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Thursday
Dec132012

Health Care Deadline Looms: How States Are Setting Up the Exchanges

Kevin Lamarque-Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- All of the Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare," doesn't go into effect until 2014, but states are required to set up their own health care exchanges or leave it to the federal government to step in by next year. The deadline for the governors' decisions is Friday.

The health insurance exchanges are one of the key stipulations of the new health care law. They reportedly will offer consumers an Internet-based marketplace for purchasing private health insurance plans.

But the president's signature health care plan has become so fraught with politics that whether governors agreed to set up the exchanges has fallen mostly along party lines.

Such partisanship is largely symbolic because if a state opts not to set up the exchange, the Department of Health and Human Services will do it for them as part of the federal program. That would not likely be well-received by Republican governors, either, but the law forces each state's chief executive to make a decision one way or the other.

Here's what it looks like in all 50 states and the District of Columbia:

20 states that have opted out -- N.J., S.C., La., Wis., Ohio, Maine, Ala., Alaska, Ariz., Ga., Pa., Kan., Neb., N.H., N.D., Okla., S.D., Tenn., Texas and Wyo.

Several Republican governors have said they will not set up the exchanges, including Chris Christie (N.J.), Nikki Haley (S.C.), Bobby Jindal (La.), Scott Walker (Wis.), John Kasich (Ohio), Paul LePage (Maine), Robert Bentley (Ala.), Sean Parnell (Ark.), Jan Brewer (Ariz.), Nathan Deal (Ga.), Tom Corbett (Pa.), Sam Brownback (Kan.), Dave Heineman (Neb.), John Lynch (N.H.), Jack Dalrymple (N.D.), Mary Fallin (Okla.), Dennis Daugaard (S.D.), Bill Haslam (Tenn.), Rick Perry (Texas), and Matt Mead (Wyo.).

3 States Out, But a Little More Complicated -- Mont., Ind. and Mo.

The Montana outgoing and incoming governors are both Democrats, but the Republican state legislature rejected the Democratic state auditor's request to start setting up a state exchange. So a federal exchange will be set up in Montana as well.

The Indiana outgoing and incoming governors are both Republicans and outgoing Gov. Mitch Daniels deferred the decision to governor-elect and U.S. Rep. Mike Pence, who said his preference is not to set up a state health care exchange, paving the way for the feds to come in too.

In Missouri, Gov. Jay Nixon is a Democrat, but Prop E passed on Nov. 6, which barred his administration from creating a state-based exchange without a public vote or the approval of the state legislature. After the election, he sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services saying he would be unable to set up a state-based exchange, meaning the federal government would have to set up its own.

One State Waiting for the White House -- Utah

Utah already has a state exchange set up, a Web-based tool where small-business employees can shop and compare health insurance with contributions from their employee. In a letter Republican Gov. Gary Herbert sent to the White House Tuesday, he asked for its exchange, called Avenue H, to be approved as a state-based exchange under the Affordable Care Act as long as state officials can open it to individuals and larger businesses.

Norm Thurston, the state's health reform implementation coordinator, says authorities there, "haven't received an official response" from the White House, but, "we anticipate getting one soon."

19 State-Based Exchanges – Calif., Colo., Conn., Washington, D.C., Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Ky., Md., Mass., Minn., Miss., Nev., N.M., N.Y., Ore., R.I., Vt. and Wash.

Six Partnerships -- Ark, Del., Ill., Mich., N.C. and W.Va.

Two Undecided -- Va. and Fla.

That makes 23 states that will have federal exchanges, 19 states will have state-based exchanges (including the District of Columbia), six are planning on partnership exchanges between the federal government and the state, Utah is waiting on an answer from the federal government, and two states have not officially announced their decision: Virginia and Florida.

A representative for Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell said an official announcement is likely to come Friday, but the Republican governor has repeatedly said he will likely reject the state-based exchange, paving the way for the federal government to come in.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott indicated last month that he was considering implementing a state-based exchange. He has made no official announcement either way and the Republican governor's office told ABC News they had no update on a decision, despite being a day away from the deadline.

