Archive for July, 2009

Legislative Update For the Day

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

The information below is the most recent legislative update (today) from SIIA. 

Senate Finance Committee Nearing AgreementA team of 6 bi-partisan Members of the Senate Finance Committee are close to reaching agreement on a compromise healthcare reform package. Chairman Baucus’ goal from the start of this process was to introduce a package that was bi-partisan and could garner the 60 votes necessary to pass out of the Senate. The Committee has spent time meeting with various interested parties (including SIIA) and continues to develop cost cutting measures.  SIIA’s Government Relations Office has learned that the compromise package will likely not contain a government-run insurance plan option that is contained in the other partisan approaches. It will instead likely include a proposal to enact “co-operatives”, which would serve as non-profit, privately-run entities that would compete with commercial insurance companies. The Finance package likely will also not include an employer mandate to offer coverage. Instead, opting for what has been termed the “free-rider” approach where an employer is not mandated to offer coverage, but is required to pay 50% of Medicaid costs for any Medicaid eligible employee and 100% of the cost of any Federal coverage subsidy available to a low-income worker.  Preliminary scoring from the Congressional Budget Office estimates that a package with these approaches would cost $900 billion, a total that is approximately $200 billion less than the Senate HELP’s companion bill.  Once a final agreement can be reached, language will be released and officially scored. Dependent on if/when this happens, the Committee could formally proceed with the bill before the August recess. Regardless, there will be no full-Senate consideration of healthcare reform until after Labor Day.   House Moderates and House Leaders Progressing Through NegotiationsAs reported, a group of House moderate Democrats, the Blue Dog Coalition, who have threatened to oppose the House’s healthcare reform bill, have been negotiating with House Democrat leadership in an effort to come to a compromise. The Blue Dogs’ concerns stem from a lack of provisions to control costs, a government-run plan that would have competitive advantages over private plans and not enough assistance to small businesses. Representatives of the Blue Dogs, Committee Chairmen and House Leadership have been meeting daily and appear to be close to a final agreement.  In the 2 of the 3 House Committees of jurisdiction over healthcare reform where there were not enough Blue Dogs to block passage, the bill was passed out. In the House Energy and Commerce Committee, there enough Blue Dog Members to block passage of the bill. Here, Committee progress has been at an impasse during the negotiations. With an agreement near, the Energy and Commerce Committee will reconvene this morning.

Obama and Trusting The People

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

In a recent NY Times article, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/30/us/politics/30poll.html?_r=2&hp  President Obama was quoted as saying the following:  “First of all,” Mr. Obama said, “nobody is talking about some government takeover of health care. I’m tired of hearing that. I have been as clear as I can be. Under the reform I’ve proposed, if you like your doctor, you keep your doctor; if you like your health care plan, you keep your health care plan. These folks need to stop scaring everybody, you know?”

The problem is Mr. President, many of us don’t believe you!  The Obama plan lays the foundation for a national single payer system in the future. 

Does Switzerland Have the Healthcare Answer Solved?

Sunday, July 19th, 2009

Unlike many of the other European nations, Switzerland has it’s own very Swiss solution to healthcare.  I wonder if we in the US should at least look at some of their solutions as opposed to those of say Canada or Great Britian.  Switzerland only has about 8 million people as opposed to 300 million in the US.

I was in Switzerland about 6 weeks ago.  It’s a beautiful country, very clean, and visibly the poplulation is thin.  It’s not scientific, but they just look healthy.  Of notice, they drink Beer, Wine, and water and eat a pretty healthy diet.  They walk a lot, and they have a high standard of living.  On the whole, a really nice country to visit. 

Do, they have the solutions to America’s healthcare system?  Well, I don’t think they have our solution, but rather some aspects of their program that might be really worth the US to ponder over.  Anything that works in a country of 8 million is not going to work exactly the same in a 300 million population country like the US.

I ran across this article from NPR (of all places) that highlights the Swiss system.  Take a look at it and of course you can make your own conclusions.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=92106731

Dems Shutting Republicans out of Healthcare Debate

Saturday, July 18th, 2009

It’s Saturday, but I am still thinking hard about healthcare and the ongoing debate.  In that thought, it seemd to me like I should check the headlines today and see what is going on.  In that light, I found that Obama continues to want to ram through the healthcare reform bill without any real Republican/Conservative participation.

The Committees in Washington are passing job killer ideas.  Small business owners can’t bear the brunt of the new program.  I wonder why these guys can’t get it that most jobs are created from the minds and sweat of small business owners.  Somewhere along the way, many people decided to declare war on those people that have and are successful in business.  I don’t understand why the politicians don’t get it that small business owners can only take so much in taxes.  Also, raising taxes in a recession is just not smart.

See the Fox news article today on the Republicans being locked out of the process.

