Health care options

The below editorial is from the Anderson (SC) Independent Mail
Anderson Independent Mail
February 21, 2011

Health care options

What will Republicans offer the American people if the party’s efforts to repeal health-care reform are successful?

“Replacing ‘Obamacare’ is not something we can do overnight,” Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., told the Washington Post. “It may take some time. But mark my words, we will get it done.” So far, however, all that has been accomplished (at least for the record) is the drafting of a resolution containing “broad, long-held GOP health-care goals” but no specifics — and the directing of four House committees to develop proposals.

The truth is, according to Fox News, the only plan the GOP has right now is to deny funding for the current plan. In a Feb. 8 story headlined “Republicans plan to choke off funding for health-care law,” the network reported that some House Republicans were eyeing the annual spending bill to pay for government operations as a way to “strip the health-care law of any dollars, thus depriving health-care operations of any money.”

Now that’s productive.

In 2009, during long-overdue discussions of health care in the United States, the GOP created H.R. 5424, “Reform Americans Can Afford,” in response to the Democrats’ proposal that became the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. In our research, we found numerous references to the 2009 plan and its provisions, some portions of which made it into the final legislation signed into law last year.

The GOP proposal calls for the end to “junk lawsuits” through medical liability reforms. South Carolina has already reformed its medical malpractice lawsuit system, said John Ruoff, program director for the advocacy group South Carolina Fair Share.

Ruoff told the Associated Press that South Carolina stands to create jobs with the federal health-care law because more federal matching funds will be available for the state. Opting out would mean the state gives up $10.9 billion that would go to doctors, hospitals and other health- care businesses.

The 2009 GOP proposal gives small businesses the power to pool to offer health insurance at lower prices, like corporations and labor unions do. (That’s also a part of existing law. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPAC) created a pre-existing condition insurance plan to offer subsidized premiums to people who have been uninsured for at least six months and have yet-to-be-defined medical problems, according to, an independent site that researches consumer insurance issues.)

H.R. 5424 allows Americans to buy insurance across state lines, increasing competition. This last provision is a questionable benefit, according to the Congressional Budget Office, which looked at a bill along those lines in 2005. That legislation, reports the CBO, “would reduce the price of individual health-insurance coverage for people expected to have relatively low health-care costs while increasing the price of coverage for those expected to have relatively high health-care costs.” The consensus by the CBO was that the legislation “wouldn’t change the number of uninsured.”

H.R. 5424 “promotes prevention and wellness by giving employers greater flexibility to financially reward employees who adopt and maintain healthier lifestyles.” Thousands of companies already do that. In fact, $200 million for small businesses to implement workplace wellness programs is in existing health-care reform.

And while 2010’s PPAC addresses insurers’ practices, such as cancellation for frivolous reasons, the GOP plan addresses only one instance: if the insured has sloppy paperwork. The plan’s other “plus” is “rewarding innovation by providing incentive payments to states that reduce premiums and the number of uninsured — without expanding government entitlement programs or creating new ones.”

If any state comes up with an idea that effective, we should all sign on — and fast –– and chip in for the reward.

The main objection to the health-care reform law and what has provoked lawsuits by more than 25 states, including South Carolina, to declare it unconstitutional are the individual and business mandates. And we’ll admit we can understand how that would rankle. But the truth, according to Frank Knapp, chief executive officer of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce, is that at least 96 percent of the businesses in South Carolina have fewer than 50 employees and wouldn’t be required to comply.

And here’s another truth, a tough one: Without some mandate, something that would encourage the majority of Americans to have health-care coverage, reform will only work for a few.

As consumers, we are frequently trading up or trading down. New cell phones, faster computers, better clothes and cars, all dependent upon our fiscal situation at any point in time. What’s to stop us from doing the same thing with health-care coverage?

Too many people would simply wait until they are sick to get insurance, if insurers aren’t allowed to legally discriminate (as they are today), and in all fairness to the industry, the pool of only healthy people paying regular and long-term premiums with few claims wouldn’t be large enough to maintain a healthy business.

Do we care if insurance companies are healthy? We should. Without them — or a fully funded government-sponsored insurance plan for every American — a lot of us would be out of luck.

And out of money, especially if a catastrophic illness hits.

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