Like the dreaded winter flu that takes hold ache by ache, health care reform has gradually begun seeping into the American bloodstream. While Congressional House Republicans are pledging to repeal the entire health care bill, in the meantime the first wave of provisions has already kicked into gear. Though a few of the new changes may be beneficial to some, they are part of an overall reform package that expands government intrusion in the health care marketplace and hurts an already ailing economy. Following is a breakdown of the changes that are taking effect:
• Annual or lifetime dollar limits cannot be established for essential health benefits for any participant or beneficiary.
• Health insurers cannot cancel medical coverage if the policyholder becomes sick or injured, a practice known as rescission.
• New health plans are required to provide coverage for preventative health services with no copayments and are exempt from deductibles. Preventative services include routine immunizations and screenings.
• Adult children can be covered under their parents’ insurance until they turn 26.
• Health insurers are prohibited from denying coverage to children with preexisting conditions who are under the age of 19.
• Insurers are also prohibited from establishing eligibility based on an employee’s salary.
• Insurers are required to implement an effective appeals process for coverage determinations and claims.
• New plans must allow policy holders to designate their primary care provider, cover emergency care without prior authorization and ensure access to obstetrical and gynecological care.
The full health care bill won’t be fully implemented until 2014, but the changes above took effect on or after Sept. 23 and many are based on the beginning of a new plan year. These changes won’t affect everyone the same way, as some health insurance plans are grandfathered in and may not have to immediately comply with the new regulations.
What these changes will affect are businesses, particularly those that are strapped for cash and can’t afford to comply with new mandates. It’s been suggested that businesses could face a cost increase of about 1 percent for their 2011 health plans, according to a recent survey from the National Business Group on Health. In this economy, employers are looking for any way to cut spending; raising insurance costs could force many businesses to cut health insurance for their employees. For example, McDonald’s has already threatened to drop its health plan for nearly 30,000 hourly restaurant workers if federal regulators do not exempt them from a new requirement under the health care reform law. If companies are forced to decide between more expensive health care and an employee’s salary, which would you prefer they choose?
According to the National Federation of Independent Business, many small-business owners will see their insurance premiums increase in 2011.
This serves only to create uncertainty in the market, causing many business owners to hold off on creating new jobs until they see how much their health insurance costs will increase under the new law. The Heritage Foundation projects that in the wake of ObamaCare, the resulting debt will lead to an estimated 670,000 lost job opportunities per year. Companies will also be less likely to invest due to increased fees and taxes, resulting in a huge productivity loss totaling $706 billion in goods and services, according to Heritage.
Our current health care system is unsustainable, and there’s no question that changes must be made. However, raising costs and mandates on
individuals and businesses in this economic climate is not the cure. Increased regulation will only stifle economic activity and the innovative
American spirit that this country was founded upon. When businesses don’t have the flexibility to invest in human capital or adjust to changing economic demands, there’s no hope for economic growth. Washington’s leaders must reduce federal mandates and let the market compete again.
From requiring individuals and businesses to carry health insurance to the unsustainable expansion of Medicaid, American taxpayers cannot afford to subsidize a government takeover that will only further deteriorate our economy’s health.
Protect yourself and your family this winter; get a flu shot and exercise your right to elect leaders who will protect our Constitutional principles of limited government and individual liberty.
Sen. Chip Pearson serves as chairman of the Economic Development Committee. He represents the 51st Senate District which includes Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Pickens, and Union counties and portions of Forsyth and White counties.
He may be reached at (404) 656-9221 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.