Sunday, October 4, 2009

Legislators Finally Understand What "Working Late" Means

Unlike medical personnel who are always working late and on call.

The Senate Finance Committee finally got its ducks in a row and decreased the fines for the poor on health insurance. Apparently, someone in that group realized how idiotic it would have been to fine the poor for not having something that can't afford in the first place.

The maximum penalty that could be imposed was decreased from $1900 to $800 for a family. I have to wonder, however, if the family is having to choose between spending $75 per month on food or paying for health insurance, if they won't make the choice to eat first and still use the emergency room "insurance" plan (the one where they go into emergency rooms fully aware they must be seen and treated fully knowing that goodwill and charity care will foot the bill).

Here is the article lifted from the NY Times, in its entirety.

Panel Finishes Work on Health Bill Amendments

Published: October 2, 2009

WASHINGTON — After a marathon session that ran well past midnight, the Senate Finance Committee on Friday passed a major milestone in its work on legislation to remake the health care system and provide coverage to millions of the uninsured.

The committee completed work on the last of dozens of amendments to the bill, written by the panel’s chairman, Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana.

Committee members plan to vote on the bill next week after they receive an estimate of its costs from the Congressional Budget Office.

The bill would require most Americans to have insurance, would offer federal subsidies to help pay the premiums and would significantly expand Medicaid. To help offset the cost, it would cut hundreds of billions of dollars from the projected growth of Medicare, impose a new excise tax on high-cost insurance plans and charge annual fees to insurers, drug companies and manufacturers of medical devices.

Before it finished work at 2:15 a.m. Friday, the committee voted to reduce penalties on people who go without insurance. The maximum penalty for a family was cut to $800, from $1,900, and it would be phased in gradually from 2014 to 2017.

In its final hours, the committee also voted to modify the proposed tax on high-cost insurance policies, so fewer people would be affected. The tax would apply to policies with premiums exceeding $21,000, but the threshold would be $5,000 higher for health plans covering retirees or people in certain high-risk occupations.

The committee also adopted an amendment by Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida, to protect several million older Americans against the loss of extra benefits they receive from private Medicare Advantage plans.

It approved an amendment by Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, Democrat of West Virginia, to protect children against the disruption of coverage they receive under the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

And it agreed to a proposal by Senator Blanche Lincoln, Democrat of Arkansas, that would prevent health insurance companies from taking tax deductions for executive compensation in excess of $500,000.

In addition, the panel voted to provide $1 billion in tax credits to encourage investments in new therapies being developed by biotechnology companies.

Mr. Baucus said he was confident that “the bill can pass the Senate.” He told the panel, “We can all be very proud of what we achieved here.”

But the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said at a news conference on Friday that some Democrats were showing “queasiness about this bill” because it “takes a half a trillion dollars out of Medicare over the next 10 years and raises billions of dollars in taxes on individuals and corporations.”

As the committee finished its work, Republican senators sought assurances from Mr. Baucus that they would have enough time to study the final bill and review the cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office.

Mr. Baucus said, “I will make, in good faith, make sure there is a reasonable time in which senators, staffs, the public, can review the score by C.B.O.”

Lawmakers hope the price tag will not exceed $900 billion over 10 years, fully offset by new taxes or reductions in government spending. If the cost exceeds that amount, Mr. Baucus said, “we have got a problem,” and the committee will have to make adjustments.

In an initial answer to Republican concerns about having enough time to review the bill, Mr. Baucus posted the revised legislation, including all the amendments adopted in the last week of debate, on the committee’s Web site shortly before 6 p.m. Friday

1 comment:

rhonda said...

I hear you on that eating versus health care! I'm a big fan of both!