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009/07/18/obama-walks-line-outreach-republicans-health-care-legislation/

Proposed Healthcare Flow Chart From Dems

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

http://docs.house.gov/gopleader/House-Democrats-Health-Plan.pdf

 

See and click on the link above from the House of Representatives.  This is the proposed process flow of healthcare in the dems new bill.  Anyone really want this?

Healthcare First Attempt in House

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

See the information below from SIIA.  This is their interpretation of the Healthcare bill now being released by one committee in the House.   

Information Disclaimer Note: Congressional developments regarding health care reform are fluid and SIIA lobbyists are continually meeting with Members of Congress, key staff members and other industry stakeholders, which generate ongoing intelligence.  In order to keep our members informed in “real time”, we will report relevant information as we become aware of it.  Given that the political process is inherently unpredictable, information communicated in previous reports may be superseded in subsequent reports.  Should you have any questions in between reports, please contact SIIA’s Washington, DC office directly at 202/463-8161.  House Leadership Releases Healthcare Reform Proposal Harmful to Employer-System and Private Market 

SIIA’s Government Relations Staff moments ago received a copy of the legislative text of the House Democrats’ healthcare reform proposal to be formally introduced later this afternoon.  The reform package seeks to inject significant government involvement in our nation’s healthcare system and many of the proposals would have devastating effects for the self-insurance industry, the Employer-Based Healthcare System and the private healthcare marketplace as a whole.  The proposal includes provisions to have a government definition of acceptable benefits, government control over provider reimbursement rates, coverage mandates on individuals and businesses and numerous and burdensome tax increases on businesses and workers to pay for this massive overhaul of our nation’s healthcare system.

Formal consideration by one or all of the 3 House Committees of jurisdiction could start as early as tomorrow morning.  This would give Members of Congress less than 24 hours to read-through, understand and formulate positions on a bill that’s over 1000 pages of complex legislative text – and a proposal that would be a complete restructuring of over 1/7th of our nation’s economy.  Also, this incomprehensible short amount of time between language release and formal consideration gives the American public absolutely no opportunity to review the provisions and comment to their Federal elected-officials.

Unfortunately, this proposal runs counter to President Obama’s healthcare reform pledges; preservation of the employer-system, the ability to keep the coverage you like; and no new taxes on the middle-class.

The following is an initial summary of the provisions that would directly impact the self-insurance industry and the employer-based system:

·         Insurance Market Reforms:

§  Prohibits the application of preexisting conditions

§  Guaranteed issue

§  Rating rules

§  Minimum “essential” benefits package – defined by bureaucrats of the proposed Benefits Advisory Committee

§  Prohibition of cost-sharing for preventative services

·         National Health Insurance Exchange:

§  Within 3 years of enactment, employers of all sizes will be allowed to enter Exchange

§  Bureaucrat defined level of benefits

§  Employees of Exchange participating employers allowed to choose any Exchange plan

§  Grandfathered Exchange eligibility for individuals (once eligible, continue to be so even if circumstances change)

·         Government-Run Insurance Plan:

·         Government-run and subsidized plan as a National Exchange option

·         Provide bureaucrat defined benefits

·         Tax-payer subsidized funding for initial administrative costs – advantage over private plans

·         Bureaucrat controlled provider reimbursement rates – Medicare + 5% rates

·         Tax-payer provided subsidies for Exchange participation for workers with up to $88,000 in income – (Subsidies prohibited for participation in employer-sponsored plans)

·         Individual Coverage Mandate:

§  Individuals required to obtain government-approved healthcare coverage

§  Non-compliance penalty – 2.5% of income

·         Employer Coverage Mandate:

§  Mandates that employers offer their employees healthcare coverage

§  Bureaucrat defined “acceptable coverage”

§  Mandates minimum premium cost-sharing – 72.5% for individual coverage, 65% for family coverage

§  Non-compliance penalty – 8% of the average salary times the number of full-time equivalent workers

·         Tax on Self-Insured Health Plans:

  • Proposed per-capita tax on all self-insured health plans to fund the proposed Comparative Effectiveness Research Trust Fund – A government-controlled entity tasked with determining what treatments are not acceptable for insurance coverage

·         Mandated Self-Insurance Health Plan Study to Determine:

§  Types of employers by characteristics that self-insure verses full-insure

§  The similarities and differences between self-insured and fully-insured plans

§  The financial solvency and reserve levels of self-insured plans

§  The risk of self-insured plans not being able to pay obligations

§  Rating rules that encourage adverse selection or encourage small and mid-size employers to self-insure

§  Requires a report to be submitted by the newly-created Health Choices Commissioner to make recommendations to ensure against incentives for small and mid-size employers to self-insure

 

SIIA Urges the Self-Insurance Industry to Make our Message Heard

SIIA urges all those in the self-insurance industry interested in preserving the way we do business and the benefits we provide to 75 million Americans covered by self-insured plans, to use the resources provided in SIIA’s Grassroots Toolkit and contact their Members of Congress to voice our message. 

