Facts and Myths about Obamacare

So recently the Supreme Court upheld The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), aka Obamacare.  It was interesting to see all of the reactions on Facebook and Twitter (which I think were much more numerous and intense than when Obamacare was first passed.) Unfortunately, based on the reactions that I saw, it seems like there are quite a few myths or just simple misunderstandings about Obamacare.  In this post, I will attempt to debunk some of the myths, and explain a few things which I like about it.  And even though, I understand you might not favor it as much as I do, I still hope you can read this post with an open mind.

Myths:

  • Obamacare is a “Government Takeover of Healthcare”, Universal Healthcare, or Socialized Medicine.

From what I’ve seen, this seems to be the most common misconception.  Some people think that Obamacare is something similar to the healthcare systems used in various European countries or Canada.  They hear horror stories about women with breast cancer waiting years to see a specialist, or waiting 12 hours in the E.R. Some say that the government will take control of hospitals or doctors or decided which insurance company you can use.  Obamacare does none of this. Socialized Medicine/Universal Healthcare is where all citizens receive healthcare which is regulated and paid for by the government.  As much as I personally wish we had Universal Healthcare, and although the government will help pay for the cost of insurance for those who don’t make too much, Obamacare is nothing like it.  We still have private insurance companies. One of my favorite websites, Politifact.com (which dedicates itself to separating fact from fiction in politics) declared this myth as their “Lie of the Year” in 2010 and wrote a great articleabout it.

  • Obama is a smoker (here just for fun.)

Obama Smoking

Obama quit smoking in 2010.

  • If you don’t pay the individual mandate, you can go to jail.

Simply not true.  I have heard numerous Fox News personalities including Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity promulgate this idea.  Again Politifact debunked this with another article.

  • Obamacare is unconstitutional.

If it is upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States it is, in fact, constitutional.  No matter how much we hate it, this won’t change.  Can we stop arguing this point?

  • Obamacare will add billions or trillions of debt to the federal deficit.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO), a nonpartisan, widely respected agency that projects and reports the effects that federal laws have on the budget, reports that Obamacare will lower the deficit by about $124 billion over 10 years. Whereas, if Obamacare were to be repealed, the CBO projects it would increase the deficit, by about $210 billion over 10 years.  Yet another Politifact article here.

What I like about Obamacare:

  • Insurance companies are prohibited from denying coverage or charging higher rates to those with pre-existing conditions.

Why?  Suppose you are uninsured and get pregnant, or get cancer.  You are going to either have one huge medical bill or possibly die.  In the past insurance companies could deny you coverage for having a pre-existing condition.

  • Insurance companies are prohibited from establishing annual and lifetime spending limits.

Why?  Again, suppose you get cancer.  This time you are covered.  Most insurance companies, have annual and lifetime spending limits.  If the cost of health care you receive exceeds these limits, then you are on your own.  Obamacare eliminates these limits.

  • Insurance companies are prohibited from dropping patients when they get sick.

Why?  Yes insurance companies really can drop you if you get diabetes, cancer, etc.  Seems like a no-brainer.

  • Insurance companies must spend a certain percent of premium dollars on your health care.  If an insurer fails to meet this requirement, there is no penalty, but a rebate must be issued to the policy holder.

Why?  This requires insurance companies to actually spend most of your money on healthcare, instead of bonuses for executives, lavish trips, etc.  Just this year, customers already received rebate checksfor an average of about $151 per family.

  • The establishment of  “health insurance exchanges”.

Why?  Health Insurance Exchanges  are basically places (call centers, websites, brochures, etc.) that the government sets up where customers looking to buy insurance can see insurance companies, the services they offer, prices, and benefits, side by side.  Anyone who has ever bought insurance for anything, knows that it’s difficult to know if you’re getting the best deal.  With so many companies that have different sites, different lingo, etc.  It can be very confusing.  This will make it easier to get insurance, make insurance companies more competitive, and thus lower coverage prices (hopefully).

  • Restaurants are required to display the calorie content of their foods on menus, drive-through menus, and vending machines
  • Children will be permitted to remain on their parents’ insurance plan until their 26th birthday.
  • All insurance plans must cover certain preventive services such as mammograms and colonoscopies without charging a deductible, co-pay or coinsurance.
  •  Subsidization (government helps pay) of insurance premiums for individuals in households with income up to 400% of the poverty line.

