Breaking it Down: The Health Care Law and Cost Control

by Chris Stenrud, HHS Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs

For too long, too many hard working Americans paid the price for policies that handed free rein to insurance companies and put barriers between patients and their doctors. The Affordable Care Act gives families the security they deserve. The new health care law forces insurance companies to play by the rules, prohibiting them from dropping your coverage if you get sick, billing you into bankruptcy because of an annual or lifetime limit, or, soon, discriminating against anyone with a pre-existing condition.

The new law also includes a number of key provisions designed to help make health care more affordable – and help address the drivers of health care costs. The new health care law is already making a difference. Many Americans are seeing lower costs, and health care spending growth in 2009 and 2010 decreased to record lows.

Here are more ways the law helps control costs for families and small businesses:

  1. The law’s small business tax credit has lowered health insurance costs for small business owners. On average, small businesses have paid about 18 percent more than large firms for the same health insurance policy.  If you have up to 25 employees, pay average annual wages below $50,000, and provide health insurance, you may qualify for a small business tax credit of up to 35 percent (up to 25 percent for non-profits) to offset the cost of your insurance. This will bring down the cost of providing insurance.
  2. Holding insurance companies accountable for how they spend your premium dollars.  In 2011, if health insurers don’t spend at least 80 percent of your premium dollar on medical care and quality improvements rather than advertising, overhead and bonuses for executives, they will have to provide you a rebate for that excessive overhead.  The first rebates will be made in the summer of 2012.
  3. Preventing insurance companies from raising rates with no accountability or transparency.  In every State and for the first time ever, insurance companies are required to publicly justify their actions if they want to raise rates by 10 percent or more. These efforts are paying off.  In the last quarter of 2011 alone, States reported that premium increases dropped by 4.5 percent. And, in States like Nevada, premiums actually declined.
  4. Recommended preventive benefits without deductibles or copayments.Millions of Americans with Medicare and private insurance have seen their out-pocket costs go down to zero for recommended preventive care like flu shots or cancer screenings now covered with no cost sharing under the law. This puts more money back into people’s pockets, while making sure they get the preventive care they need.
MarkCare

Find out why Mark, who owns a home-and-garden shop in downtown Ann Arbor, Michigan, says health care reform has helped him create more jobs in his community.

Learn more about how the Affordable Care Act is helping Americans:


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Health Insurance Companies Are Charging Women an Extra Billion Dollars Annually

By Thom Hartmann, The Thom Hartmann Program | Report

In today’s On the News segment: Health insurance companies are charging women in America an extra billion dollars annually, the backlash against Paul Ryan’s radical budget plan continues, the DOJ says Florida is discriminating against minority voters, and more.

Thom Hartmann here – on the news…

You need to know this. Mitt Romney – the richest man to ever run for President on a major party ticket – cleaned up last night in the Illinois Primary – beating Rick Santorum 47% to 35%. And, as could be expected, Romney’s huge cash advantage helped him win Illinois. He outspent Santorum 7-1 in the state, to pick up at least 41 new delegates to add to his growing lead. Still – if Romney hopes to reach the magic number of 1,144 delegates to secure the nomination before the Republican Convention – he’ll have to collect just less than half of all the remaining delegates. That’s a feat that could be difficult if Newt Gingrich – who placed an abysmal fourth in the Illinois Primary – drops out and hands his supporters off to Santorum. Then again – if multi-millionaire Karl Rove’s SuperPAC “American Crossroads” – which currently has $23.5 million in cash on hand – decides to pick Romney as its guy – then Mitt’s campaign might easily buy the Republican nomination without even getting out of breath.

American Women are screwed. Putting aside the Republican’s war on women for a moment – a new report from the National Women’s Law Center reveals that health insurance companies are charging women in America an extra billion dollars annually, and it’s just good old fashioned gender discrimination. The report finds that the practice of for-profit health insurers charging women more than men for identical coverage is widespread – and states are doing little to stop the rip-off. In the states that don’t ban health insurance gender discrimination, 92% of the best-selling plans charge women more than men. President Obama’s Affordable Care Act would ban this practice nationally – saving women a billion dollars a year. Unfortunately for women – Republicans are working as hard as they can to repeal Obamacare.