The threat to the self-insurance industry and the employer-based system under which we operate in has never been more significant.  Now is the time to voice our powerful and unified voice to politicians in Washington that we will not stand for any proposals that would cause significant damage to our industry and to those lives we cover. 

SIIA’s Grassroots Toolkit can be found at 

http://www.siia.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=4717.  If you

The words of Ronald Reagan on the Economy

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

Radio Address to the Nation on Economic Growth and Tax Reform
August 3, 1985

My fellow Americans:

The month of August marks an important milestone for our country. Four years ago we took our first giant step toward putting this economy back in your hands when I signed our bill to lower and permanently index the tax rates of every working American. After being held back so long, a ringing declaration went forth that the dream of economic freedom was alive and well in America’s soul. And you responded, bursting ahead with energy and enthusiasm, ignoring all those who were downright panic-struck that Washington could no longer reach deeper and deeper into the pocketbooks of your families. While they were busy predicting disaster, you began transforming our economy from top to bottom.

From the nightmare of interest rates that, at 21\1/2\ percent, had pierced the highest level since the Civil War, double-digit inflation raging like an uncontrollable virus, long gas lines, and the worst tax burden in peacetime history, we awoke to a new dawn of progress — swift, sure, and steady progress that has continued for 4 years and is continuing today. Inflation, which has been as high as 13 percent, has not just eased but has sharply declined to less than 4 percent. The prime interest rate, while still too high, has dropped to its lowest level in almost 7 years. And decontrolling oil prices did not send the price of gas at the pump skyrocketing as some said it would; prices are lower today than 4 years ago.

Progress regained has renewed our confidence. We can see and feel that confidence in the vigorous increases in consumer purchases, in greater incentives to save, and in the advances to record levels in the stock market. All of us are building a new America, a dynamic America that’s created nearly 8 million jobs in the last 32 months and almost 500,000 last month alone; an enterprising America with a record 635,000 new business incorporations last year, the auto, housing, and construction industries rejuvenated, and spectacular breakthroughs in new technologies; and, most important, a successful America with one of the most impressive economic expansions in postwar history. Even as we speak, new strength in factory orders, jobs, leading economic indicators, and equity markets show the U.S. economy flexing its muscles for another big push toward greater prosperity.

But this building of a new America is not complete. We still face a great challenge in reducing the deficit, but those who insist that spending cannot be cut any further and that we must increase your taxes to reduce the deficit are flatout wrong.

Last February I submitted a budget calling for large savings, including elimination of 17 costly and wasteful programs. The budget resolution finally agreed to by the Congress this week represents a good-faith beginning to tackle the deficit the right way — by reducing what government can spend, rather than simply taking more of what you earn so government can keep spending levels high. But when Congress votes on the various spending bills this fall, we will review each one line by line to be sure they don’t contain excessive spending levels or might jeopardize our national security.

Let’s all recognize that spending has not been cut to the bone and that a tax increase would only reduce our incentives to work, save, and invest and ultimately weaken our economy and make deficits far worse. Sometimes it’s difficult to remember that you didn’t send us to Washington to feed the alligators; you sent us to drain the swamp. We didn’t come to raise your taxes, but to lower them. And what better moment than this anniversary of our first tax cut than to sound the trumpet once more.

This nation is poised to forge ahead, poised to give every citizen the noble chance to break free and taste the thrill of high adventure. Our next great advance must come from a total overhaul of our tax code. And make no mistake, that day is coming. As Congressman Dan Rostenkowski, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, indicated this week, “Reports of the death of tax reform are greatly exaggerated.” We can pass an historic tax reform to sweep away unjust loopholes favoring the powerful few. We can reduce the top rate of tax to 15 or 25 percent for all but a tiny fraction. We can reach for excellence and make America the most powerful success story for growth and human progress the world has ever known. And, yes, with your help, we can continue the success we began 4 years ago.

Till next week, thanks for listening, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 12:06 p.m. from Camp David, MD.

Healthcare Reform

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

Well, it looks like the House is at in full force now, attempting to pass a healthcare reform package before August.  I believe any proposed bill will have to get through 3 committees, and then to the floor.  The Dems seem hell bent on passing something, anything to give Obama his “win”.

Yet, as of yesterday, the country is now 1 Trillion dollars in debt.  So how will the dems pay for it?  the latest on the table is tax the wealthy up to 1.5% and to mandate that individuals purchase health insurance.  For now, the stick it to the wealthy approach might just sell.  But one day, sooner or later, with 1 Trillion dollars of debt, everyone is going to be paying higher taxes.