Why?  Many people are worried about the individual mandate and being able to afford insurance if they don’t have it.  Heck, it even makes me feel a little uneasy.  This should help ease all of our fears.  What exactly is the poverty line?  Well, if your annual income is below a specified amount, you are considered as being under the poverty line.  The graph below shows each amount.

So lets say that you are single.  If you make less than $44,680 (11,170 x 4), then you are eligible to receive a little help from the government to pay for insurance.  How about a family of 4?  You get help if your household income is less than $92,200 (23,050 x 4).

As you can see, unless you are doing pretty well financially, you will most likely qualify for some government assistance in paying for health care.

You may ask, “How will the government afford this?”  The answer is simple: a combination of spending cuts and taxes.  First of all the individual mandate is a tax.  Individuals who refuse to get insured for some reason, will be paying a penalty of $95 or up to 1% of their income in 2014.  In 2016, this jumps to $695, or 2.5% of income.  The limit for families is $2085.  There are exemptions to this mandate for financial hardships or religious beliefs, however.

There will also be a $2,000 per employee tax penalty on employers with more than 50 employees who do not offer health insurance to their full-time workers.

Individuals making over $200,000 or couples making over $250,000 will be taxed, an additional 0.9%.

There is also a A 10% sales tax on indoor tanning that took effect in 2010.

As far as cuts, there will be spending cuts to Medicare and Medicaid that will amount to over $62 billion in cuts over ten years.

This article explains how it will be funded very well.

Final Thoughts:

I can certainly see why some people don’t like Obamacare.  The individual mandate, although constitutional, is somewhat unprecedented.  Never before has the federal government imposed a tax for not doing something.  Although, as I stated before, the mandate does scare me slightly, I believe it is a good thing.  Simply put, it requires that everyone be insured, which will in turn lower the costs of health care.  I might go more in depth as far as how that works in another post on another day.

I can also see how there is disagreement on how Obamacare should be funded.  There may be too many taxes (mainly on the wealthy) and not enough cuts for some people’s liking.  The bottom line though, is that it will be paid for, and will actually lower the deficit.

For me personally, the positives outweigh the negatives.  I just hope that after reading this, you might be able to see the positives that usually aren’t very well portrayed on places like Facebook, Twitter and family reunions (in Utah anyway :s ).  If you have reasons for not liking the act, please comment below.  I’m always interested in hearing other points of view.

King Obama?

Recently, President Obama issued an executive order to stop the deportation of many young immigrants living within the United States.  They must be currently in school, have graduated from high school, obtained a GED certificate, or be honorably discharged from the Armed Forces of the United States to be considered. They cannot have been convicted of any significant crimes, and they cannot be above the age of 30.

After having listened to my favorite Fox News host, Sean Hannity, and Presidential nominee Mitt Romney, over the past couple days, I have noticed that Republicans seem to be upset with this.

They have used arguments that the that we live in a Republic, not a Monarchy; and that Obama is a President, not a King.  They make it seem as if the President, by using this radical, unprecedented move – The Executive Order – he is bypassing the legislative process and ruling as a monarch.

Now, the act of an executive order was not something with which I was very familiar until a few months ago.  I get the feeling many people don’t understand it very well either.  Here are a few facts:

– U.S. Presidents have been issuing executive orders since 1789

– Our country didn’t record all executive orders until 1862

– There have been over 13,600 executive orders signed by Republican and Democrat Presidents since then.

Pretty unprecedented right?

My favorite part about all of this is that Republican leaders aren’t sure how to handle it.

Here’s another critique of the President’s order:

“The reason this came out was the president is trying to shore up his base with Latino voters.” – Mitt Romney

Wow, nailed it Mitt!  Of course he’s trying to shore up votes.  He’s running for re-election.  Everything anybody running for President does is to try to shore up votes.  What the heck have you been doing for the past 6 years Mitt?  So basically, anything the President does for the next 5 months is considered “trying to shore up votes”, even if it’s what the American people overwhelmingly want and what’s good for them?  Should he only make bad decisions for America so as not to be perceived as trying to “shore up votes”?

Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid put it best:

“The complaints are varied, but they have one thing in common: None of them actually take issue with the substance of President Obama’s directive.”