Renee Landers, a professor of law at Suffolk University Law School in Boston who has written extensively on the new law, says if the remaining states don't make an official announcement by Friday, it's likely they will default to the federal exchange.

"If they don't decide to do it themselves, the default is the federal government will set it up," Landers said.

Landers boils down the decision by the nation's governors as this:

"If you want to wash your hands of [the ACA] as much as you can, entirely a federal exchange is your choice. But if you want as much control as possible, then the state exchange is the way to go; and the partnership, well every partnership is complicated," Landers said. "Sometimes it's nice to have the help, but on the other hand, you don't always get your way."

The Five Who Broke Party Lines:

Not all of the country's Republican governors rejected the state-based exchanges: Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, Idaho Governor Butch Otter, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval all decided to assert more control over the plan and, despite some grumbling, will set up the state-based exchanges.

"If the state really believes in federalism and state control, then operating its own exchange is the best way," Landers said."Its appeal is that it relies on competition in the market for health care coverage instead of a public system."

Landers says the new law also tells states they can form inter-state compacts and run exchanges by region, though none of the states decided to so. But "the federal government, in areas where they have contiguous states with a lot of shared markets, you can see the federal government saying, 'We won't have two infrastructures for those states, we will have one,'" the professor said.

One example could be New Jersey and Pennsylvania, two states that will have federal exchanges and are next to each other.

"I think it's funny that governors who purportedly want to be in charge of their own fate don't want to be involved [in setting up the exchanges]," Landers said.

"But then they have no responsibility for things that go wrong and there will be things that go wrong, mistakes will be made and they will have deniability."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Dec102012

Colin Powell Calls On Congress to Support Abortion Coverage for Military Rape Victims

ABC/Donna Svennevik(WASHINGTON) -- In a letter sent to key lawmakers on Capitol Hill former U.S. Secretary of State and retired U.S. Army Gen. Colin Powell called on Congress to support abortion coverage for military rape victims.

“Restoring abortion coverage to our servicewomen and military family members who are survivors of rape and incest would bring the Department of Defense in line with the policy that governs other federal programs, such as Medicaid or the Federal Employee Health Benefit program,” Powell, along with dozens of military leaders wrote. “At the very least, our military women deserve the same access to care as civilian women who rely on the federal government for their health care.”

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., introduced the amendment which would allow the Department of Defense to cover the cost of abortions for servicewomen who are survivors of rape and incest.

Under current law, the Department of Defense is allowed to only provide coverage for an abortion if the servicemember’s life is in danger. There is no exemption for abortion coverage in the case of rape or incest, unlike many other federal health programs.

“The current policy is unfair and must be changed,” Powell and the other signers say in the letter. “Our servicewomen commit their lives to defending our freedoms; Congress should respect their service and sacrifice and provide them with the same level of health care coverage it provides civilians.”

The amendment is included in the National Defense Authorization Act which passed unanimously in the Senate last week.

The legislation is currently being worked on in a conference between the House and the Senate. If the provision is included in the final defense authorization bill each chamber, the House and Senate, will be able to vote on it during final passage of the bill.

The letter was sent to the Chairman and Ranking Member in the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, who will be in charge of hammering out a final Defense Authorization Bill that can pass in both houses of Congress.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Oct112012

Romney Appears to Refine Position on Pre-existing Conditions

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Mitt Romney appears to have altered his position on the Obamacare ban on denying insurance to people with pre-existing conditions in an interview with the Columbus Dispatch editorial board.

“You have to deal with those people who are currently uninsured, and help them have the opportunity to have insurance,” said Romney, according to the paper.

“But then once people have all had that opportunity to become insured, if someone chooses not to become insured, and waits for 10 or 20 years and then gets ill and then says, ‘Now I want insurance,’ you could hardly say to an insurance company, ‘Oh, you must take this person now that they’re sick,’ or there’d literally be no reason to have insurance.”

