Saturday, April 24, 2010

Obamacare: The Hard Reality

The news is now trickling out to employees of large and small companies that are still fortunate enough to have health care benefit plans.  Not surprisingly, these employers are still trying to assess the impact of Obamacare on their companies and their employees. 

It is obvious to me that once they have had a chance to review the Obamacare bill in its entirety they will begin to implement its provisions as they are able.  What is interesting to me is that the confusion is rampant and the implications are staggering. 

Yesterday, I was sent the following communication from the Human Resources department of a Fortune 500 company which shall remain nameless for obvious reasons.  Try to find any clarity in this letter, and search for anything but ambiguity:

To: All Full Time US Employees

From: Benefits

Dear Employee,

As you know, health care reform legislation was signed into law by President Obama in late March. This legislation has significant implications for both employers who offer health care benefits and for the employees and families covered by those plans. Our agency participates in the *** Group Health and Welfare Benefit Plan (the “*** Plan”), and *** will be working with the agencies in the Plan to implement the provisions of the law, as required. However, this will take some time and much analysis; so, for the time being, the *** Plan management has asked us to share the information below with our employees.

We know you probably have some questions and may have some concerns about health care reform and how the legislation will impact you and your benefits. As your Plan managers we have been closely following the health care reform legislation and the implications for our employer-sponsored health care benefits. However, due to the complexity of the law and many last minute changes that were made just before passage, as well as yet to be issued regulations, it will take some time to sort out exactly what the legislation means for the *** Plan, the individual participating agencies and you as participants. While some provisions of the new legislation will take effect later in 2010, these do not impact the *** Plan; accordingly, we do not anticipate making any changes prior to the 2011 plan year. In addition, the major provisions of the new legislation will not take effect until 2014. In several instances, you will find that the requirements of the new health care reform legislation are already in place under the *** Plan. For example, the medical plan options under the *** Plan do not contain any pre-existing condition exclusions and annual physicals and preventative screenings are covered at 100% in-network.

One provision of the new legislation that has received a lot of attention is the provision related to the requirement that health plans must cover children up to age 26. Unfortunately this provision is not as clear as the media has been reporting. For example, while there have been assertions in the media that this provision will take effect immediately, this is not the case. In most cases, this provision will take effect on January 1, 2011, and we anticipate that is when the provision will apply to the *** Plan as well. Over the next few months we will continue to work with our consultants and legal counsel to review the new legislation and forthcoming regulations in more detail and further assess their implications on the *** Plan. We do not anticipate having definitive details until the fall of 2010. However, as these details become clearer, you can expect to receive further updates from us.

One final comment: As always, your benefits require you to be actively involved to get the most from our plans. While we evaluate the new legislation, we encourage you to focus on what you can do today to take advantage of the coverage currently in place. This might be a good time to review your company-provided health care coverage to become a better informed health care consumer. For instance, if you haven’t already, consider scheduling your annual physical and make sure you and your family are getting the preventive care exams you need.

Again, you can look forward to receiving further updates regarding the new health care reform legislation from us in the next few months ahead.


Human Resources

Note the oxymoronic name of the bill.  The net effect of the "Affordable Care Act" is that once again paralysis has overtaken American businesses as they attempt to even understand was has been done to them.  Imagine the chaos that is permeating the insurance providers at this juncture!  All smiles on the day it was signed into law.  Do they have any idea what damage they have wrought?

A separate Congressional Budget Office analysis, also released Thursday, estimated that 4 million households would be hit with tax penalties under the law for failing to get the government-mandated insurance coverage.

CBS News reported yesterday that neutral analysts have now examined the legislation in a report issued by economic experts at the Health and Human Services Department (HHS).  They have concluded the health care remake will achieve Obama's aim of expanding health insurance - adding 34 million Americans to the coverage rolls.  But their analysis also found that the law falls short of the president's twin goal of controlling runaway costs, raising projected spending by about 1 percent over 10 years. That increase could get bigger, however, since the report also warned that Medicare cuts in the law may be unrealistic and unsustainable, forcing lawmakers to roll them back. 

Quoting from the CBS story:
"The U.S. spends $2.5 trillion a year on health care, far more per person than any other developed nation, and for results that aren't clearly better when compared to more frugal countries. At the outset of the health care debate last year, Obama held out the hope that by bending the cost curve down, the U.S. could cover all its citizens for about what the nation would spend absent any reforms. The report found that the president's law missed the mark, although not by much. The overhaul will increase national health care spending by $311 billion from 2010-2019, or nine-tenths of 1 percent. To put that in perspective, total health care spending during the decade is estimated to surpass $35 trillion.

"Administration officials argue the increase is a bargain price for guaranteeing coverage to 95 percent of Americans. They also point out that the law will decrease the federal deficit by $143 billion over the 10-year period, even if overall health care spending rises.

"The report's most sober assessments concerned Medicare.

"In addition to flagging the cuts to hospitals, nursing homes and other providers as potentially unsustainable, it projected that reductions in payments to private Medicare Advantage plans would trigger an exodus from the popular program. Enrollment would plummet by about 50 percent, as the plans reduce extra benefits that they currently offer. Seniors leaving the private plans would still have health insurance under traditional Medicare, but many might face higher out-of-pocket costs.

"In another flashing yellow light, the report warned that a new voluntary long-term care insurance program created under the law faces 'a very serious risk' of insolvency."

The CBS story cited above contains several other reports you should review on your own, but the point is this:  This government's radical lurch to the far left agenda of the Obama administration in its attempts to reform health care is going to be challenged in the courts for years to come.  The country has been set on a course of indeterminable length and complexity that is anything but predictable. 
These are but two samples that hit my radar yesterday, and there appears to be no end in sight. 
We must make a start in retrenchment of runaway government spending.  The mid-term election of 2010 will be pivotal in that effort.  A winning platform will include drastic cuts in federal government spending, dramatically reducing deficit spending, eliminating the seniority system in Congress, and returning power to the states.  Those who oppose those ideas must be voted from office and replaced with those who will pledge to re-enthrone the Constitutional provisions of limited government.
That's why Mike Lee is the obvious choice for me for the U.S. Senate seat currently being held by Senator Bob Bennett.  The old ways of doing things in Washington D.C. are proven to be disastrous. 

I have been asked to participate in numerous polls since being elected as a state delegate.  With one particularly engaging employee of a polling firm out of Colorado commissioned by The Salt Lake Tribune, I asked her when she was finished with her questions, "So tell me off the record, what's it looking like for Senator Bennett?  Do you think he will find any support at the nominating convention?"  Her response was candid -- "The people I've been calling are not supporters of Senator Bennett.  I haven't talked to anyone yet who is voting for him."  I know, I know, unscientific, only one caller, I know, I know. . .  but it's going to prove to be an epidemic that can't be stopped.

We must and we will begin again, beginning on May 8th at the Utah Republican Nominating Convention, where Senator Bennett will be eliminated from the ballot in November.  This time, one hopes, it will be the REAL change, as opposed to that "changy thang" we got in 2008.

1 comment:

  1. Great article, you can find more info on how this effects senior care at