Saturday, March 27, 2010

And Now Let the Spin Begin. . .

In search of something else this afternoon, I stumbled over this article that appeared in Yahoo Finance.  Then I found this composite chart illustrating the results of hundreds of polling data points that told a revealing story.  It says 50% oppose Obamacare, and 40% approve.  Had to admit, I've never heard of the author in the Yahoo story so I searched for her website.  "Somebody" no doubt paid her to write what follows, since she's a pen for hire.  I thought as I read it, WOW what's not to like?  Then I saw a pig fly by my window that had just sprouted wings (the image has not been altered in any way).  Now you be the judge:

10 Ways the New Healthcare Bill May Affect You

by Katie Adams  (from her webpage:  "For more than 18 years I have helped companies craft and communicate compelling messages to establish their brands and accelerate their business development success.  I add value to your team, leverage your marketing and communications dollars, and bring your project in on time, on budget and on message.")  In a year or so, let's see what kind of prophetess Ms. Adams turns out to be. . .

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Patient Protection and Affordable Healthcare Act, more commonly referred to as the "healthcare bill", has taken over a year to craft and has been a lightning rod for political debate because it effectively reshapes major facets of the country's healthcare industry.

Here are 10 things you need to know about how the new law may affect you:

1. Your Kids are Covered

Starting this year, if you have an adult child who cannot get health insurance from his or her employer and is to some degree dependent on you financially, your child can stay on your insurance policy until he or she is 26 years old. Currently, many insurance companies do not allow adult children to remain on their parents' plan once they reach 19 or leave school.

2. You Can't be Dropped

Starting this fall, your health insurance company will no longer be allowed to "drop" you (cancel your policy) if you get sick. In 2009, "rescission" was revealed to be a relatively common cost-cutting practice by several insurance companies. The practice proved to be common enough to spur several lawsuits; for example, in 2008 and 2009, California's largest insurers were made to pay out more than $19 million in fines for dropping policyholders who fell ill.

3. You Can't be Denied Insurance

Starting this year your child (or children) cannot be denied coverage simply because they have a pre-existing health condition. Health insurance companies will also be barred from denying adults applying for coverage if they have a pre-existing condition, but not until 2014.

4. You Can Spend What You Need to

Prior to the new law, health insurance companies set a maximum limit on the monetary amount of benefits that a policyholder could receive. This meant that those who developed expensive or long-lasting medical conditions could run out of coverage. Starting this year, companies will be barred from instituting caps on coverage.

5. You Don't Have to Wait

If you currently have pre-existing conditions that have prevented you from being able to qualify for health insurance for at least six months you will have coverage options before 2014. Starting this fall, you will be able to purchase insurance through a state-run "high-risk pool", which will cap your personal out-of-pocket expenses for healthcare. You will not be required to pay more than $5,950 of your own money for medical expenses; families will not have to pay any more than $11,900.

6. You Must be Insured

Under the new law starting in 2014, you will have to purchase health insurance or risk being fined. If your employer does not offer health insurance as a benefit or if you do not earn enough money to purchase a plan, you may get assistance from the government. The fines for not purchasing insurance will be levied according to a sliding scale based on income. Starting in 2014, the lowest fine would be $95 or 1% of a person's income (whichever is greater) and then increase to a high of $695 or 2.5% of an individual's taxable income by 2016. There will be a maximum cap on fines.

7. You'll Have More Options

Starting in 2014 (when you will be required by law to have health insurance), states will operate new insurance marketplaces - called "exchanges" - that will provide you with more options for buying an individual policy if you can't get, or afford, insurance from your workplace and you earn too much income to qualify for Medicaid. In addition, millions of low- and middle-income families (earning up to $88,200 annually) will be able to qualify for financial assistance from the federal government to purchase insurance through their state exchange.

8. Flexible Spending Accounts Will Become Less Flexible

Three years from now, flexible spending accounts (FSAs) will have lower contribution limits - meaning you won't be able to have as much money deducted from your paycheck pre-tax and deposited into an FSA for medical expenses as is currently allowed. The new maximum amount allowed will be $2,500. In addition, fewer expenses will qualify for FSA spending. For example, you will no longer be able to use your FSA to help defray the cost of over-the-counter drugs.

9. If You Earn More, You'll Pay More

Starting in 2018, if your combined family income exceeds $250,000 you are going to be taking less money home each pay period. That's because you will have more money deducted from your paycheck to go toward increased Medicare payroll taxes. In addition to higher payroll taxes you will also have to pay 3.8% tax on any unearned income, which is currently tax-exempt.

10. Medicare May Cover More or Less of Your Expenses

Starting this year, if Medicare is your primary form of health insurance you will no longer have to pay for preventive care such as an annual physical, screenings for treatable conditions or routine laboratory work. In addition, you will get a $250 check from the federal government to help pay for prescription drugs currently not covered as a result of the Medicare Part D "doughnut hole".

