Entries in Health Insurance (6)


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


Health Care Law Supporters: Carriers on PR Offensive, Hope to Send Signal to High Court

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Supreme Court isn’t expected to rule until later this month on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, but there’s been some interesting developments as outside interest groups prepare for what they say might occur.

This week a few of the larger health insurance carriers -- UnitedHealth, Aetna and Humana -- announced that no matter how the Supreme Court rules on the health care law, they would allow some of the more popular insurance reforms to go forward. UnitedHealth, for instance, said it would allow young adults to stay on their parents’ health plans, a popular provision of the law that is currently in effect.

“The protections we are voluntarily extending are good for people’s health, promote broader access to quality care and contribute to helping control rising health care costs. These provisions make sense for the people we serve, and it is important to ensure they know these provisions will continue,” said Stephen J. Hemsley, president and CEO of UnitedHealth Group, in a statement.

But Wednesday a public interest group supporting the health care law -- Health Care for America Now -- issued the following warning: “Don’t be fooled by the Big Insurance Companies.”

In the statement the group said that the insurance companies were going on a “PR offensive” and hoping to send a signal to the high court:

“The coordinated announcements by three of the five biggest health insurance companies is a cynical tactic to signal to the high court that it’s okay to gut the law and remove its consumer protections because the health insurance companies will act responsibly and police themselves. No more insurance company abuses. The free market won’t cost consumers their health anymore. The insurers’ message to the court, it would seem, is that it’s a new day so we can stick with the old rules.”

And what Health Care for America now says what will really happen is this:

“What the insurance companies didn’t say -- and what they won’t do -- is the real story. They aren’t saying they will stop discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions as the law requires beginning in 2014. That would be a big deal, because that part of the law will stop 129 million people with chronic conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and asthma from being overcharged or being denied coverage. They also have not offered to keep covering children with pre-existing conditions -- a provision which has already taken effect and insurers have fought.

“The insurers got publicity this week for appearing to make a positive gesture, but the changes they’ve announced are voluntary, meaning consumers and small businesses can only count on the policies to last as long as it’s financially convenient for the insurers. But goodwill gestures aren’t enforceable when you’re sick. Insurance companies can’t be trusted to behave as good actors unless laws are on the books to prevent them from being bad actors.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Scott Brown Criticized for Keeping Daughter on His Health Insurance

Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images(BOSTON) -- After facing her own controversy for questions about her Native-American heritage, Elizabeth Warren, the likely Democratic nominee in the Massachusetts Senate race, has accused Sen. Scott Brown of being a hypocrite after he told the Boston Globe that he still insures his 23-year-old daughter, Ayla, on his health care plan.

Brown is the Republican senator whose election in January 2010, broke the Democrats’ filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, forcing them to re-organize their plan for passing health care legislation. During his tenure in Congress, he has voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act three times, a provision of which allows children to stay on their health care until they turn 26.

“Brown’s still promising to repeal the very reforms that allow him and the parents of 2.5 million other young adults to keep their kids covered,” Warren spokeswoman Alethea Harney said in a statement. “It’s not right. Scott Brown spells health care: H-Y-P-O-C-R-I-S-Y.”

But Massachusetts’ state health care law, which served as a model in many ways for the Affordable Care Act, has the same provision, and Brown has long expressed his support for that law, supporting it when he was in the state legislature.

“I’ve said right from the beginning, that if there are things that we like, we should take advantage of them and bring them back here to Massachusetts,” Brown said Monday.

While the Massachusetts health care law only applies to residents of the commonwealth, Brown has expressed his support for this particular provision of the Affordable Care Act, noting in an interview with the Lowell Sun in 2010 that he would like to keep two parts of the Affordable Care Act: the provision allowing children to stay on their parents insurance until 26, along with the catastrophic-coverage provision.

“There’s no way that he can escape the all-too-evident hypocrisy of placing his daughter under his own insurance, insurance that is provided to him as a member of Congress by the U.S. Government,” said Jeffrey Berry, professor of political science at Tufts University in Medford-Somerville.

The timing is also unfortunate for Brown, who had started out the week in a good situation as a result of the negative coverage Warren had been receiving in light of the questions surrounding her Native-American ancestry.

Warren, 62, came under fire after the Boston Herald reported that Harvard University, where Warren is a law professor, had promoted her as a minority member of their faculty. Warren had listed herself as Native American, and that identification is facing scrutiny after genealogists traced her Native-American ancestry back to her great-great-great-grandmother – who was Cherokee – making Warren 1/32nd Native American.

“I think it comes at a particularly unfortunate time for him because Elizabeth Warren is having a rough week because of the revelations concerning her Native-American heritage and the press has been awful, and this has given her an opportunity to volley back,” Berry said.

As Berry noted, Warren and Brown, 52, signed a pledge to keep outside spending groups away from their race. The pledge is being honored by both candidates, but as a result they are forced to fling attacks directly at one another, portending a nasty race ahead.

