Readers whose heads already are spinning in an attempt to figure out the President’s new health care reform scheme might start with these basic facts: The plan essentially relies on middle-class tax cuts and supposed new-found competition through a system of exchanges along the lines now offered federal employees.
Of course, people with no health insurance often don’t have the insurance because they don’t have the money to buy it. These same people would need cash to purchase insurance, not tax credits on their nonexistent or drastically reduced income. And then, too, this exchange system and its supposed beneficial competition doesn’t mean lower costs. It just adds mind boggling confusion over what policies to pick. The exchange is like having to pick through a vast assortment of candy in a vending machine. Is a traditional Hershey bar a better deal than a bag of M&Ms?
Finally, it should be remembered the federal employees are nowadays paying more for insurance, not less. Is this just another version of the game of smoke and mirrors the Congress and Obama administration are laying on us?
Nonetheless, some think the Obama plan spells real change–at least, enough to make it worth supporting. Robert Greenstein,who heads the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal Washington, DC-based think tank that tracks social safety net issues, released a statement this afternoon in support of the president’s plan. Greenstein Makes these points:
- It makes insurance more affordable than under the Senate bill for families and individuals with incomes… between $29,000 and $88,000 for a family of four. Most people with incomes below 133 percent of the poverty line would qualify for Medicaid, which does not charge premiums and requires only modest co-payments.
- It extends important consumer protections to existing employer-based and individual market plans — for instance, giving enrollees the option of keeping their adult children covered under their policy until the children reach age 26, prohibiting annual and lifetime benefit limits, and, by 2018, requiring coverage of preventive services without co-payment charges.
- It completely closes the gap in Medicare prescription drug coverage (the “doughnut hole”) over the next decade.
- It fixes shortcomings in the Senate bill’s excise tax…..the vast majority of plans would not face any tax.
- It strengthens oversight of insurance companies, makes the “playing field” more level between firms that offer insurance and those that don’t, contains stronger mechanisms to reduce Medicare overpayments to insurance companies, adds new policies to fight fraud, waste, and abuse in both Medicare and Medicaid, and closes several egregious corporate tax loopholes.
- It offsets the loss in revenue (relative to the Senate bill) from these excise tax changes by broadening the base of the Medicare tax — that is, by applying the tax to capital gains, dividend, and other investment income received by people with incomes of over $250,000 a year. This raises substantial revenue while affecting only about the top 2 percent of Americans.
- It increases federal financial support for state Medicaid programs and makes that support more equitable across the states.
You can read the full statement here.