However, if you are a high-income individual or couple (making more than $85,000 individually or $170,000 jointly), your prescription drug subsidy will be reduced. In addition, if you are one of the more than 10 million people currently enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan you may be facing higher premiums because your insurance company's subsidy from the federal government is going to be dramatically reduced.


Over the next few months you will most likely receive information in the mail from your health insurance company about how the newly signed law will affect your coverage. Read the correspondence carefully and don't hesitate to ask questions about your policy; there may be new, more affordable options for you down the road.  (That's fantastic journalism, and that's the end of the article).

After reading, I thought I remembered some passing news story this week about companies that are already writing down charges against their balance sheets, so I came up with a few questions of my own:

I'm thinking we're witnessing one of the -- strike that -- THE BIGGEST redistribution of wealth in U.S. history -- strike that -- maybe the history of the world.  Is anyone else flinching besides me at the price tag?  I have no idea what's really in the bill, but apparently hired gun Katie Adams does or she's just writing what she's being fed. 

Price tag:  $1 Trillion, give or take a half a billion or so.  Nationalization of health care.  Taxation begins today to pay for it, but benefits don't start delivery until 2014 (it was the only way to "trick" the math).  Oh, and did we mention all of it done without one single bipartisan vote?  "This is what change looks like," said President Obama last week in celebration.  WOW, that's change we can believe in!

What comes next?  Is there a piper that must be paid for all this social re-engineering?  We'll know soon enough.  Fiscal restraint is only an outmoded and tired old conservative idea.

Here are some random thoughts that come to this simple mind:
Will it really cover more people who are currently uninsured -- that was the pitch. . . but will that really happen?  How many more?  50% more?  75% more -- all of them?

The number that was always bandied about during the debate dating back to the 2008 election was about 45 million uninsured people if memory serves me.  How many are going to be automatically enrolled under this new plan?  I seem to remember something called the Community Reinvestment Act positing that the banks should extend loans to EVERY American to buy a home -- it is the American dream to own a home, so let's go do it!  We all know how that worked out, or are we still deaf, dumb, blind and happy in not knowing?

Those who won't be covered under the grand theft -- strike that -- grand plan will probably be illegal aliens, but that's no problem either if we just change their status to "legal."  And why not?  If we can pass Obamacare, we can do that too while we're at it. 

I'm stupid, I know, but isn't there a cost component in there somewhere to do all that?  Just sayin'. . .  I never thought math was my strong suit, but will somebody please explain that to me?  Maybe some elitist White House staffer has the answer, but I know Robert Gibbs hasn't said much about it to date.  Just give us the blank check, Congress, and we'll bailout everybody who fails, and we'll insure them if they can't afford it!  Master stroke!

Here's what I'm wondering after AT&T announced this week that it's taking a $1 billion charge to its corporate balance sheet in anticipation of what it's going to cost them.  I'm sure somebody in the Obama administration is thinking that can't be good news, and will somebody just hit those corporate idiots upside the head?

And they weren't the only U.S. company to do their own tax reserve calculations.  I heard Caterpillar took a $100 million writedown, followed by Deere announcing a $150 million bite and then I noticed a little itty bitty AK Steel hit -- a mere $31 million.  Mind you, these are taxes their green eyeshade guys are saying will need to be paid under Obamacare.  When I was in college (yeah, it was a long time ago when numbers actually had to add up), the conventional wisdom in Economics 101 always was that corporations really don't pay taxes, consumers do.  Taxes just get passed along.  I guess in his Ivy League education, Mr. Obama must have tested out of the basic course.

What are the companies to do?  Don't think for a minute their benefits to their retirees will remain in tact.  Concessions to unions over retiree benefits is what drove General Motors over the edge.  

We will not long remember how narrow the House margin of passage for this monstrous social program was (it was only eight votes).  It will be soon forgotten if the spin rhetoric of Ms. Adams and others overtakes us.  Government-funded abortion, however, was always a sticking point in the proposed run up to the final vote, but even that was no problem for Mr. Obama and the historically "pro-choice" Roe v. Wade Democrats.  They blocked all funding in the final Obamacare bill, and lived to fight another day by "buying" (slap me) the eight votes needed from the holdout obstructionists.  So much for sticking to your guns on that one.

Watch for rationed care on whatever criteria that will yet emerge from the elitists -- whatever we say it is, it is because we say it is, morality aside. . . 

There have been studies done attempting to figure out the fiscal impacts of this bill.  Some suggest that a successful taxpayer earning $1 million per year will pay an extra $46,000.  Not bad -- that guy can afford it.  I learned there's a 10% surcharge tax now when you go to the tanning salon for a fake tan because it increases your risk of skin cancer.  No problem, what's another 10% on a tanning session.

But what's the real economic impact of the millionaire's extra $46,000 in tax?  That $1 million is really only $500,000 after-tax right now, so the $46,000 is really almost a 10% surcharge tax on the wealthy.  Still no big deal, you say?  It means our fat cat big spender has just lost some discretionary income to spend on big ticket items that actually create and sustain employment.  It's all so subtle, really -- strike that -- brilliant, but flat out deceptive when you put a pencil to it.

