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Archive for the ‘Health Care’ Category

The Latest Repeal Bill

Friday, June 29th, 2012

Hot on the heels of the Supreme Court’s approval of Obamacare, also known as Public Law 111-148, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, there’s another bill in Congress to repeal it. Another bill would defund it.

These might be just for show.

Republicans’ Health Care Approach

Sunday, June 10th, 2012

With a Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare coming down the pipeline, it’s a good idea for the two sides of the debate to have something to say about health care. The Republicans showed their hand last week when the House passed H.R. 436, the Health Care Cost Reduction Act of 2012. You can’t really call it a health care “plan.” The idea is more to let people plan their own health care. So it’s all about tax cuts.

The bill the House passed combines several bills that already existed, a confusing, but common, practice. First, there was the idea in the original version of H.R. 436, which was previously called the “Protect Medical Innovation Act.” The original version repealed an excise tax on medical devices that was scheduled to take effect in January 2013. That tax increase was going to collect a whopping $29 billion dollars over the next ten years. Getting rid of that tax makes medical devices cost that much less for the next ten years.

The content of H.R. 1004, the Medical FSA Improvement Act of 2011 was also rolled into H.R. 436. FSA stands for “flexible spending account.” That’s a tax-advantaged account that allows an employee to set aside a portion of earnings to pay for qualified expenses as established in a cafeteria plan. They’re usually used for medical expenses, but often for dependent care or other expenses. Money deducted from an employee’s pay into an FSA is not subject to payroll taxes, which can save big money. But funds not used by the end of the plan year are lost to the employee. This is known as the “use it or lose it” rule. H.R. 1004 and now H.R. 436 get rid of the “use it or lose it” rule, which leaves about $4 billion with people to spend on health care, dependent care, and so on.

The next thing rolled into H.R. 436 is the content of H.R. 5842, the Restoring Access to Medication Act. That bill repeals provisions of the Internal Revenue Code that were added by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”). Those provisions limited payments for over-the-counter medications from health savings accounts, medical savings accounts, and flexible spending arrangements. Only prescription drugs or insulin can be paid from these accounts currently. That would allow people to spend about $4 billion more of their money.

Finally, there’s a provision in H.R. 436 that would require collections of certain overpayments of health insurance subsidies. (Apparently, they have to pass a law to prevent overpayments.) That would bring in about $12 billion over the next ten years.

The net result is about $450 in savings per U.S. family. That’s money left with people to spend as they choose (on health care and dependent care), and money that doesn’t get spent by the government. It would also lower the national debt by about $40 per U.S. family. (That’s a small part of the $156,000 every family owes, but it’s something.)

Below are the current votes on H.R. 436 and the two bills that have been rolled into it. Click to vote, comment, learn more, or edit the wiki articles about the bills.

You’re Fat

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

So H.R. 4604 would provide for a national program to conduct and support activities toward the goal of significantly reducing the number of cases of overweight and obesity among individuals in the United States. …Fatty.

New Petition: Moms Matter

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

Take a look at this new petition: Moms Matter. If you agree, sign on!

A bill it relates to is H.R. 894, the Maternal Health Accountability Act of 2011. Take a look at that, too, and vote your conscience.

What the Framers Had in Mind When They Wrote the Constitution

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

S. 1381 would expand Federal efforts concerning the prevention, education, treatment, and research activities related to Lyme and other tick-borne disease, including the establishment of a Tick-Borne Diseases Advisory Committee

Think Congress Doesn’t Do Enough?

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

They’re now looking at your prostate.

H.R. 2159 and S. 1190 would “reduce disparities and improve access to effective and cost efficient diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer through advances in testing, research, and education, including through telehealth, comparative effectiveness research, and identification of best practices in patient education and outreach particularly with respect to underserved racial, ethnic and rural populations and men with a family history of prostate cancer, … establish a directive on what constitutes clinically appropriate prostate cancer imaging, and … create a prostate cancer scientific advisory board for the Office of the Chief Scientist at the Food and Drug Administration to accelerate real-time sharing of the latest research and accelerate movement of new medicines to patients.”

Oppose This if You Hate Good Things

Monday, June 13th, 2011

H.R. 2104 is called “The Consistency, Accuracy, Responsibility, and Excellence in Medical Imaging and Radiation Therapy Act of 2011.” How could you possibly be against that? Anyone opposing it must want inconsistent, inaccurate, irresponsible, and totally non-excellent medical imaging and radiation therapy.

That’s why bills have names like this.

I Kinda Thought This Was Already Illegal

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

S. 1002 would prohibit theft of medical products.

Let the Acupuncturists Have Some

Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

H.R. 1328 would provide for coverage of qualified acupuncturist services under part B of the Medicare Program and under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.

Obamacare Repeal: For Show or For Real?

Monday, January 17th, 2011

healthThis week, after the delay caused by the tragic Tucson, Arizona shooting, the House of Representatives takes up H.R. 2, the Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act. The bill would repeal “Obamacare,” also known as Public Law 111-148, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

If you know about congressional procedure, though, you know that the law isn’t going away any time soon. A bill to repeal Obamacare has to be passed by the Senate, and the president must sign it. In the Senate, a bill must pass by a majority of its 100 members, and Republicans don’t have a majority. They have 47. To top it off, most bills require a 60-vote majority because of a thing called the “cloture” rule, which requires 60 votes to end debate and prevent a filibuster.

Were the bill to get out of the Senate, there is, of course, the president, who—breaking news here—is not going to sign a bill to repeal a signature achievement. A veto override takes 2/3rds majorities in both the House and Senate. That means 290 votes in the House and 67 votes in the Senate. The bill passed 219 – 212 in the House and 60 – 39 in the Senate.

So this bill is totally for show. There’s no way it’s passing. Or is it?

The election last November, which awarded control of the House to the Republicans, appears to them to have signaled strong dissatisfaction with the new health care law. If they can pass their repeal in the House, and it gets held up in the Senate, they show the public that a change of control in the Senate will help repeal the health care law.

It might even be possible to get it through the Senate if Republicans there can attach it to a must-pass bill as an amendment—which only needs 50 votes—and convince three Democrats to vote with them. Three Democrats looking down the barrel of an election could be swayed…

Then the bill goes to the president where it will be vetoed. This will signal to the public that a change in the presidency would help repeal the health care law.

The Republicans don’t plan to pass their repeal bill into law, but they do plan to have “an issue.” That’s when one party works it so that the other party has to go on the record on the wrong side of public opinion (as they see it). That helps win elections.

We’ll see if the whole gambit pays off. But that’s how the politics of Obamacare repeal shake out.

The most significant debates in Washington seem like both a fight among children on the playground and the most important signals about the direction of the country. Wherever you are on Obamacare and its potential repeal, we’ll continue to watch with interest and hope you will too.

Here’s the current vote on H.R. 2, the Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act. Click to vote, comment, learn more, or edit the wiki article on the bill.