Thursday, August 13, 2009

Another Evaluation of the Healthcare Bill

Retired college professor Russell Wilcox is the latest to attempt to make sense of the 1000 page plus healthcare bill. However, he notes:

This bill is 1017 pages long. It is knee-deep in legalese and references to other federal regulations and laws. I have only touched pieces of the bill here. For instance, I have not considered the establishment of (1) “Health Choices Commissioner” (Section 141); (2) a “Health Insurance Exchange,” (Section 201), basically a government run insurance scheme to coordinate all insurance activity; (3) a Public Health Insurance Option (Section 221); and similar provisions
Here's part of what he found:


This is what the bill says, pages 284-288, SEC. 1151. REDUCING POTENTIALLY PREVENTABLE HOSPITAL READMISSIONS:

‘(ii) EXCLUSION OF CERTAIN READMISSIONS.—For purposes of clause (i), with respect to a hospital, excess readmissions shall not include readmissions for an applicable condition for which there are fewer than a minimum number (as determined by the Secretary) of discharges for such applicable condition for the applicable period and such hospital.
and, under “Definitions”:

‘‘(A) APPLICABLE CONDITION.—The term ‘applicable condition’ means, subject to subparagraph (B), a condition or procedure selected by the Secretary . . .

‘‘(E) READMISSION.—The term ‘readmission’ means, in the case of an individual who is discharged from an applicable hospital, the admission of the individual to the same or another applicable hospital within a time period specified by the Secretary from the date of such discharge.

‘‘(6) LIMITATIONS ON REVIEW.—There shall be no administrative or judicial review under section 1869, section 1878, or otherwise of— . . .

‘‘(C) the measures of readmissions . . .


1. This section amends the Social Security Act
2. The government has the power to determine what constitutes an “applicable [medical] condition.”
3. The government has the power to determine who is allowed readmission into a hospital.
4. This determination will be made by statistics: when enough people have been discharged for the same condition, an individual may be readmitted.
5. This is government rationing, pure, simple, and straight up.
6. There can be no judicial review of decisions made here. The Secretary is above the courts.
7. The plan also allows the government to prohibit hospitals from expanding without federal permission: page 317-318.

2. Will the plan punish Americans who try to opt out?

What the bill says, pages 167-168, section 401, TAX ON INDIVIDUALS WITHOUT ACCEPTABLE HEALTH CARE COVERAGE:

‘‘(a) TAX IMPOSED.—In the case of any individual who does not meet the requirements of subsection (d) at any time during the taxable year, there is hereby imposed a tax equal to 2.5 percent of the excess of—

(1) the taxpayer’s modified adjusted gross income for the taxable year, over
(2) the amount of gross income specified in section 6012(a)(1) with respect to the taxpayer. . . .”


1. This section amends the Internal Revenue Code.
2. Anyone caught without acceptable coverage and not in the government plan will pay a special tax.
3. The IRS will be a major enforcement mechanism for the plan.

3. what constitutes “acceptable” coverage?

Here is what the bill says, pages 26-30, SEC. 122, ESSENTIAL BENEFITS PACKAGE DEFINED:

(a) IN GENERAL.—In this division, the term ‘‘essential benefits package’’ means health benefits coverage, consistent with standards adopted under section 124 to ensure the provision of quality health care and financial security . . .

(b) MINIMUM SERVICES TO BE COVERED.—The items and services described in this subsection are the following:

(1) Hospitalization.
(2) Outpatient hospital and outpatient clinic services . . .
(3) Professional services of physicians and other health professionals.
(4) Such services, equipment, and supplies incident to the services of a physician’s or a health professional’s delivery of care . . .
(5) Prescription drugs.
(6) Rehabilitative and habilitative services.
(7) Mental health and substance use disorder services.
(8) Preventive services . . .
(9) Maternity care.
(10) Well baby and well child care . . .



(A) IN GENERAL.—The cost-sharing under the essential benefits package shall be designed to provide a level of coverage that is designed to provide benefits that are actuarially equivalent to approximately 70 percent of the full actuarial value of the benefits provided under the reference benefits package described in subparagraph (B).


1. The bill defines “acceptable coverage” and leaves no room for choice in this regard.
2. By setting a minimum 70% actuarial value of benefits, the bill makes health plans in which individuals pay for routine services, but carry insurance only for catastrophic events, (such as Health Savings Accounts) illegal.

4. Will the PLAN destroy private health insurance?

Here is what it requires, for businesses with payrolls greater than $400,000 per year. (The bill uses “contribution” to refer to mandatory payments to the government plan.) Pages 149-150, SEC. 313, EMPLOYER CONTRIBUTIONS IN LIEU OF COVERAGE

(a) IN GENERAL.—A contribution is made in accordance with this section with respect to an employee if such contribution is equal to an amount equal to 8 percent of the average wages paid by the employer during the period of enrollment (determined by taking into account all employees of the employer and in such manner as the Commissioner provides, including rules providing for the appropriate aggregation of related employers). Any such contribution—

(1) shall be paid to the Health Choices Commissioner for deposit into the Health Insurance Exchange Trust Fund, and

(2) shall not be applied against the premium of the employee under the Exchange-participating health benefits plan in which the employee is enrolled.

