Seven Republican governors, under pressure from health care industry and consumer advocates, are unexpectedly (though cautiously) moving to expand Medicaid, in accordance with President Obama’s plan to insure some 30 million more Americans. Florida Gov. Rick Scott recently reversed his position and announced his support for expanding Medicaid. Proponents claim that doing so will save lives, create jobs and stimulate the economy, arguments that have swayed the Republican governors of Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota and Ohio.
This shift among Republican governors greatly pleases the law’s supporters.
An aspect of the Affordable Health Care Act (“Obamacare”) that becomes active in 2014 is an increased monetary incentive for employers to establish internal corporate wellness programs. Although it’s not mandatory, many more organizations are expected to set up these plans starting in 2014 to reduce health care costs. However, just as there are bigger financial rewards for healthier workers, there are also more costly punishments (increased insurance premiums) regarding those who are evaluated as being health risks.
New Obamacare rules ending discrimination in employee wellness programs may well lead to healthier employees and major health care cost savings for employers. More than two-thirds of U.S. employers now offer wellness programs because 86 percent of all full-time employees in the U.S. are now either overweight or suffer from a chronic usually preventable health conditions that raise health costs. All U.S. employers must meet the new nondiscrimination standards in wellness programs by January 1, 2014.
South Carolina Republicans unveiled a plan to pay hospitals $35 million in 2014 to divert uninsured people away from emergency rooms, which they often use for nonemergency care, and into free health clinics. An additional $10 million would be given in 2014 to the South Carolina’s 20 federally qualified health clinics to bolster their ability to to treat those patients. The plan would not spend any new money on health care. Instead, the state would pay for it by using $62 million that the state Department of Health and Human Services received in 2012 but did not spend.
Florida’s Governor Rick Scott is the latest of seven Republican governors to embrace Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, and will be accepting federal government money to expand Medicaid coverage to nearly all individuals under age 65 with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty line (FPL). However, many of these same governors (Florida’s Rick Scott, Michigan’s Rick Snyder and Ohio’s John Kasich) have rejected the idea of setting up healthcare insurance exchanges, which requires more effort and offers less financial reward. Moreover, by doing nothing the federal government will step in and set one up for them. (Michigan, however, is ‘splitting the difference’ and will operate its healthcare insurance market in partnership with the federal government).
New York Daily News readers’ views on Obamacare. Many are negative. For example, as Herb Eichen comments: “The recent raises in health care premiums are a direct result of two of the main provisions of Obamacare: no denial for preexisting conditions and children allowed on parents’ plans until age 26.” But reader Ralph Palladino claims that public programs such as Medicare and Medicaid are not to blame for high health care costs, because “Both have overheads of only 5%. The problem is that this country’s health care is based on a for-profit system where overhead and profits top 20%. Cutting Medicaid and Medicare would only slash badly needed services from systems that already don’t cover all they should.”
Article notes that Florida Republican Rick Scott has joined other GOP Governors in shouldering some responsibility for ObamaCare, “which has liberal sages gloating about a resistance-is-futile shift in the GOP.” The piece claims that Governors now expanding Medicaid are setting their own fiscal principles aside as they attempt to take political credit for accepting “free” money from the government, since the Health and Human Services Department will pay 100% of the cost of new beneficiaries, later 90%. Indiana Governor Mike Pence is quoted, calling this “the classic gift of a baby elephant,” with the federal government promising to buy all the hay for only the first few years, metaphorically speaking. Governors like Scott and Ohio’s John Kasich are instead attempting to establish triggers or “sunsets” that would automatically rescind their participation in new Medicaid if and when Washington reneges on funding.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s attempts to deal with the funding problems are also examined.
The Obama administration on Wednesday issued its long-awaited final rule on what states and insurers must do to provide the essential health benefits required in the individual and small-group market beginning in 2014 under the healthcare reform law. The rule included few changes from previous administration proposals, which could help states and insurers as they prepare for new online state health insurance marketplaces, known as healthcare exchanges, scheduled to begin enrolling beneficiaries for federally subsidized coverage on October 1, 2013.
Columnist Donald Lambro says that since Obamacare sets limits on charging older customers higher insurance prices than younger and healthier ones, all of those young, healthy people who voted for Obama will see their insurance premiums climb sharply. Lambro says that Obamacare demands insurers provide young people with more medical coverage than they want or need.
Scott Gottlieb describes how ObamaCare will force tens of millions of Americans to accept health coverage that is inferior to what they have now. The most threatened groups: small business employees, individuals who buy directly from insurers, seniors who qualify for Medicaid and, surprisingly, children enrolled in the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), a bipartisan program expanded over the past two decades by Obama’s fellow liberals.