In the same interview with the Dispatch, he also argued that not having insurance does not in itself lead to deaths.

“We don’t have a setting across this country where if you don’t have insurance, we just say to you, ‘Tough luck, you’re going to die when you have your heart attack,’” Romney said. “Instead you go to the hospital, you get treated, you get care, and it’s paid for, either by charity, the government or by the hospital. We don’t have people that become ill, who die in their apartment because they don’t have insurance.”

Romney’s reference to a “choice” with regard to pre-existing conditions and his inclusion of giving opportunity to people “who are currently uninsured” would seem to contradict earlier statements from Romney and his own website, which suggest no ban on pre-existing conditions should be extended for people who don’t currently have insurance. A full transcript of the interview has not yet been posted by the Dispatch. The Romney campaign has not responded to a request for comment.

There were approximately 49 million non-elderly uninsured Americans in 2010, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation report that utilized U.S. Census data. More than 70 percent of those have gone without insurance for a year or more, according to the report.

Here’s what it says on Mitt Romney’s website about pre-existing conditions: “Prevent discrimination against individuals with pre-existing conditions who maintain continuous coverage.”

That has been taken to suggest that he favors a ban on insurance companies discriminating on the basis of pre-existing conditions, but not for people who are currently uninsured. “Continuous coverage” generally means three months, so presumably a three-month gap is allowed.

Romney has backed this assessment up, most notably in an interview during the GOP primary this spring with Jay Leno, when Romney was careful to stipulate that someone would need to have had insurance. “People who have done their best to be insured are going to be covered,” said Romney.

“If they are 45 years old, and they show up and say, ‘I want insurance because I have heart disease,’ it’s like, ‘Hey, guys. We can’t play the game like that,’” Romney told Jay Leno during a March appearance on the Tonight Show.  "You’ve got to get insurance when you are well, and then if you get ill, you are going to be covered."

“People who have been continuously insured, let’s say someone’s had a job for a while and been insured, then they get real sick and they happen to lose a job, or change jobs, they find, ‘Gosh, I got a pre-existing condition. I can’t get insured,’ I’d say no, no, no.  People with pre-existing conditions, as long as they have been insured before, they are going to be able to continue to have insurance,” he said.

In the presidential debate last week, Romney said, “I do have a plan that deals with people with pre-existing conditions,” but he did not elaborate.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Sep242012

Democrats Pounce on Romney Over Uninsured, ER Care

ABC/ Ida Mae Astute(NEW YORK) -- Democrats are seizing on a portion of Mitt Romney’s interview with 60 Minutes in which he cites hospital emergency rooms as a health care option for the uninsured -- a statement that contrasts with his longstanding opposition to such an approach because it’s widely known as the most expensive.

Here’s what Romney told Scott Pelley:

PELLEY:  Does the government have a responsibility to provide health care to the 50 million Americans who don’t have it today?

ROMNEY:  Well, we do provide care for people who don’t have insurance. If someone has a heart attack, they don’t sit in their apartment and die. We pick them up in an ambulance, and take them to the hospital, and give them care. And different states have different ways of providing for that care.

PELLEY:  What’s the most expensive way to do it? In an emergency room?

ROMNEY:  Again, different states have different ways of doing that. Some provide that care through clinics. Some provide the care through emergency rooms. In my state, we found a solution that worked for my state. But I wouldn’t take what we did in Massachusetts and say to Texas, ‘You’ve got to take the Massachusetts model.’


A new Obama campaign web video released Monday afternoon suggests Romney has flip-flopped on the issue, criticizing him for appearing to favor a plan that would “lead to higher costs and leave more Americans without insurance.”

The video highlights Romney’s March 2010 appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe when he said he believes in universal health insurance coverage to reduce reliance on emergency rooms for care.

“Look, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for us to have millions and millions of people who have no health insurance and yet who can go to the emergency room and get entirely free care for which they have no responsibility, particularly if they are people who have sufficient means to pay their own way,” Romney said at the time.