(The bill then includes a sliding scale of payments for business with less than $400,000 in annual payroll.)

The Bill also reserves, for the government, the power to determine an acceptable benefits plan: page 24, SEC. 115. ENSURING ADEQUACY OF PROVIDER NETWORKS.

5 (a) IN GENERAL.—A qualified health benefits plan that uses a provider network for items and services shall meet such standards respecting provider networks as the Commissioner may establish to assure the adequacy of such networks in ensuring enrollee access to such items and services and transparency in the cost-sharing differentials between in-network coverage and out-of-network coverage.


1. The bill does not prohibit a person from buying private insurance.
2. Small businesses—with say 8-10 employees—will either have to provide insurance to federal standards, or pay an 8% payroll tax. Business costs for health care are higher than this, especially considering administrative costs. Any competitive business that tries to stay with a private plan will face a payroll disadvantage against competitors who go with the government “option.”
3. The pressure for business owners to terminate the private plans will be enormous.
4. With employers ending plans, millions of Americans will lose their private coverage, and fewer companies will offer it.
5. The Commissioner (meaning, always, the bureaucrats) will determine whether a particular network of physicians, hospitals and insurance is acceptable.
6. With private insurance starved, many people enrolled in the government “option” will have no place else to go.


What it says, page 124, Sec. 223, PAYMENT RATES FOR ITEMS AND SERVICES:

(d) CONSTRUCTION.—Nothing in this subtitle shall be construed as limiting the Secretary’s authority to correct for payments that are excessive or deficient, taking into account the provisions of section 221(a) and the amounts paid for similar health care providers and services under other Exchange-participating health benefits plans.

(e) CONSTRUCTION.—Nothing in this subtitle shall be construed as affecting the authority of the Secretary to establish payment rates, including payments to provide for the more efficient delivery of services, such as the initiatives provided for under section 224.


The government’s authority to set payments is basically unlimited.

The official will decide what constitutes “excessive,” “deficient,” and “efficient” payments and services.

7. Will THE PLAN increase the power of government officials to SCRUTINIZE our private


‘‘(A) IN GENERAL.—The Secretary, upon written request from the Health Choices Commissioner or the head of a State-based health insurance exchange approved for operation under section 208 of the America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, shall disclose to officers and employees of the Health Choices Administration or such State-based health insurance exchange, as the case may be, return information of any taxpayer whose income is relevant in determining any affordability credit described in subtitle C of title II of the America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009. Such return information shall be limited to—

‘‘(i) taxpayer identity information with respect to such taxpayer,
‘‘(ii) the filing status of such taxpayer,
‘‘(iii) the modified adjusted gross income of such taxpayer (as defined in section 59B(e)(5)),
‘‘(iv) the number of dependents of the taxpayer,
‘‘(v) such other information as is prescribed by the Secretary by regulation as might indicate whether the taxpayer is eligible for such affordability credits (and the amount thereof), and
‘‘(vi) the taxable year with respect to which the preceding information relates or, if applicable, the fact that such information is not available.


(3) PROVISION OF INFORMATION.—The employer provides the Health Choices Commissioner, the Secretary of Labor, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and the Secretary of the Treasury, as applicable, with such information as the Commissioner may require to ascertain compliance with the requirements of this section.


1. This section amends the Internal Revenue Code
2. The bill opens up income tax return information to federal officials.
3. Any stated “limits” to such information are circumvented by item (v), which allows federal officials to decide what information is needed.
4. Employers are required to report whatever information the government says it needs to enforce the plan.

See Professor Wilcox's complete review here.

1 comment:

  1. Coming from a country with socialized health-care one would think I wasn't surprised at what is in this bill.

    ...I've almost choked on my keyboard several times the last few weeks, after reading what is in this.

    The main problem is not that they are trying to push public health-care down the throats of US citizens, the main problem is that they are doing this without any understanding of what centralised control means. If they just wanted socialized health-care, they could have just created a floating scale of how large a part of your medical insurance the government will subsidize based on your annual income.

    As a Swede, I can say this : Swedish healthcare may not be the best, but at least it "works" as in "you can get some sort of healthcare in Sweden". From what I've seen in this bill, the end result is going to be "No healthcare for anyone".

    If this bill goes through, US healthcare is going to have an exponential growth rate for costs, and the majority of money is going to go to endless hords of bureucrats trying to finetune one or other rule of who does what at what price and when. They multiply like flies because the more they tune - the worse it gets - and the more of them are hired to fix it!

    On top of that, it's going to be completely arbitrary who gets health-care and who doesn't, apart from those who can go out of the country for it and government officials.

    Luckily, the US government will be broke long before that stage is reached.