Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sweeping Health Care Reform Signed into Law Today, Headlines 23 Mar 2010

From Denny: Today was an historic first for America. For 100 years various Presidents have tried to do what President Obama finally accomplished: get basic health care available at a decent price for everyone. It's not to say there will not be bumps on the road to polishing and refining how it is carried out.

For the moment, we are past the first high hurdle. Now we can get down to business of stripping out fraud from various agencies like Medicare and the like where we will save $60 billion. What we could do with that much money... how about a tax rebate, folks? I wish. :)

Eventually, the government will have to offer some kind of public option if the health insurance companies don't get their prices in line for the lowest income Americans. As it looks now, with the lobbyists fighting hard to repeal a law, it does not appear they are willing to do right by the American people.

You know when this escalation of insurance premiums through the roof started? When Hurricane Katrina struck in August 2005, Bush was in office, and suddenly insurance companies realized there was no one to stop them from being greedy or capricious with their customers. And the nightmare began, first on the Gulf Coast and then spread across the nation years later when fire struck in California and floods in the Midwest. Insurance companies offered ten cents on the dollar to "repair" a house roof, and then drug their feet paying for it for as long as three years. This is not an uncommon occurrence but rather a common one.

Historic Health Care Bill Signed: (CBS) President Obama today signed his comprehensive health care overhaul legislation into law, marking the most significant legislative accomplishment of his presidency to date.

"Today, after all the votes have been tallied, health insurance reform becomes law in the United States of America. Today," Mr. Obama said from the East Room of the White House. "The bill I'm signing will set in motion reforms that generations of Americans have fought for."

Mr. Obama hailed "a new season in America" in which "all of the overheated rhetoric over reform will finally confront the reality of reform.'' The legislation, Mr. Obama said, enshrines into law the "core principle" that everyone should have some health care security...

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Why Did Obama Use So Many Pens to Sign the Health Care Bill?: (Time) After more than a year of bitter political debate and seemingly inescapable congressional deadlock, President Obama sat down in the White House East Room on March 23 and signed the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law with a stroke of his pen. And then another pen. And another. Obama used 22 pens to sign the landmark $938 billion health care bill. It would seem that either the President has an undiagnosed case of OCD or the White House needs better office supplies.

Actually, the President was just adhering to an obscure Washington tradition. The practice of using multiple pens to sign important legislation dates at least as far back as Franklin Roosevelt and is now one of our government's frivolous little quirks, much like that oversize gavel Nancy Pelosi carried around the other day.

The rationale is fairly simple. The pen used to sign historic legislation itself becomes a historical artifact. The more pens a President uses, the more thank-you gifts he can offer to those who helped create that piece of history. The White House often engraves the pens, which are then given as keepsakes to key proponents or supporters of the newly signed legislation...

Funny of the Day: VP Biden slip of the tongue and microphones pick up him saying, "This is a big f---ing deal!"

Timeline: When health care reform will affect you

(CNN) -- President Obama signed sweeping health care reform into law Tuesday. The Senate must now pass a package of changes that will reconcile the differences between Senate and House bills. If those changes are worked out, here is how health care reforms will affect you:

Within the first year

• Young adults will be able stay on their parents' insurance until their 27th birthday.

• Seniors will get a $250 rebate to help fill the "doughnut hole" in Medicare prescription drug coverage, which falls between the $2,700 initial limit and when catastrophic coverage kicks in at $6,154.

• Insurers will be barred from imposing exclusions on children with pre-existing conditions. Pools will cover those with pre-existing health conditions until health care coverage exchanges are operational.

• Insurers will not be able to rescind policies to avoid paying medical bills when a person becomes ill.

• Lifetime limits on benefits and restrictive annual limits will be prohibited.

• New plans must provide coverage for preventive services without co-pays. All plans must comply by 2018.

• A temporary reinsurance program will help offset costs of coverage for companies that provide early retiree health benefits for those ages 55 to 64.

• New plans will be required to implement an appeals process for coverage determinations and claims.

• Adoption tax credit and assistance exclusion will increase by $1,000. The bill makes the credit refundable and extends it through 2011.

• A 10 percent tax will be imposed on amounts paid for indoor tanning services on or after July 1.

• Businesses with fewer than 50 employees will get tax credits covering 35 percent of their health care premiums, increasing to 50 percent by 2014.


• Medicare will provide free annual wellness visits and personalized prevention plans. New plans will be required to cover preventive services with no co-pay.

• States can offer home- and community-based services to the disabled through Medicaid rather than institutional care beginning October 1.

• A 50 percent discount will be provided on brand-name drugs for Prescription Drug Plan or Medicare Advantage enrollees. Additional discounts on brand-name and generic drugs will be phased in to completely close the "doughnut hole" by 2020.