It’s true!  Mitt Romney is kind of in a dilemma.  He can’t argue against with the content of the executive order.  If he did, he would be viewed unfavorably by Hispanics and the majority of Americans.  But he can’t acknowledge that anything the President does is actually good.

What’s funny is that Obama’s order is exactly what future Mitt Romney running-mate, Marco Rubio was about to propose to congress.

After Rubio cited concerns about students facing deportation ahead of the new school year, this is what his aid had to say about Obama’s executive order:

“We’re re-evaluating our plans.  The President’s announcement took away our momentum and made the politics a lot tougher.”

President Obama stole a Republican idea and put it into practice.  But now that Obama has done it, it is the moral duty of Republican leaders to object to it- even though it was their idea first.  Sound familiar (cough…Romneycare…cough)?

Fun Video

My 2012 Electoral College Predictions

The 2012 Presidential elections are coming fast and I’m getting more and more excited every day.  One place I find myself spending hours a week is at Real Clear Politics.  I love the polls, maps, graphs, and charts they produce.  It’s probably the most comprehensive political database I’ve seen.

My favorite thing on the site, is the electoral map that it updates.  On the site you can click on each state and it will give you the results of recent Presidential polls in the state.  They average the polls to give you a really good idea of where these elections are headed.

Here is a screenshot of the current map:

The magic number needed for a win is 270.  As you can see, President Obama potentially holds a slight lead over Romney, but with many important battleground states up for grabs- including Ohio, Florida, and Michigan- this election could be swayed in any direction.

To give you a point of reference, this is how the 2008 Obama/McCain electoral map turned out:

TOTAL:  OBAMA: 365    MCCAIN: 173

President Obama won this election by a seeming landslide.  However, he only won the popular vote by about 10 million votes, or about 5%.

The race of 2012 is looking to be much closer.  I expect Governor Romney will be able to flip a few of the states that President Obama won in 2008.  The question is- how many?  And will it be enough?

I went through and looked at how each state has been polling recently and used the Real Clear Politics average to decide who had the edge in each toss-up state.  I filled in my own electoral college map with the current poll standings, with exception to one state- Ohio.  This is always a crucial battleground state and although the average shows Obama with a slight lead, the most recent polls show Romney winning.  So just to make it interesting, I marked Ohio as a being red.

This is how it looks:

My analysis is that things are obviously not going to be as easy for the President this time around.  It looks like he has a good chance of losing the following states that he won in 2008:

Florida

North Carolina

Iowa

Indiana

and possibly, Ohio

Those are some pretty big states to lose, especially Ohio and Florida.  It seems like those two states have been the deciding factors in the past two or three elections.

However, in spite of the not so positive forecast for Obama, he still holds a lead.  Romney really does have a steep hill to climb.  Not only does he need to flip the states aforementioned, but he would probably need to flip at least two more to win.  Obama could still win the election despite losing the biggest battleground states in play.

Romney will probably need to win any two of Colorado, Nevada, or New Mexico.

Another interesting scenario would be if Romney could muster out a victory in Wisconsin, where voters recently re-elected Republican Governor Scott Walker after they pushed a recall election.  This would give both nominees a total of 269 votes- both 1 vote short of a win.

No matter how you look at it, this election looks to be interesting no matter which horse you have in the race.

Robamneycare

Remember that one time, not too long ago, that here in the United States of America some crazy liberal passed a law reforming health care insurance coverage?  Remember how that socialist forced everyone to buy health insurance? Then, to top it off, remember how that left-wing nut used tax-payer money to subsidize health care insurance for the poor?

What was he thinking?  He actually forced American citizens to purchase a product from a private company!

Remember how this guy was Republican Presidential nominee, Mitt Romney?

Yes, if you didn’t already know, Mitt Romney actually passed a mini version of Obamacare during his tenure as Governor of Massachusetts.

Since its passage in 2006, the percentage of uninsured in Massachusetts has dropped from 6% to 1.9%.  But at a cost to tax-payers’ wallets right?  Well, three years after the law took effect, spending from the Health Safety Net Fund, the state-funded insurance program for residents who can’t afford insurance, dropped by 40%.

Probably the craziest part about it is that the program is actually very popular with Massachusetts residents, with only 33% of residents not liking it.

