Posts Tagged - ‘obama administration’

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Health Insurance Companies Spent $86 Million on Anti-Healthcare Reform Lobbying

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

Image: DonkeyHotey under CC 3.0

Some people may worry that this is what at least a portion of their health insurance premiums has been paying for: according to Bloomberg’s examination of major insurers’ tax records, they spent a total of $86 million on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s campaign to defeat the Obama administration’s healthcare reform legislation in 2009.

These expenses–public rallies and events, media advertisements, and sponsored polling meant to sway opinion–would probably not qualify as falling under the medical loss ratio guidelines, which say that a certain percentage of customer premiums should be spent on providing care through their health insurance plans, as opposed to administrative and other expenses. Cigna and United HealthCare were among the biggest givers. In addition, the Chamber of Commerce is only one of the myriad interest groups opposing the law.

Was it a worthwhile investment? The bill passed early this year, so maybe not. However, they appear to have successfully swayed the views of a significant portion of the American public. The Republicans now taking over Congress will do their best to weaken the law, if not repeal it entirely.

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First Legal Challenge of Healthcare Reform Fails

Tuesday, 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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First Step for GOP: Repealing Health Insurance Reform?

Monday, 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

Monday, 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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Virginia Judge To Rule on Health Insurance Mandate on New Year’s Day

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

Image: USA Today

Those hoping for a quick resolution to the lawsuits seeking to overturn a portion of the Obama administration’s healthcare reform law are out of luck. At least one of the suits–the one filed by Virginia–will take longer to resolve. According to U.S. District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson, he will rule on whether the affordable health insurance mandate provision is constitutional on January 1st.

If Hudson determines that the state’s Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II has a case for the federal government overstepping its boundaries, the challenge will be one step closer to the Supreme Court. Since Virginia has its own specific law forbidding anyone from mandating that its residents purchase health insurance, it filed a lawsuit separate from the class action joined by over 20 states.

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Michigan Judge Says Health Insurance Reform is Constitutional

Monday, October 11th, 2010

Image: Seattle Municipal Archive under CC 3.0

Opponents of healthcare reform are pinning their hopes of overturning the law on the legal system. Specifically, they contend that the individual mandate provision that requires people to purchase a health insurance plan violates states’ rights.

That argument was recently rejected by one federal judge. In Michigan, U.S. District Judge George Sheeh accepted the Obama administration’s contention that the refusal to buy health coverage materially affects interstate commerce; therefore, Congress has the right to create the mandate.

Of course, the plaintiffs will appeal. Also, two other similar lawsuits are pending in Florida and Virginia–which may be in more conservative districts.

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Should Obama Use Executive Orders To Ban Health Insurance Plans From Increasing Rates?

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

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In preparation for healthcare reform regulations that will end up cutting into their profits, insurers are sharply increasing rates while they still can. While Department of Health and Human Services head Kathleen Sebelius has criticized their opportunism–which allegedly goes beyond the actual rise of health care costs–right now, her words have no teeth.

The increases are lowering already shaky public support for the law. What can the Obama administration do? A consumer watchdog group is recommending that the President issue an executive order to freeze health insurance plans‘ premiums until the rate review provisions go into effect in the next plan year.

According to the Supreme Court, presidents are allowed to do so. However, taking that course of action would be politically risky–many already believe that his administration is taking too much control over the health insurance industry.

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Health Insurance Plan Reform Lawsuit Will Probably Continue

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

Image: Robotclaw666

The healthcare reform lawsuit launched by 20 states is currently being argued in a federal district court. According to the judge presiding over it, Roger Vinson, he will probably rule that the states have general jurisdiction to sue the federal government.

Vinson does not appear to be much of a sympathetic ear for the Obama administration’s lawyers, who claim that the health insurance plan mandate inherent in the bill should be considered as a tax–which they are allowed to impose.

When he decides on the lawsuit’s fate on October 14, Vinson predicts that the bulk of the lawsuit will be allowed to proceed to further arguments on December 16. However, some of it will probably be dismissed; a bittersweet fate for health insurance reform opponents.

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Predicted Health Insurance Reform Savings Misleading?

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

Image: University of Tennessee

According to the Obama administration’s director of healthcare reform, Nancy-Ann DeParle, the law will result in a slight reduction in the cost of health insurance. Specifically, each insured person will save up to $1,000 on their health insurance plan by 2019.

While this sounds positive, it does not cancel out the fact that the government’s Medicare actuary predicted a modest cost increase. That is because that cost will be divided among more people–the law seeks to expand coverage to 93 percent of the American population.

Some may consider the relatively small increase a worthwhile investment in our society for helping others, but that trade-off should be presented honestly.

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Healthcare Reform Lawsuit Arguments Continue

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010
health insurance plans
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When it comes to healthcare reform, controversy is never far behind. The federal government has continued to argue that the law is constitutional. In a district court, their lawyers claim that the burden of proof should be on the coalition of states suing.

Specifically, the states claim harm from the provision that mandates the purchase of health insurance plans. If a person or business does not comply, they are subject to annual fines of $695. However, the plaintiffs have allegedly failed to demonstrate imminent or actual financial injury, since that aspect of the legislation does not take effect until 2014.

Moreover, the federal government claims that even if the penalty (which would be collected by the IRS) is technically considered a tax, the Anti-Injunction Act prevents states from challenging it, since the individual mandate is considered integral to the structure of the bill.

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