The Democratic National Committee made Romney’s apparent “shift” on health care for the uninsured a new talking point on their two-day Ohio bus tour, with spokesman Brad Woodhouse noting “the man who created the model for health care reform has moved so extreme right that he says the uninsured should use the emergency room like it’s a doctor’s office.   We know this doesn’t work.”

In an email to ABC News, Romney campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg argued that the GOP nominee has not changed positions but was simply making “a statement of fact” in the 60 Minutes interview.

“Governor Romney made a statement of fact that Americans without health insurance are still able to receive critical care including in some cases through emergency rooms,” she said. “It is an absurd misreading of his comments to imply that he offered emergency rooms as a ‘solution’ to our nation’s health care challenges."

“As president, Mitt Romney will repeal Obamacare and replace it with common-sense, patient-centered reforms that strengthen our health care system making sure that every American, regardless of their health care needs, can find quality, affordable coverage,” she said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Sep102012

Fact Check: Mitt Romney on ‘Obamacare’ and Pre-Existing Conditions

JD Pooley/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Mitt Romney said Sunday he doesn’t want to get rid of all of “Obamacare,” a statement that at first seemed to indicate he’d softened his position on President Obama’s health care law.

“Well, I’m not getting rid of all of health care reform,” Romney said on NBC’s Meet the Press. "Of course, there are a number of things that I like in health care reform that I’m going to put in place.  One is to make sure that those with pre-existing conditions can get coverage.  Two is to assure that the marketplace allows for individuals to have policies that cover their family up to whatever age they might like.  I also want individuals to be able to buy insurance, health insurance, on their own as opposed to only being able to get it on a tax advantage basis through their company.”

But the Romney campaign later confirmed that the GOP candidate had not changed his position on coverage for pre-existing conditions. Insurance companies have covered people with pre-existing conditions as long as they had continuous health care coverage.

The Affordable Care Act, on the other hand, created special health care plans in 2010 for people who have pre-existing conditions, and by 2014 it will prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage to anyone because of a pre-existing condition.

It is not a small population who would be cut from health care coverage under a proposal similar to what Romney has suggested. A Health and Human Services report, published in January 2011, estimated that between 50 million and 129 million people currently have a pre-existing condition in the eyes of  insurance companies. Twenty-five million of those do not have health insurance, according to the report.  That number does not take into account those who have had gaps in coverage, suggesting a much larger number of people have pre-existing conditions but have not had continuous coverage.

Those gaps would be important under Romney. Earlier this year, Romney suggested that people with pre-existing conditions who didn’t already have health insurance shouldn’t get any special treatment.

“If they are 45 years old, and they show up and say, ‘I want insurance because I have heart disease,’ it’s like, ‘Hey guys. We can’t play the game like that,’” Romney told Jay Leno during a March appearance on The Tonight Show.  "You’ve got to get insurance when you are well, and then if you get ill, you are going to be covered."

“People who have been continuously insured, let’s say someone’s had a job for a while and been insured, then they get real sick and they happen to lose a job, or change jobs, they find, ‘Gosh, I got a pre-existing condition. I can’t get insured,’ I’d say no, no, no.  People with pre-existing conditions, as long as they have been insured before, they are going to be able to continue to have insurance,” he said.

On the day the U.S. Supreme Court narrowly upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, Romney said his plan would let people with pre-existing conditions “know they will be able to be insured and will not lose their insurance,” but he did not address what happens to those who have pre-existing conditions but no health insurance.

His campaign has not been more specific about Romney’s health care plan, nor does his website go into detail.

The website lists as one of his priorities: “Prevent discrimination against individuals with pre-existing conditions who maintain continuous coverage.”

Continuous coverage generally means having nonstop coverage.  Gaps of no more than 63 days can be allowed when changing insurance companies.

But as the Washington Post pointed out, people who have health insurance and a pre-existing condition are largely protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPPA, which was enacted in 1996, and limits how employer-sponsored plans can deny coverage because of pre-existing conditions, and how far back they can search for them.