But I digress when I consider the plight of the wealthy under Obamacare.  After all, the grand and deeply caring social aim here, I think, is to subsidize the "poor."  What if you're a middle-class American (any of you left standing out there?).  Answer this multiple choice question:  Do you now think after this last week's events that your insurance costs are going to 1) go up; or 2) go down?  Well, if you answered "1" go up, no worries -- Obamacare, I am told, will offer subsidies to offset the increases in your premiums if you earn up to $88,000 per year.  Wait a minute, wasn't the whole plan supposed to lower costs?  Where do the subsidies come from?  I guess, once again, I'm just stupid.  Tell me, I pray thee.

If this plan is really going to be so great, wouldn't I just drop my current coverage and switch to the big government-run plan?  I think I'm on to something here.  If no insurance company can decline me, why not drop my current plan, pay the fine for dropping it (I think I heard $695 a year as a penalty) and go without insurance until something catastrophic happens to me?  Then when I get diagnosed with a life-threatening illness like cancer, I just get in line to buy because I can't be declined anymore for a pre-existing condition.  I think I'm beginning to like this Obama guy -- he's really smart after all.  If I pay out of pocket $12,000 year right now for coverage, and I don't get sick, I'm $11,000-plus ahead of the game, every year aren't I?  Yes, sir, those guys in Washington D.C. have it all figured out.

If I'm an employer, it makes ever more sense to me now.  My good honest hard-working employees are costing me way too much now under this current law that just passed (think AT&T, Catepillar and others).  Why don't I just let them buy insurance on their own now?  If it's costing me as their employer $12,000 per year per employee, I think I'll just pay the $3,000 per employee penalty and rack up $9,000 per employee in windfall profits.  It's going to put a smile on all the faces of my investors and shareholders.  Thanks you guys and gals in Congress -- I never knew you were so brilliant!  Should have thought about it years ago.  That's why I'm just a struggling businessman and you're all so smart back there.  Glad you're lookin' out for me here on Main Street.

So if Ms. Adams is right in her article above, the government is going to force insurers to keep their children up to age 26 under the parents' plans.  Kids already accustomed to their parents' largesse will be encouraged to stay at home even longer.  Brilliant!  Dependency is a wonderful attribute, right?

It is clear to me in these rantings that I am clearly an idiot, completely irrational, and not a very clear-headed thinker.  I would never fit in back there in Washington, 'cause I'm so stupid.  So I need your help.  Please tell me where I have gone astray.  Someone please help me. . .  oh, wait -- another pig just went flying by my window.  The picture has not been altered in any way, trust me. . .


  1. From Katie's LinkedIn profile:

    A proven communications professional with 17 years experience in communications and PR strategy, marketing and editorial services.

    As a professional freelance writer Katie has most notably worked for seven years as the sole content creator for The Bond Market Foundation's suite of five bilingual personal finance sites at The sites average more than 1 million visitors annually and have been used by the National Association of State Treasurers to educate and engage their state constituents as well as The American Red Cross to assist families affected by 9/11.

    At The Strategy Group Katie helped develop and implement communciations and PR strategy to drive awareness and preference for the company's consulting services and turnkey marketing programs for hospitals and health systems nationwide.

    As Director of Regional Communications for Fannie Mae Katie provided regional leadership for the company's public relations efforts to support establishment of partnership offices and housing investment plans nationwide.

    Throughout her career, Katie has written award-winning websites and marketing material including articles, speeches, case studies, white papers, brochures, consumer advertising, direct mail, and email campaigns. Her clients span numerous industries including healthcare, public utilities, travel and tourism, real estate, and personal finance.

    Katie earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Government from the College of William and Mary.

    Specialtiesbranding; marketing; public relations and marcom; employee communications writer; personal finance writer; healthcare marketing consultant and writer; feature article writer; website content writer and design consultant; speech writer; script writer; curriculum writer; e-newsletter developer; email campaign writer and developer; grant writer; PowerPoint presentation developer

  2. No your not stupid but perhaps a little naieve. After 40 years as a Republican I've registered as an independent, never to be associated with the Reps. again. I've actively supported the GOP and worked feverishly for them in the past. However when they spin this health care program they way they have, without a single proposal in 40 years(!) yea I'll fight the ins. co. on my own, its work so well in the past, we and the GOP have done so well with it we've kept the increases down to less then 3000%. Why would we want to change that? (you don't suppose these folks have been taking campaign donation from these folks, do you) theres no sense in re-writing those sections that could be improved, that might save $ and time. It might save some youngster from going into debt for the majority of his adult life. (spent 15 years and hundreds of thousands of dollars saving my wife from cancer, after my health care lapsed. recently spent over $50,000 on an illness that hospitalized me for LESS THEN 3 DAYS. Yea lets trash it and wait for another 40 years (if even then, campaigns are getting expensive). I would be glad to share copies of my hospital bills if they're are any non-believers out there. Thanks for allowing me to speak my piece.