Since “Romneycare” was passed, the Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare” was passed by Congress for the entire United States.  What’s interesting is how similar “Obamacare” and “Romneycare” are.  Both impose individual mandates and penalties for those who don’t purchase insurance.  Both provide government funds to help lower-income people purchase insurance.  In fact, now-former GOP Presidential nominee, Rick Santorum stated that, “Romneycare is the basis for Obamacare.”

Mitt once said,

“I… was able to put in place a plan that helped get health insurance premiums down, and gets all of our citizens insured. If we can do that nationally, we help not only Michigan and the auto industry, but the entire nation.”

He also said that Romneycare was “the ultimate conservative plan” because it requires individual responsibility, aka forces everyone to buy insurance.

Strangely, after making those statements, Romney said this:

“Obamacare is unconstitutional and as President I’ll repeal it.”

What exactly is unconstitutional about it?  The same individual mandate that Mitt enforced on the citizens of Massachusetts?  I’m no lawyer, but if the mandate is unconstitutional for the nation, shouldn’t that mean that it’s unconstitutional for all states as well?

So why exactly does Mitt so vehemently dislike Obamacare?  He can’t claim that the mandate is unconstitutional if he passed the same thing in his state.  Perhaps, a poll conducted in Massachusetts has the answer.  The poll finds that among residents:

“68% see former Gov. Mitt Romney’s opposition to the national law as an effort to win votes in his presidential campaign.”

To set the record straight, I like Romneycare.  I also like Obamacare.  I don’t like the idea of the government forcing me to pay for anything.  But the government actually does force us to purchase products from private companies, like car insurance if we drive.  Critics of the mandate argue that it this is different because we can choose to not drive, thus not being forced to buy insurance.

The difference is that people can choose to not drive and therefore do not participate in the drivers insurance market nor affect other drivers.  But everyone participates in the health care market sooner or later, which does affect other patients.

Justice Scalia questions the individual mandate.

Recently, this point was brought up in the Supreme Court hearings.  Justice Anton Scalia questioned this saying:

“Everybody has to buy food sooner or later, so you define the market as food, therefore, everybody is in the market; therefore, you can make people buy broccoli.”

What Justice Scalia and many others fail to recognize is the fact that if you go to the grocery store and tell the cashier that you don’t have any money, but you’re hungry and want some food, they don’t have to serve you.  Whereas, if you go to the ER and tell the doctor that you are sick, they are required by the Emergency Treatment and Labor Act to serve you regardless of your ability to pay.

As a former debt collector, I’ve seen my share of unpaid medical bills due to patients who had no health insurance.  Okay so that’s their problem right?  Wrong.  We all suffer because of poor people who don’t pay for their health care.  WAAAAYYY too many people don’t understand this.  See the formula below for a simple explanation:

Poor, uninsured people receive care

+

They don’t pay

=

Health care providers jack up rates to make up for their losses and everyone else pays more.

There are only two ways we can address the issue- Either don’t do anything and continue letting people receive services and letting prices soar.  Or we can make sure everyone gets insured, which, in turn makes sure providers get paid and prices lower.

All of this is probably moot however.  An ABC/Washington Post poll recently found that half the public thinks the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on the legislation on the basis of the justices’ partisan political views rather than the law.  I would have to agree with that opinion.  And with a 5-4 advantage for GOP judges, Obamacare looks doomed.

What are your thoughts?

Rocky Mountain High

Before I get too opinionated with my posts and begin alienating any readers, (who have for heaven knows why ended up reading this), I want to describe a situation in my life right now- Last week I was offered a teaching position at a middle school in a tiny town in Colorado called Battlement Mesa.  The only way I can describe this place is through the legendary words of John Denver:

And the Colorado rocky mountain high
I’ve seen it rainin’ fire in the sky
You can talk to God and listen to the casual reply
Rocky mountain high….

The town is pretty out there but the job is perfect and the principal seems pretty awesome.  He’s given me a week or so to decide what we want to do.  So we’ll just see what happens.

Here’s the town:

http://www.battlementmesa.com/

Several failed attempts later…

I am not new to the “blogosphere”, as they call it.  I have actually started a couple of blogs…years ago…that no one ever read and not even I can find now.  But at the request of my good friend Toby Parker, I decided I’ve give WordPress a try.  So I’ll try to keep it up-to-date and interesting and we’ll all hope that I just don’t offend anyone.