’s Direction

Monday, March 29th, 2010

(Image: Phille Casablanca under CC 3.0)

According to a new poll by ABC News and the Washington Post, there is one thing almost all Americans can agree on about health insurance reform: it’s a significant shift.

  • 80% consider the passage of healthcare reform as a major change in the nation’s direction
  • 38% believe it is a positive change
  • 42% consider it to be a negative change

The intensity of reactions to the bill passing bears this out. Obama and other Democrats believe that access to medical insurance should be a human right, and that their success on this issue will lead to more Great Society-style domestic reforms. Meanwhile, many Republicans are worried that this is a slippery slope towards socialism. Both sides are most likely exaggerating its impact, although healthcare reform is clearly important.

The polling was done from March 23rd to the 26th.

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Health Insurance Reform Bill Includes Abstinence Funding

Monday, March 29th, 2010

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While technically related to health, it is surprising that funding for abstinence-only education is included in the recently passed health insurance reform bill. Over five years, the bill provides $250 million to states. These programs are used by schools to encourage remaining a virgin until marriage.

It is favored by social conservatives, many of whom did not support the bill in general. The approach, which does not mention contraception or other methods of safer sex, was popular during the George W. Bush administration but lost its funding under President Obama’s first federal budgets. Although abstinence is the only 100% effective strategy for preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), most abstinence-only programs have been criticized for being unrealistic and misleading about other methods.

The provision was snuck into the bill at the last second by Republican Senator Orrin Hatch during Senate Finance Committee negotiations, angering and confusing opponents. Most Democrats weren’t going to let their once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of increasing access to affordable health insurance to pass them by, despite the addition by a senator who had no intention of voting for the bill regardless. Some conservative Democrats, however, may also be in favor of the funding.

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1/3 Of Breast Cancer Cases Are Preventable

Friday, March 26th, 2010

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Fighting breast cancer is an ordeal that no person should have to go through. The vast majority of sufferers are women. Not only does it take a toll on your physical and mental health, but it is also associated with financial hardship. Although the passage of healthcare reform means that your health insurance can no longer be revoked for developing the disease, it is still something you would like to avoid.

Much breast cancer is genetic or due to general environmental factors, but a new study shows that up to one-third of the diagnoses of breast cancer in America may be preventable. What do the doctors suggest? They believe that avoiding smoking, limiting sun exposure, a healthy diet and regular exercise can help ward off the cancer.

Higher screening rates have helped reduce the incidence of breast cancer (as well as increase survival rates). If you’re a woman, make sure that your individual health insurance policy covers mammograms and regular gynecologist visits.

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Dependents To Lose Group Health Insurance Coverage?

Friday, March 26th, 2010

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Some worry that health insurance reform will have some inadvertent impact. Specifically, it could leave a previously insured population uninsured: dependents of employees, who currently receive coverage from their spouse’s or parent’s employer.

Why would this be the case? In 2014, firms with over 50 employees will have to provide coverage to their full-time employees or pay a $2,000 fine per-employee. Since the bill requires insurers to cover pre-existing conditions and prevents them from rescinding policies once a person becomes ill, health insurance rates may go up in the short run. The employer and individual mandates are supposed to mitigate that impact by increasing the size of the insurance pool, but that doesn’t stop companies from worrying about costs.

In order to save money on group health insurance, many employers may choose to drop coverage for dependents, which isn’t forbidden in the legislation. Ironically, one of the immediate benefits of healthcare reform that has been touted is that adult children can now remain as dependents on their parents’ insurance plans until they turn 26. If that coverage is dropped, it’d put them back in the same predicament.

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Bill Brings Comparative Medicine To Health Insurance Plans

Friday, March 26th, 2010

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The massive health insurance reform bill creates a new agency intended to compare the effectiveness of various medical treatments. The nonprofit is called the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute, and will be funded through several sources: last year’s stimulus package, a newly enacted tax on health insurance companies, and Medicare and Medicaid funds.

Supporters believe that the agency will help doctors and health insurance plans save money by providing independent information about various treatments; currently, physicians receive most of their information from paid pharmaceutical sales reps, who are biased in favor of one treatment. Sometimes, another treatment (maybe a generic) may be just as effective for patients while being less expensive.