In the best of the rest of the news…

The backlash against Paul Ryan’s radical budget plan continues. A number of faith leaders have come forward to blast Ryan’s extremist vision for America, which takes health insurance away from 48 million Americans to pay for a $3 trillion tax cut for the richest 1%. Bishop Gene Robinson said about the budget plan, “The Ryan budget robs the poor, the marginalized, and the vulnerable of the safety net so integral to their survival. By any measure of civility and regard for one’s neighbor, it’s an immoral disaster.” Ryan’s plan also hands Medicare to for-profit health insurance CEOs, and makes massive cuts to Social Security, setting the stage to hand Social Security’s $2.6 trillion trust fund over to Wall Street. No wonder Wall Street billionaires have reportedly been seen wearing “Paul Ryan for VP” pins.

The Department of Justice says Florida is discriminating against minority voters. Last year, Florida passed a new that clamps down on people helping others to register to vote, and also cuts back on early voting. But the Civil Rights division of the Justice Department is now filing a challenge to the new law in court, claiming that Florida failed to prove that these election law changes will not, “deny or abridge the right to vote on the basis of race, color, or membership in a language minority group.” States with a history of rical discrimination – like Florida – must have any changes to their election laws approved by the Justice Department. Time – and the courts – will tell if Governor Rick Scott’s plan to keep minority voters away from the polls this year works.

Who’s going to foot the bill for climate change? According to a new study out of the Stockholm Environment Institute – increasing greenhouse gases will cost over $2 trillion a year in damage to our planet’s oceans by the end of the century. With warmer oceans comes greater acidification – which wipes out fisheries and coral reefs. Plus, rising sea levels and stronger storms do costly damage to coastlines. Nonetheless – we’re giving tens of billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies to transnational oil corporations to accelerate climate change – rather than making them pay for the damage they’re causing. This is not only irresponsible – it’s outright dangerous – and means that future generations of Americans will have to cope with a much harsher planet.

Speaking of climate change – the war on science heads to Tennessee. This week – the Tennessee state legislature passed a bill requiring public schools to teach that there’s a “controversy” over evolution and global warming. As the law states, “The teaching of biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning, can cause controversy,” thus school systems must, “present the science curriculum as it addresses scientific controversies.” Critics are blasting the legislation – calling it a “monkey bill” that will lead to creationism being taught in classrooms. Something tells me the big oil lobby is behind this too – hoping that a new generation of Americans denying global warming will keep their fossil fuel profits flowing for another generation.

Meanwhile, in the Middle East, while leaders in Israel and Iran beat the drum to war – the people living in those nations are calling for peace. Recognizing that they’re the ones who will suffer the most from a war, individual citizens in Iran and Israel are taking to Facebook to reach out to each other, in hopes of finding solidarity and mutual respect. The campaign started when an Israeli couple created the Facebook group “Israelis Heart Iran.” Then, a group of Iranians responded with their own “Iranians Love Israel.” The two groups have garnered thousands of followers and responses since going online.

And finally, Ron Paul – the only candidate in the Republican race for President who has not won a state – is coming out against Secret Service protection. All major candidates for President are entitled to Secret Service protection within 120 days of a general election – but Paul is calling that a “form of welfare.” That’s no big surprise since Ron Paul also thinks federal aid to college students, health insurance assistance to poor people, free public roads, and cops and firefighters are welfare too. But Ron Paul shouldn’t worry too much. Considering he’s only running for President to get his son, Rand, a job in Romney’s cabinet – Paul likely won’t be considered a “major candidate” anyway.

And that’s the way it is today – Wednesday, March 21st, 2012. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.

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