Well, after all the excitement and the best efforts of the GOP to say “No” loud and long enough to make a difference, the President signed the healthcare reform into law. The partisans are now into the equally exciting game of trying to decide whether this is the greatest victory since Abraham Lincoln, with a little help from General Ulysses S. Grant, won the Civil War or the greatest disaster since Hurricane Katrina reminded us Nature can be devastating. Allowing for the fact this is a complicated piece of legislation, this is a little difficult to predict because so much of it is not designed to take effect for years. Calling for immediate repeal does not seem helpful when no one can say how the future will turn out. As time passes and we dig ourselves out of the recession, it is entirely possible this may turn out to have been a good “thing” on balance. If “things” do not look quite as good, a little tinkering may set matters to right. History has a way of judging “things” rather differently than we expect. This leaves us with the next twelve months during which there are elections and an opportunity for voters to have their say. What is due to happen and will this make the reform look good enough to keep?
1. There will be a payment of $250 to people in Medicare. This is designed to close the Part D donut hole. In 2011, there will be a 50% discount on the branded drugs in the hole with the hole closing by 2020.
2. Starting on January 1, 2011 there will be no co-payments for preventative medical care. This care will also be exempted when calculating the deductible.
3. Starting in three months, there will be a temporary re-insurance program for employers to cover retirees in the age range 55 to 64.
4. Starting in six months, insurers shall not cancel a policy if a claim is made nor discriminate against children with a pre-existing condition. There are also to be new controls to prevent insurers from imposing caps on coverage.
5. Before the reform, the majority of people were insured by their employers. Starting immediately, small businesses can claim, tax credits of 35% of premiums if they decide to buy a health plan. This rises to 50% in 2014. Up to now, small businesses have always claimed they were the victims of discrimination, priced out of the market by the insurance industry. With a government subsidy, this argument looks less real.
Whether this will be enough to sway public opinion is anyone’s guess. Health insurance has provoked some seriously extreme reactions and it will take time for people to take a more calm view of what the reforms offer. The reaction of the insurance companies is also difficult to predict. Some may react to the new controls by increasing their premiums. Insurers are, after all, for-profit organizations and they have never shown themselves slow in coming forward with premium hikes. This makes it even more important to get the maximum possible number of health insurance quotes before deciding on which policy or plan to buy. When midterm elections come in November 2012, 36 seats in the Senate and all the seats in the House are up for grabs. Experts predict the Democrats will lose seats. But, with President Obama in the White House, no repeal will be signed into law.