What are the pros and cons of the new health-care reform bill that House Democrats approved yesterday? The bill is 2,000 pages long, and full of lawyer-speak. Most pros and cons are based on partisan opinion. Still, there are some changes in the bill with more objective elements. Here are nine aspects that will help and hurt consumers and the economy.
More coverage. Coverage will expand to cover nearly 95 percent of legal U.S. residents. With a recent study showing that patients without health insurance have a shorter life span, coupled with the number of uninsured approaching 50 million in 2010, that is perhaps the biggest reason to cheer. (Kevin Pho, MD via CNN). Plus, preventative care will be free.
A more competitive insurance industry. Increased regulation will stop insurance companies from rigging prices–that recent 40% insurance premium increase in California comes to mind. Competition with newly formed public entities will ideally make the entire industry more competitive. Also, insurance companies are now required to post their balance sheets, executive compensation, and administrative costs online.
Insurance companies will have to accept everyone. No more pre-existing condition exclusions. They can’t place limits on coverage anymore, either.
Cheaper prescriptions for seniors. Closing the “donut hole” means cheaper prescription drugs for seniors.
It’s reform. We need reform. We’re in a situation where healthcare is even becoming unaffordable to employers, leaving employees with higher out-of-pocket expenses even if they are ensured. Healthcare costs have jettisoned innumerable people from the middle class. People get sick and die because insurers won’t take them. This isn’t functional. Any kind of reform helps.
Cuts in Medicare. The elderly on Medicare will see their benefits changed dramatically. The biggest item being used to pay for the new program is more than $500 billion in cuts to the Medicare program at a time when 72 million baby boomers become eligible for it in the next decade. The second biggest move to pay for this is by raising and expanding the Medicare tax. (Ed Rollins via CNN)
Costs. Any way you slice it, adding another $940 billion to the deficit is not a good thing for the US economy. Yes, the Congressional Budget Office said that healthcare would actually reduce the budget deficit, but nobody really knows what will happen.
No new incentives for primary care physicians. Physicians are increasingly turning to specialties as a way to pay off expensive medical school debt and make more money. This means more workload and burnout for primary care physicians, who get no bureaucratic relief under the current reform bill. That also means longer wait times, more obstacles, and potentially higher specialist costs for consumers.
More taxes. The government has to pay for healthcare reform somehow. Taxing businesses is a big strategy. For example, medical device makers will see a new 2.9% excise tax. Families earning more than $250,000/year will have to pay higher Medicare taxes. Also, this isn’t a tax, but employers will be fined $3,000 per employee if they don’t provide affordable medical coverage.