Monday, March 22, 2010

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott To Block Health Insurance Reform

Ten US states plan to file a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the health insurance reform legislation as soon as President Barack Obama signs it into law.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said Texas plans to join a multi-state lawsuit opposing the legislation immediately after President Barack Obama signs it into law. Abbott says the legislation violates the U.S. Constitution and "unconstitutionally infringes upon Texans' individual liberties." [Star-Telegram]

Florida's attorney general, conservative Republican Bill McCollum who is in Florida's gubernatorial race for the upcoming November mid-term elections, charges that a provision which requires most people to buy health insurance or else pay a fine is unconstitutional.

Virginia state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli says,"Virgina will file suit against the federal government charging that the health-care reform legislation is unconstitutional." [Richmond Times-Dispatch]

Republican attorneys general of South Carolina, Nebraska, Florida, Texas, Utah, Pennsylvania, Washington, North Dakota, South Dakota, Virginia and Alabama have indicated they will also join the multi-state lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the reform legislation.

The governor of Idaho signed a bill last week blocking federal mandates requiring individuals in his state to purchase health insurance. Some 38 states have either filed or announced their intention to file similar legislation, according to the American Legislative Exchange Council, which opposes the health insurance reform.

Here are some of the private health insurance industry reforms mandated in the legislation that Republicans have blocked for the past year and will continue to block though lawsuits:
  • Health Insurers cannot deny children under age 19 health insurance because of pre-existing conditions. A ban on the discrimination in adults will take effect in 2014.
  • Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees will get tax credits covering up to 50% of employee premiums for 2009 and 2010.
  • Seniors will get a rebate to fill the so-called "donut hole" in Medicare drug coverage, which severely limits prescription medication coverage expenditures over $2,700. As of next year, 50 percent of the donut hole will be filled.
  • The cut-off age for young adults to continue to be covered by their parents' health insurance rises to the age 27.
  • Lifetime caps on the amount of insurance an individual can have will be banned. Annual caps will be limited, and banned in 2014.
  • Adults with pre-existing conditions may buy into a temporary national high-risk pool until the exchanges come online. While these will not be cheap, they're still better than total exclusion and get some benefit from a wider pool of insured adults. Health insurance exchanges will eliminate the program in 2014.
  • Free preventative care - New plans must cover checkups and other preventative care without co-pays. All plans will be affected by 2018.
  • No more rescission. Effective immediately, insurance companies can no longer cut someone when he or she gets sick.
  • Authorizes early funding of community health centers in all 50 states (Bernie Sanders' amendment). Community health centers provide primary, dental and vision services to people in the community, based on a sliding scale for payment according to ability to pay.
  • Insurers must now reveal how much money is spent on overhead - All insurers must post their balance sheets on the Internet and fully disclose administrative costs, executive compensation packages, and benefit payments.
  • Any new plan must now implement an appeals process for coverage determinations and claims.
  • This tax will impose a ten percent tax on indoor tanning services. This tax, which replaced the proposed tax on cosmetic surgery, would be effective for services on or after July 1, 2010.
  • New screening procedures will be implemented to help eliminate health insurance fraud and waste.
  • Medicare payment protections will be extended to small rural hospitals and other health care facilities that have a small number of Medicare patients.
  • Non-profit Blue Cross organizations will be required to maintain a medical loss ratio -- money spent on procedures over money incoming -- of 85 percent or higher to take advantage of IRS tax benefits.
  • Chain restaurants will be required to provide a "nutrient content disclosure statement" alongside their items. Expect to see calories listed both on in-store and drive-through menus of fast-food restaurants sometime soon.
  • The bill establishes a temporary program for companies that provide early retiree health benefits for those ages 55-64 in order to help reduce the often-expensive cost of that coverage.
  • The Secretary of Health and Human Services will set up a new Web site to make it easy for Americans in any state to seek out affordable health insurance options The site will also include helpful information for small businesses.
  • A two-year temporary credit (up to a maximum of $1 billion) is in the bill to encourage investment in new therapies for the prevention and treatment of diseases.

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