“Under current laws there are strong protections on pre-existing conditions if you’re going into a group plan,” said Karen Pollitz, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. “There are some protections on pre-existing conditions if you’re going onto the individual market,” she said.

Many group health insurers have stopped denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions altogether rather than parse through HIPPA’s requirements. And for people without group or employer-sponsored coverage, many states have high-risk pools that provide insurance to those with pre-existing conditions. But the cost is often prohibitive.

The Affordable Care Act created a new $5 billion high-risk pool that has provided insurance. It has covered 77,000 people, still a small fraction of the uninsured who have pre-existing conditions.

The full ban on denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions goes into effect in 2014, along with controls on how much more insurance companies can charge those who have pre-existing conditions.

But some people look at that generally low enrollment in the state and federal high-risk pools and wonder if the number of uninsured with pre-existing conditions is as large as 25 million.

It’s like saying everyone who lives on the Gulf Coast is at risk of dying whenever there is a hurricane, said Ed Haislmaier, a senior research fellow in health policy at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

Haislmaier does not know what, specifically, Romney would suggest to fix the problem of uninsured people with pre-existing conditions.

But Haislmaier has written extensively on the subject, and said the best way to do it would be to extend the HIPPA protections to the rest of the insurance market, which he said have worked for people in employer-sponsored health insurance plans.

The flaw was that Congress didn’t extend those HIPPA protections to the individual market, Haislmaier believes.  "That’s what the conservative solution would be,” he said. “Some reasonable changes to the rules, which are essentially finishing what was left undone when you fixed 90 percent.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Aug282012

President Obama Suggests 'Romney-Doesn’t-Care' as New Name for Obamacare

SAUL LOEB/AFP/GettyImages(AMES, Iowa) -- President Obama coined a new nickname for a potential action by a hypothetical President Romney Tuesday, playing off the “Obamacare” nickname for health care legislation that his administration initially used, then rejected as pejorative, then reclaimed.

To a crowd of roughly 6,000 at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, the president said Tuesday, “It’s up to you whether we go back to a health care system that let insurance companies decide who to cover and when. Governor Romney promised that sometime between taking the oath of office and going to the inaugural ball, he’d sit right down, grab a pen and kick seven million young people off their parents’ plan by repealing health reform,” the president said, referring to Romney’s pledge in June to “act to repeal Obamacare” on his “first day if elected president of the United States.”

“That’s what he says he’s going to do,” the president said. “You know, maybe we should call his plan ‘Romney-Doesn’t-Care’ because I do care. I do care.”

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The president said, “This law is here to stay. Now’s not the time to refight the battles of the last four years. Now’s the time for us to go ahead and move forward. And I’ll work with anybody who wants to make our health care system better, but I’m not going to stand by and let folks talk about how we should go back to the days when ordinary folks who were working really hard suddenly find themselves losing their homes, losing their savings just because they get sick.”

Pivoting to abortion rights, the president said Republicans “can choose to refight the battles that were settled 10 years ago or 20 years ago or some time in the last century. You know, I think women should be trusted to make their own health care decisions.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Aug102012

‘People Will Die’ If Romney’s Elected, Journalist Says

John Lamparski/WireImage(WASHINGTON) -- Forget seeking to tie Mitt Romney’s past with one woman’s death from cancer -- a charge that lacks much evidence. A political pundit and journalist took a great leap further when he said on Thursday that a Romney presidency would cost people with preexisting conditions and those out of work their lives.

On MSNBC Thursday night, Jonathan Alter spoke out against the repeal of Obamacare.

“People will die in the United States if Obamacare is repealed,” Alter said on air.  “That is not an exaggeration.  That is not crying fire.  It’s a simple fact.”

Alter then went on to claim that, since Romney has said he would repeal Obamacare on his “first day” in office if elected in November, “a lot of people will die” if the Republican is elected to the presidency -- putting the responsibility for these individuals’ deaths squarely on Romney’s shoulders.

