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59 Million Americans Without Health Insurance Last Year

by Yamileth on November 15th, 2010

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released a survey that found that 59.1 million people in the United States were uninsured for at least some part of 2010. In contrast, just 56.8 million were uninsured in 2008.

One in three middle-income adults (considered to have annual incomes between $43,000 and $65,000) under the age of 65 lacked a health insurance plan some time during the past twelve months, according to the CDC survey.

Many blame the recession for this turn of events, since millions have become unemployed and therefore lost their employer-sponsored health benefits.

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First Legal Challenge of Healthcare Reform Fails

by Yamileth on November 9th, 2010

Image: Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

A rare bright spot for the Obama administration this past week: a legal review of the healthcare reform law was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Granted, it wasn’t necessarily a referendum on the merits (or lack thereof) of the changes to the health insurance plan market in America. Instead, the challenge–filed by a conservative legal group in California–was denied because similar legal challenges are already winding their way through the lower courts. Moreover, the individual mandate provision at the centerpiece of the lawsuit is not scheduled to take effect until 2014.

Interestingly, both Justices Elena Kagan (a former Department of Justice lawyer for the current administration, although she didn’t participate in healthcare reform-related litigation) and Clarence Thomas (whose wife, Virginia, is a high-profile activist seeking repeal of the law) did not exclude themselves from the decision.

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Texas Medicaid Health Insurance in Danger

by Yamileth on November 9th, 2010

Image: jpo under CC 3.0

Across the country, states are struggling to balance their budgets. (Unlike the federal government, they don’t have the luxury of running a deficit.) This generally requires some combination of raising revenue through taxes and cutting spending programs.

The Republicans that triumphed in the midterm elections are adamant about only using the former. In Texas, they are even considering cutting the affordable health insurance program for the poor, Medicaid. Although the program itself is largely run by the federal government, state governments contribute.

According to supporters of the withdrawal, Texas would launch its own health plan for the impoverished. Many aren’t holding their breath. There is also speculation that the proposal is at least partially intended to spite the Obama administration in Washington for getting involved in individual Texas health insurance matters.

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Will AT&T’s New Business Make Health Insurance Plans Cheaper?

by Yamileth on November 9th, 2010

Last week, AT&T announced that it will be launching a new unit called ForHealth. The target market is doctors, health insurance companies, hospitals, and pharmaceutical firms.

It aims to provide cloud-based networking solutions, which are set to lower medical costs while improving communication–and therefore patients’ health. Many believe that moving to digital record keeping will lower the cost of health insurance plans, with the savings hopefully being passed onto consumers.

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First Step for GOP: Repealing Health Insurance Reform?

by Yamileth on November 8th, 2010

Image: Gage Skidmore under CC 3.0

After a mostly triumphant Tuesday, Republicans are gearing up to take on several legislative centerpieces of the Obama administration. Most significantly, they are looking to say sayonara to healthcare reform by repealing what they refer to as “Obamacare”.

On CBS’ Face the Nation, current Senate Minority Leader (the Democrats retained control of the Senate) Mitch McConnell stated that the GOP was given a wide mandate by independent voters to repeal healthcare reform. According to them, they owe it to the American people to do better and come up with another way of making health insurance plans more accessible.

For their part, Dems are skeptical that the law can actually be reversed so easily. Those looking for it to happen as soon as the new congresspersons are sworn in in January will be disappointed. For one thing, Obama is sure to veto any such legislation that reaches his desk.

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Obama Didn’t Realize Affordable Health Insurance Reform Would Be So Hard

by Yamileth on November 8th, 2010

Image: Beverly & Pack under CC 3.0

After his party’s drubbing in the midterm elections, President Obama is Monday-morning quarterbacking. In an exclusive interview with 60 Minutes, he admitted that he didn’t expect the passage and implementation of affordable health insurance reform to have such a high political cost.

Many would consider this view naive, given that presidents have struggled with the complex system for decades. Also, there are many interest groups heavily involved, with a major stake in the issue.

According to Obama, he assumed that his incorporation of proposals previously advanced by Republicans such as Mitt Romney would help bring about some compromise with the GOP. As it turns out, the final product ended up pleasing few: progressive Democrats wanted more, while conservatives wanted far less.

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Oklahoma Passes Ban On Health Insurance Plan Mandate

by Yamileth on November 8th, 2010

Image: KB35 under CC 3.0

The big story involving last week’s elections is the resurgence of Republicans; they took over the House, and made up lost ground in the Senate. That will surely impact several policy priorities, including healthcare reform repeal.

Voters in Oklahoma also spoke out by passing an amendment to their state constitution that prohibits the federal government from forcing residents to purchase a health insurance plan, in response to the unpopular mandate provision.

Two thirds of voters in the state sent a message that the Obama administration should not become involved in Oklahoma health insurance matters. However, the amendment will probably have little actual impact on the federal government’s actions.

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IRS’ Affordable Health Insurance Reform Implementation in Danger

by Yamileth on October 27th, 2010

Image: numberstumper under CC 3.0

Understandably, most people aren’t huge fans of the IRS. For the most part, Americans communicate with them when they’re taking money out of their pockets during tax season. However, a provision of the new healthcare reform law has the Internal Revenue Service actually attempting to give money back!

The law is meant to make affordable health insurance more widely available through tax credits to small businesses that provide coverage to their employees. Doing so will require more manpower and resources for implementation and enforcement of the program. Some Republican candidates are considering defunding the IRS and other agencies involved to stifle healthcare reform, since it is predicted to take $5 to $10 billion for each agency to fully implement it.

Congress has the power to do so, and does not require President Obama to sign off on a repeal he would be guaranteed to veto. Ironically, one of the most business-friendly provisions may suffer as a result.

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Athletes Struggle To Find a Health Insurance Plan

by Yamileth on October 26th, 2010

Image: Studio Finch under CC 3.0

Intuitively, most marathon runners and other serious athletes would be a good bet for health insurance plan providers. They are extremely fit, making them less likely to develop chronic health conditions like diabetes. On the other hand, they are actively working towards better health.

However, there’s a catch in that model of an ideal investment: injuries. So far, health insurers have reserved the right to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions, and a severe injury or accident could qualify. Either the policy will cover everything except treatment related to the injury, or they will be denied a policy altogether. (The healthcare reform law looks to end this in 2014.) In addition, even minor sprains or other injuries require doctor’s and hospital visits, driving up health insurance costs.

On the bright side, many distance runners buying individual health plans tend to be on the young side, making their coverage cost less.

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