“It’s inevitable in a Senate race that when one candidate is disadvantaged, they’re going to have to respond,” Berry said. “There was no question that this race was going to become more negative and we’re simply seeing it in May and rather than maybe September.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


White House to Announce 'Accommodation' on Contraception Rule

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- With the White House under fire for its new rule requiring employers, including religious organizations, to offer health insurance that fully covers birth control coverage, President Obama will announce an attempt to accommodate these religious groups at 12:15 p.m. Friday.

The move, based on state models, will almost certainly not satisfy bishops and other religious leaders.

Sources say the addendum will be respectful of religious beliefs, but will not back off from it's original goal, which many religious leaders oppose since birth control is in violation of their religious beliefs.

White House officials have discussed the state law in Hawaii, where religious groups are allowed to opt out of coverage that includes birth control, as long as employees are given information whether such coverage can be obtained. Still, this accommodation would not go that far.

Sources say it will involve health insurance companies providing coverage if necessary, since it’s actually cheaper for these companies to offer coverage than to not do so, because of unwanted pregnancies and resulting complications.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Boehner Pledges to Undo Contraception Mandate

ABC/ Fred Watkins(WASHINGTON) -- House Speaker John Boehner called the Obama administration’s move to compel nearly every employer to offer insurance that covers contraceptive services, “an unambiguous attack on religious freedom in our country.”

In an uncommon floor speech on Wednesday, Boehner spoke out against the Department of Health and Human Services’ ruling that would require faith-based employers, including Catholic charities, schools, universities and hospitals, but not the church itself, to provide insurance coverage for services including sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs and devices, and contraception. The speaker, himself a Catholic, said he believes the regulation is unconstitutional.

“In imposing this requirement, the federal government is violating a First Amendment right that has stood for more than two centuries, and it is doing so in a manner that affects millions of Americans and harms some of our nation’s most vital institutions,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said.  “If the president does not reverse the Department’s attack on religious freedom, then the Congress, acting on behalf of the American people and the Constitution we are sworn to uphold and defend, must.”

Boehner announced that in upcoming days, the House will enact an “effective and appropriate solution” to the controversy “fairly and deliberately” -- beginning with hearings in the Energy and Commerce committee.

“Chairman [Fred] Upton convened a hearing last year and began laying the groundwork for legislative action when this flawed rule was first proposed. I welcome his efforts to consider all possible options as his committee proceeds with its work,” he said. “This attack by the federal government on religious freedom in our country cannot stand, and will not stand.”

The White House is also currently exploring a compromise that ensures that women have health insurance that fully covers contraception while also allaying concerns of religious organizations that oppose birth control.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


For Ron Paul, Question About the Uninsured May Have Hit Close to Home

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Presidential hopeful Ron Paul, who made controversial comments about how to handle the uninsured during this week’s GOP debate in Tampa, Fla., is no stranger with dealing with the uninsured himself.

In 2008, his campaign chairman, Kent Snyder, was uninsured and battling viral pneumonia. After two months of hospitalization, the medical bills reportedly topped $400,000, which Kent’s family eventually had to repay.

Snyder died of viral pneumonia in 2008.

At Monday’s debate, Paul suggested that the uninsured should look to charities for help, not to taxpayers.

Kent’s sister, Michelle Caskey, told the Kansas City Star that her brother was unable to get insurance because a pre-existing condition made premiums too expensive.

To help, Snyder’s friends created a website to solicit money, appealing to the same donors who months before gave to Ron Paul’s campaign fund.

“I don’t think he would ever have realized he’d be in the hospital this long,” Caskey, told the Kansas City Star after her brother’s death in 2008. “It’s very nice,” she added, that people were trying to help.

Paul’s 2012 campaign spokesman, Gary Howard, did not immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment for this story.

Ron Paul has spent the past few days trying to defend his position concerning the uninsured during Monday’s CNN/Tea Party debate.

Moderator Wolf Blitzer asked Paul a hypothetical question about who should pay for an uninsured 30-year-old man in need of emergency care.

Paul, a medical doctor, answered that the man should take care of himself.

Wolf Blitzer asked, “Should society just let him die?”

Some in the audience roared in acceptance and clapped.

Paul said that people need to assume responsibility for themselves and clarified on Twitter later that evening that charities should fill the void for the uninsured, not the government.

But Paul’s response and the audience’s reaction exposed him to broad criticism.

Even Rick Perry told NBC News on Tuesday that he was surprised.

“I was a bit taken aback by that myself,” said Perry. “We’re the party of life. We ought to be coming up with ways to save lives.”

Appearing on CNN two days after the debate, Paul insisted that calling his comments mean-spirited was “foolish.”

“For somebody to turn around and say there’s one individual who didn’t have this care, you know, all of a sudden you hate people and you’re going to let them die?” Paul said on CNN’s Newsroom. “I spent a lifetime in medicine. To turn that around like that is foolish.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News

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