“They don’t need to embrace this ad and get into a big fight about whether they were calling Mitt Romney a murderer or whatever,” Alter said, referring to the controversy surrounding the Priorities USA spot.  “They need to move on to a debate about the main issue, which is Obamacare.  And they can bring death into the conversation and say, ‘No, we’re not calling Mitt Romney a murderer, what we are saying is that if he’s elected president, a lot of people will die.’  Those are two slightly different, but related issues.”

Romney has recently lightened the tone of his anti-Obamacare message, saying that he would embrace health care reform, particularly coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, as president.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Aug082012

Obama Joins Sandra Fluke, Pitches Health Law in Colorado

JIM WATSON/AFP/GettyImages(DENVER) -- Trailing rival Mitt Romney in a new Colorado poll, President Obama Wednesday kicked off a two-day swing through the state by aggressively courting women voters with his signature health care law.

The vigorous pitch, emphasizing the law’s popular benefits for women -- from preventive care services without co-pays to mandated insurance coverage for contraceptive care -- underscores just how important Democrats believe women voters will be in the battle for November.

"I don’t think a working mom in Denver should have to wait to get a mammogram just because money is tight. I don't think a college student in Colorado Springs should have to choose between textbooks or the preventive care that she needs," Obama said. "That's why we’ve passed this law. It was the right thing to do."

Obama pitched a sharp contrast with Romney on the Affordable Care Act, noting that the governor has said he would "kill it dead" on his first day in office.  He also raised Romney's pledge to end federal funding for Planned Parenthood and tepid support last year for a Mississippi person-hood amendment that was widely interpreted as threatening to outlaw some forms of birth control.

“I mean, you know, Mr. Romney’s running as the candidate of conservative values. There’s nothing conservative about a government that prevents a woman from making her own health care decisions. He says he’s the candidate of freedom. But freedom’s the chance, the opportunity to determine for yourself the care that you need when you need it,” Obama said.

Obama’s pitch was aimed at shoring up support with women among whom he holds a significant edge over Romney in the latest Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS News poll, 51 to 43 percent.  Among men, Obama fares much worse, trailing Romney by 17 points in the poll, 39 to 56 percent.

Romney leads Obama overall in Colorado, 50 to 45 percent. The poll, conducted July 31 to Aug. 6 has a margin of error of plus or minus three points.

But Romney campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said Obama’s characterization of the presumptive GOP nominee’s views are simply “false and recycled,” and an attempt to divert attention away from the economy.

“Hundreds of thousands of women have lost their jobs, poverty among women is highest in nearly two decades, and half of recent graduates can’t find a good job,” she said. “Middle-class families have struggled in the Obama economy, and Mitt Romney has a plan to strengthen the middle class and get our country back on the right track.”

The former Massachusetts governor said during the GOP primary that he does not oppose the use of birth control and would not support steps to ban contraception in the states.

Still, Democrats say opposition to the Obama health law requirement that employer health plans cover contraceptive services free of charge signals a distinct difference in philosophy on women’s health.

“We must remember that even though it’s 2012, we’re still having the debates that we thought were won before I was even born,” said Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown Law School graduate turned women’s rights activist who was attacked as a “slut” and “prostitute” by conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh in March for publicly supporting Obama’s health law. She appeared publicly with Obama today for the first time.

“We must remember that we have a candidate -- President Obama -- who understands getting access to the care they need, when they need it,” she said, referring to birth control and federal funding for Planned Parenthood clinics. “And we must remember that we have another candidate, Mitt Romney, who wants to take all of that away.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jul272012

New Massachusetts Health Care Bill to Address Costs

ABC/ Ida Mae Astute(BOSTON) -- The White House says it drew inspiration from Massachusetts' reforms signed into law by Mitt Romney when crafting Obamacare, which is supposed to curtail health care spending over the long haul.

There's one problem: three years after expanding coverage in Massachusetts, the state is still grappling with how to pay for the reforms. The problem is so grave that the state legislature is working on a new bill specifically aimed at curtailing health care spending.