• Additional tax for health savings account withdrawals before age 65 for nonqualified medical expenses will increase from 10 percent to 20 percent. Additional tax for Archer medical savings account withdrawals not used for qualified medical expenses will increase from 15 percent to 20 percent.

• A plan to provide a vehicle for small businesses to offer tax-free benefits will be created. This would ease the small employer's administrative burden of sponsoring a cafeteria plan.

• The Medicare payroll tax will increase from 1.45 percent to 2.35 percent for individuals earning more than $200,000 and married filing jointly above $250,000.


• Health plans must implement uniform standards for electronic exchange of health information to reduce paperwork and administrative costs.

• Contributions to flexible savings accounts will be limited to $2,500 per year, indexed by the Consumer Price Index in subsequent years.

• The Employer Medicare Part D subsidy deduction will be eliminated. Employers will lose the tax deduction for subsidizing prescription drug plans for Medicare Part D-eligible retirees.

• There will be increases to the income threshold from 7.5 percent to 10 percent of adjusted gross income. Those older than 65 can claim the 7.5 percent deduction through 2016.

• The hospital insurance tax will increase 0.9 percentage points for those earning more than $200,000 ($250,000 for married filing jointly), and it includes net investment income.

• A 2.9 percent excise tax on the first sale of medical devices will be established. Excepted are eyeglasses, contact lenses, hearing aids or other items for individual use.


• Citizens will be required to have acceptable coverage or pay a penalty of $95 in 2014, $325 in 2015, $695 (or up to 2.5 percent of income) in 2016. Families will pay half the amount for children, up to a cap of $2,250 per family. After 2016, penalties are indexed to Consumer Price Index.

• Workers who are exempt from individual responsibility for coverage but don't qualify for tax credits can take their employer contribution and join an exchange plan.

• Companies with 50 or more employees must offer coverage to employees or pay a $2,000 penalty per employee after their first 30 if at least one of their employees receives a tax credit. Waiting periods before insurance takes effect is limited to 90 days. Employers who offer coverage but whose employees receive tax credits will pay $3,000 for each worker receiving a tax credit.

• Insurers can no longer refuse to sell or renew policies because of an individual's health status. Health plans can no longer exclude coverage for pre-existing conditions. Insurers can't charge higher rates because of heath status, gender or other factors.

• Health plans will be prohibited from imposing annual limits on coverage.

• Health insurance exchanges will open in each state to individuals and small employers to comparison shop for standardized health packages.

• Credits will be available through exchanges for those whose income is above Medicaid eligibility and below 400 percent of poverty level who are not eligible for or offered other acceptable coverage.

• Medicaid eligibility will increase to 133 percent of poverty for all nonelderly individuals to ensure that people obtain affordable health care in the most efficient and appropriate manner. States will receive increased federal funding to cover these new populations.

• An annual health insurance provider fee will be Imposed across the health insurance sector according to insurers' market share to companies whose total premiums exceed $25 million.


• 2018 Taxing "Cadillac" plans: An excise tax will be imposed on high-cost, employer-provided health plans beyond $27,500 for family coverage and $10,200 for single coverage; it will increase to $30,950 for families and $11,850 for individuals, retirees and employees in high-risk professions.

How Health Reform Affects Small Businesses: (CBS) More than half of all American workers are employed by businesses with fewer than 100 employees. Forty-six percent of them get their health insurance through work. The rest have to look elsewhere for coverage.

Will companies still offer insurance under the new health care law?

Last year, Allentown, Pa., businessman Dick Bus saw his health insurance costs spike 33 percent - a trend that will quickly make providing coverage unaffordable.

The new law seeks to limit those kinds of increases, while giving businesses incentives to cover more workers.

Here's how:

• Businesses with fewer than 25 employees that pay an average of no more than $40,000 will get a tax credit - up to 35 percent of the company's share of their total health care premium.

• Companies with 26-49 workers are unaffected.

• Businesses with 50 or more workers must offer coverage or pay $750 per worker. That penalty applies for every employee if even one signs up for government-subsidized insurance....

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Obama Meets with Netanyahu: (CBS) WASHINGTON (AP) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is criss-crossing the Washington power grid Tuesday, striving to explain his country's position in a widening debate over its plans to construct new housing in east Jerusalem.

Netanyahu had a Capitol Hill meeting scheduled with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., a day after holding talks with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. He plans to meet later Tuesday at the White House with President Barack Obama.

Netanyahu has been trying to deflect U.S. criticism of his government's announcement of plans for 1,600 housing units in a part of Jerusalem that Palestinians claim as their own. He bluntly asserted before the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee Monday that "Jerusalem is not a settlement. It's our capital."

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