Skeptics fear that such a program will lead to rationing, a concern many have with this healthcare reform bill. While health plans aren’t required to use the information, many probably will.

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Health Insurance Reform Do-Over A Success

Friday, March 26th, 2010

(Image: Daniel Suarez under CC 3.0)

The Obama administration is probably breathing easy that their second attempt at passing a comprehensive health insurance reform bill was a success. After their triumphant reaction to the House of Representatives voting in favor of the Senate’s bill on Sunday, they hit a snag.

Republicans noticed several errors in the Senate’s bill of “fixes”, which would prevent the legislation from becoming law through reconciliation. According to the nonpartisan parliamentarian, issues dealt with through reconciliation must be directly related to the federal budget. Since he deemed a handful of provisions ineligible, the bill had to go back to the House for another vote.

That move is risky for Democrats looking to avoid yet another controversial vote prior to the midterm elections in November, but it worked. Yesterday, the Senate passed their bill of affordable health insurance fixes by a margin of 56 to 43; they needed only 51 votes. Several hours later, the House approved them 220-207.

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Family Health Insurance Loophole for Kids In Bill

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

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The health insurance reform bill attempts to help those seeking reliable coverage for their children. Unfortunately, there is a gap when it comes to kids.

It appears that some language in the bill makes it so that children can still be denied by family health insurance companies due to pre-existing conditions until 2014. Earlier statements from President Obama made it seem that the benefit was immediate. The administration believes it was still the intention, and they will later release new regulations clarifying that.

On the bright side, children with existing health insurance plans can no longer exclude specific conditions from their coverage under the policy. That provision is effectively immediate.

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Affordable Health Insurance Reform Brings Menu Calorie Counts

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

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America’s obesity epidemic is widely considered at least partly to blame for rising health insurance costs. So why not include some attempts at preventative measures in the health bill?

At least, that’s what Democrats thought. After similar laws in New York City and California, chain restaurants with more than 20 locations nationwide are now required to post calorie counts on their menus for all regular items. The Food and Drug Administration will set a new standard. Vending machines will also be subject to the regulation.

Many chains already offer nutrition information, but it is often hidden in a far-away poster, pamphlet, or on their website. Supporters believe that the new standard will help people make better food choices as they order, while opponents are skeptical of its effectiveness. Moreover, it is yet another example of increasing government involvement. While obesity is associated with conditions like diabetes and heart disease–which make health insurance plans more expensive due to the cost of treatment–is this approach too reminiscent of a nanny state?

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Overreactions To Health Insurance Reform’s Passage

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

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Health insurance reform is a very controversial issue. It is perfectly understandable that many people are unsure or pessimistic about its impact. Freedom of expression is what America is all about.

Unfortunately, some people appear to have been taking it too far. A handful of extremists–not representative of all healthcare reform opponents–have recently thrown bricks into the windows to Democratic party headquarters, as well as the offices of representatives who voted in favor of the bill. Others have yelled racist taunts towards supporters. 10 representatives have even received death threats!

Protests are acceptable, violence is not. Republican Minority Leader John Boehner agrees: he wants the bill to be repealed through legitimate political means. Affordable health insurance is a worthy goal, although Americans may severely disagree on the best way to achieve it.

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Back To The Drawing Board: Health Insurance Reform Returns To House

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

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It’s possible that healthcare reform supporters were rejoicing too soon: it turns out that the health insurance bill will end up returning to the House of Representatives for a Senate vote.

Although Republicans tried to offer many amendments in an attempt to force the bill back to the House, it wasn’t their efforts that have stalled it. Unfortunately for the GOP, the thrust of the bill remains as is. Rather, Democrats themselves made some minor mistakes when writing the legislation. According to the Senate’s parliamentarian, two provisions are not considered to be directly related through the federal budget. Therefore, they cannot be passed through the reconciliation process. The offending provisions are related to an increase in federal Pell grants for college education.

Now, the Senate will have to vote on those issues sometime today, after working on the legislation last night. The House will then have to vote on the bill again, as soon as this evening. While some representatives may consider changing their vote, doing so makes little sense. The changes will not significantly change the content of the bill. Also, those who are angry probably won’t forget their support for the changes in how health insurance plans are bought and sold.

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