Paying for health care is not a problem unique to Massachusetts. But if expanding coverage is supposed to drive down costs in the long term, as advocates of health reform have suggested, it's an after-effect not yet felt in Massachusetts. Since the law was passed in 2006, per-capita spending on health care in the state has increased to 15 percent higher than the national average and health insurance premiums have skyrocketed to one of the highest in the nation, according to a study by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

"The hope initially was that by providing timely preventative care there would be a natural reduction in overall cost," said Marco Huesch, a professor at the USC Schaeffer Health Policy Center. "That is a little bit of a make-believe argument."

Supporters of the old and new reforms argue that the 2006 "Romneycare" law did not cause the premiums to spike and that rates were rising before the law took effect -- although most do admit now that the law didn't do much to prevent the rise.

Still, the 2006 Massachusetts health care law is responsible for reducing the number of uninsured. In 2010, the uninsured rate was 6.3 percent in the state, compared with the national average at the time of 18.4 percent, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The new approach will directly regulate payments to hospitals and doctors -- the new rules limiting the amount of money a health provider can receive for treating an illness.

"Honestly I think it's very bold. In my mind it is exactly what Massachusetts needs," said Kavita Patel, a former director of Intergovernmental Affairs for the Obama White House during the effort to pass national health care reform.

In fact, many of the new payment formulas are similar to that of experimental programs (Accountable Care Organizations) instituted as part of Obamacare.

But there are some who think that the new reforms will fall flat. The new payment structures will require providers to follow complex payment formulas that may or may not result in cheaper health care. Also, if doctors and hospitals are forced to work within the constraints of a single reduced payment, there is always a chance that the hospital/doctor will cut corners to complete the treatment on budget -- a concern that supporters of the bill dismissed as unlikely because of safeguards in the bill.

"They're doing it because they are desperate for any solution that will contain costs," said Dr. Alan Sanger, professor of Health Policy and Management at Boston University.

Sanger is for changing the system but believes that the current proposals don't go far enough. He argues that the only way to truly tackle costs is to place a cap on how much money can be spent on medical care and having doctors accept a salary instead of paying them through reimbursement.

Placing limits on medical spending is a hot political issue. During the battle to pass Obamacare, many in the Tea Party accused President Obama of planning to set up death panels, a charge that was not true, but an outburst that serves to remind us how contentious people are when it comes to rationing health care.

Severe cuts to medical spending aren't likely to happen any time soon. In fact, much of Massachusetts' economy is so dependent on the health care sector that any reduction in spending would likely harm the state.

Budget watchers expect some sort of austerity measure to pass Congress sometime after the election during the lame duck session. Any serious budget cuts will include government funded health care, which would affect health care providers which rely on the government for a large segment of their income.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jul112012

House Votes to Repeal the Affordable Care Act

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The House of Representatives voted today to repeal the Affordable Care Act. It was the 33rd time Republicans have voted to chip away at, defund, or repeal the health care law. Democrats called the move a political charade since the repeal law has no chance of becoming law this year.

But leading into the Supreme Court’s health care decision on June 28, Speaker John Boehner vowed to repeal anything that the justices left standing.

“We’ve made it pretty clear and I’ll make it clear one more time: If the court does not strike down the entire law, the House will move to repeal what’s left of it,” Boehner, R-Ohio, pledged the day before the ruling. “Obamacare is driving up the cost of health care and making it harder for small businesses to hire new workers.”

Thirteen days after the historic decision upholding the law, Boehner and the House Republicans made good on that promise. But it was a symbolic gesture. The repeal bill faces a Democratic double road-block in the form of the Senate and White House.

The House vote was largely along party lines – 244 – 185. Five House Democrats – all of whom opposed the law when it passed in 2010 – crossed party lines to vote with the majority. No Republicans defected on the vote.

Democrats have admitted that there are areas of the law that need some refining, but stand by the individual mandate, which the court determined was constitutional under the legislative branch’s power to tax, and intend to make the law a central part of their campaign dialogue.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio