Medicare and Health Care Reform:Let’s Get it Right

Oct 25th, 2010 | By | Category: Social Security & Medicare

The New York Times carried an editorial today that describes how Republican candidates and deep-pocketed special interests are spreading distortions and outright lies about health care reform.   Unfortunately, this creates confusion and questions about who to vote for in the election in eight days.  As SCJ said in the post about political issues, “The  problem with believing what is not true is that if we go to the polls with misconceptions, we will elect people who will not be and do what we expect.” 

The NYTimes editorial describes several misconceptions that are littering the campaign trail:

“PURE NONSENSE: John Raese, the Republican candidate for the Senate in West Virginia, is claiming that the law will require patients to go through a bureaucrat or panel to reach a doctor. That is flat out untrue. You will still choose your own doctor

or insurance plan without interference. Nor, despite other claims, will the law provide subsidized insurance to illegal immigrants. They are precluded from using even their own money to buy policies on new exchanges.

“The Obama administration will not be compiling a federal health record on all citizens, including each individual’s body mass index, as Ann Marie Buerkle, a Republican running for a House seat in upstate New York, has claimed on her Web site. The administration is offering incentives to doctors to record various vital statistics in electronic medical records and report the data in the aggregate, to help understand national health trends.

“WE CALL THAT CAPITALISM: Republican politicians never tire of denouncing health care reform as a “government takeover” — or socialism. What is true is that the law relies heavily on private insurers and employers to provide coverage. It also strengthens regulation of those insurers and provides government subsidies to help low- and middle-income people buy private insurance on the exchanges.

“Those exchanges will promote greater competition among insurers and a better deal for consumers, which last time we checked was a fundamental of capitalism.

“WHAT ABOUT MCDONALD’S? Conservative commentators pounced after the fast food chain and several other large employers that provide skimpy, low-cost policies to their workers warned that they might drop their health plans entirely if forced to comply with the new law. They particularly objected to a requirement that they begin raising the low annual limits on what their plans are willing to pay for health care.

“In response, the administration has granted some 30 waivers for one year (Rush Limbaugh promptly accused the administration of allowing these employers to “break the law”) and has signaled willingness to smooth out other bumps on the road toward full reform. In 2014, all plans will have to meet minimal standards and large employers will have to provide coverage or pay a stiff fine.  (Much of the health care reform legislation does not go in to effect until 2014.)

“WHAT ABOUT MY PREMIUMS? Some Republicans are also claiming that health reform is driving up premiums. There have been sharp increases in some states, primarily in response to soaring medical costs. Some insurers may also be trying to increase their profits before the reform law holds them in check. A few very welcome provisions that take effect early, like requiring insurers to cover preventive care without cost-sharing, will play a minor role in premium increases for next year.

“Reform has also energized federal officials and many state regulators to challenge and force down big increases sought by insurers. The Justice Department just filed suit against Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan for allegedly using its market power to drive up costs for its competitors and its own subscribers.

“MEDICARE SCARE TACTICS: Republican candidates routinely and cynically charge that the reform law will “cut” $500 billion from Medicare — leaving the clear implication that benefits will be reduced. In reality, the law will slow the rate of increase in payments to health care providers over the next decade, and benefits for most beneficiaries will be as good or better than they are now.

“The only beneficiaries apt to see a change are those enrolled in private Medicare Advantage plans that will lose their unjustified subsides. Many of these beneficiaries, roughly a quarter of the Medicare population, may have to pay more for their plans or may lose the extra benefits, like gym memberships or dental care, that the subsidies pay for. Some inefficient plans will die out, but the efficient private plans will compete successfully with traditional Medicare — on an even playing field.

“MEDICAID SCARE TACTICS: Republican governors are complaining bitterly that reform will force them to expand their Medicaid programs. What they are not saying is that the federal government will pick up the vast bulk of the added expense to cover millions of vulnerable Americans. States that do not want this largess will be shortchanging the health of their poorest citizens, who will continue to use costly — to the state and the taxpayers — emergency rooms for routine health care.

“WHAT THEY’RE NOT SAYING: Health care reform has already brought substantial benefits, mostly starting in late September. Insurers are now barred from dropping coverage after a beneficiary becomes sick. Dependents can stay on their parents’ policies until age 26. Insurers must cover preventive services and annual checkups without cost-sharing. Lifetime limits on how much insurance plans will pay for treatment are gone.

“The major benefits start in 2014, when tens of millions of the uninsured will gain coverage through Medicaid or by buying private coverage — with government help for low- and middle-income Americans — on the new competitive exchanges. If you lose your job, you will no longer lose access to insurance. And with government help the coverage should be affordable.

The editorial concludes by saying, “The barrage of attack ads are hard to push back against. But the voters need to know that health care reform will give all Americans real security.” 

This is a plea for senior citizens everywhere to look beyond the fear mongering and attack ads and find the truth so our ballots can be completed based on reality, not lies.  


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