Posts Tagged - ‘state of the union’

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State Medicaid Boost In Fed Budget

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

Call it the Nebraska affect.

After the Cornhusker State landed a pot of previously unavailable money in exchange for its “Yes” vote on the now fumbled Senate healthcare reform bill, the Obama Administration is expected to announce on Friday a proposal that would add another $25 billion worth of funds to states to use for Medicaid, according to the AP.

The Medicaid windfall is expected to mirror the economic stimulus program that took effect last year, where non-recurring Medicare funds were divvied up among states with the highest unemployment rates. Under the new initiative, the Feds will take on a higher stake of state Medicaid funds for a period of six months (or until July, as proposed) with every state in the U.S. getting an additional 6.2 percent of its current Medicaid budget paid for by federal dollars. Again, those states with higher unemployment are slated to get more.

The proposal is the centerpiece of President Obama’s 2011 budget. It is unclear whether the measure will be wrapped up in the Administration’s $174 billion “Jobs Bill” that Obama unveiled at his State of the Union address last week, or if it would be presented to Congress as part of a special line item. Regardless, if the Medicaid measure passes both houses of Congress, the money would not be made available to states until next year. Obama already has a bit of a head start on getting the measure passed since the House already passed the Medicare extension in a previous session.

Although his budget is highly unlikely to be passed without some significant cuts by Congress, the Obama Administration is stemming the tide of requests from state and local leaders with large populations of unemployed workers who are facing the end of federally-subsidized COBRA health insurance plans. Coupled with a growing pool of retired and elderly citizens who are living on fixed incomes during the nation’s second worst economic recession, the coming Senatorial elections this November and Congress is expected to rubber stamp Obama’s proposed boost in Medicare spending. Aside from the usual partisan bickering about budgets and deficits, we can also expect some debate about the disparity of Medicare funds available to large states like California and Texas, both of which also have a large unemployed population.

Reuters is reporting today that about $645 billion total of the Obama budget is specifically earmarked as money for various state economic and emergency funding programs. One half of that money is dedicated to various reforms for health insurance companies designed to extend affordable health insurance to to the unemployed and economically disadvantaged.

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Health Insurance in Obama’s Own Words

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

It took nearly 30 minutes into an hour-plus long speech for President Obama to mention healthcare reform. Some would accuse him of burying the issue to avoid further criticism, while others were heartened by his renewed focus on other issues. Here are Obama’s own words from last night’s state of the union address:

  • Why he decided to tackle healthcare reform: “By now it should be fairly obvious that I didn’t take on health care because it was good politics. I took on health care because of the stories I’ve heard from Americans with pre-existing conditions whose lives depend on getting coverage, patients who’ve been denied coverage, families — even those with insurance — who are just one illness away from financial ruin.
  • Why he thinks the public is skeptical about his proposals: “This is a complex issue, and the longer it was debated, the more skeptical people became. I take my share of the blame for not explaining it more clearly to the American people. And I know that with all the lobbying and horse-trading, the process left most Americans wondering, “What’s in it for me?””
  • What’s in it for the average American (most of whom already have health insurance)? “The approach we’ve taken would protect every American from the worst practices of the insurance industry. It would give small businesses and uninsured Americans a chance to choose an affordable health care plan in a competitive market. It would require every insurance plan to cover preventive care….Our approach would preserve the right of Americans who have insurance to keep their doctor and their plan. It would reduce costs and premiums for millions of families and businesses.”
  • How will it affect the national deficit? “Our approach would preserve the right of Americans who have insurance to keep their doctor and their plan. It would reduce costs and premiums for millions of families and businesses. And according to the Congressional Budget Office — the independent organization that both parties have cited as the official scorekeeper for Congress — our approach would bring down the deficit by as much as $1 trillion over the next two decades.”
  • Why he thinks health insurance plan reform can’t wait: “After nearly a century of trying — Democratic administrations, Republican administrations — we are closer than ever to bringing more security to the lives of so many Americans. […] I also know this problem is not going away. By the time I’m finished speaking tonight, more Americans will have lost their health insurance. Millions will lose it this year. Our deficit will grow. Premiums will go up. Patients will be denied the care they need. Small business owners will continue to drop coverage altogether. I will not walk away from these Americans and neither should the people in this chamber.”
  • His challenge to Republicans: “if anyone from either party has a better approach that will bring down premiums, bring down the deficit, cover the uninsured, strengthen Medicare for seniors and stop insurance company abuses, let me know. Let me know. Let me know. I’m eager to see it.”
  • Next steps: “As temperatures cool, I want everyone to take another look at the plan we’ve proposed. There’s a reason why many doctors, nurses and health care experts who know our system best consider this approach a vast improvement over the status quo. Here’s what I ask Congress, though: Don’t walk away from reform. Not now. Not when we are so close. Let us find a way to come together and finish the job for the American people. Let’s get it done. Let’s get it done”

(Image: transplanted mountaineer under CC 2.0)

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State of the Healthcare Reform Union

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

President Barack Obama is giving his first State of the Union address tonight, airing on all major networks. Will he talk about healthcare reform?

It seems unlikely. His administration has been dropping hints that the speech will focus more directly on the economy, specifically job creation. Expanding individual health insurance coverage has been a slog, as well as a drain on his popularity ratings. While Obama recently said that he would rather be a great one-term President as opposed to a mediocre two-term one, he is nevertheless refocusing on issues that the middle-class believes is more important.

Most Americans receive affordable health insurance through their employers. 10% of Americans are unemployed. What happens to this slice of the population? COBRA health insurance is helpful, but most people without jobs don’t have the money to pay for the entire health insurance premium without an employer covering some of the cost. Obama has not managed to collect the dots in the minds of the public.

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