The Cost of Doing Nothing on Health Care By REED ABELSON Published: February 26, 2010


“Hands off my health care,” goes one strain of populist sentiment.

But what if?

Suppose Congress and President Obama fail to overhaul the system now, or just tinker around the edges, or start over, as the Republicans propose — despite the Democrats’ latest and possibly last big push that began last week at a marathon televised forum in Washington.

Then “my health care” stays the same, right?

Far from it, health policy analysts and economists of nearly every ideological persuasion agree. The unrelenting rise in medical costs is likely to wreak havoc within the system and beyond it, and pretty much everyone will be affected, directly or indirectly.

“People think if we do nothing, we will have what we have now,” said Karen Davis, the president of the Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit health care research group in New York. “In fact, what we will have is a substantial deterioration in what we have.”

Nearly every mainstream analysis calls for medical costs to continue to climb over the next decade, outpacing the growth in the overall economy and certainly increasing faster than the average paycheck. Those higher costs will translate into higher premiums, which will mean fewer individuals and businesses will be able to afford insurance coverage. More of everyone’s dollar will go to health care, and government programs like Medicare and Medicaid will struggle to find the money to operate.

Policy makers, in the end, may be forced to address the issue.

“It will break all of our banks if we do nothing,” said Peter V. Lee, who oversees national health policy for the Pacific Business Group on Health, which represents employers that offer coverage to workers. “It is a course that is literally bankrupting the federal government and businesses and individuals across the country.”

Even those families that enjoy generous insurance now are likely to see the cost of those benefits escalate. The typical price of family coverage now runs about $13,000 a year, but premiums are expected to nearly double, to $24,000, by 2020, according to the Commonwealth Fund. That equals nearly a quarter of the median family income today.

While some employers will continue to contribute the lion’s share of those premiums, there will be less money for employees in the form of raises or bonuses.

“It’s also cramping our economic growth,” said Frank McArdle, a consultant with Hewitt Associates, which advises large employers and reported on the need for change for the Business Roundtable, an association of C.E.O.’s at major companies. Spending so much on health care is “really a waste of people’s money,” Mr. McArdle said.

The higher premiums will also persuade more businesses, especially smaller ones, to decide not to offer insurance. More people who buy coverage on their own or are asked to pay a large share of premiums will find the price too high. It doesn’t take too many 39-percent increases, like the recent one proposed in California that has garnered so much attention, to put insurance out of reach.

“We have an affordability problem that is moving up through the middle class now,” said Paul B. Ginsburg, the president of the Center for Studying Health System Change, a nonprofit Washington research group.

While estimates vary, the number of people without insurance is expected to increase by more than a million a year, said Ron Pollack, the executive director of Families USA, a Washington consumer advocacy group that favors the Democrats’ approach. The Urban Institute, for example, predicts that the number of uninsured individuals will increase from about 49 million today to between 57 million and 66 million by 2019. The Democrats’ plan is expected to cover as many as 30 million individuals who now are uninsured.

There will be a cost in lives, too. Mr. Pollack’s organization estimates that as many as 275,000 people will die prematurely over the next 10 years because they do not have insurance. Even people with insurance will find their coverage providing much less protection from financial catastrophe than it does now. Individuals will pay significantly more in deductibles and co-payments, for example. “More and more families will experience huge debts and bankruptcies,” Mr. Pollack said.

Federal and state governments will also feel the squeeze. Medicare, the federal program for the elderly, is already the subject of much hand-wringing as its spending balloons. Medicaid, a joint program of the federal government and the states, is already struggling as states try to balance budgets hit hard by the economic downturn. Many states may be forced to cut benefits sharply as well as reduce financing for community health centers and state hospitals that serve the poor.

“I think we’ll just see the decline of public services,” said John Holahan, the director of the Health Policy Center at the Urban Institute.

Exactly how politicians, or anyone else, will react to the increasing pressures on the system is anyone’s guess. If the system actually collapses, could there be a movement to adopt a government-run system, something like Medicare for all, where the whole health care system would be much more heavily regulated?

Or maybe employers would take up the effort to figure out a better way of providing coverage.

The states may also step up their role. Some may try to follow the lead of Massachusetts, which overhauled its own insurance market for individuals and small businesses, while others may try a series of regulatory fixes. A state senator in New Hampshire, for example, recently introduced legislation that regulates hospital prices in a fashion similar to an approach favored in Maryland.

What seems unlikely, say policy analysts, is that Congress would try to pass anything nearly as ambitious as the bills that went through the House and Senate last year.

“If we fail this time, you’re not going to get this Congress to take this up on a big scale,” said Len Nichols, a health policy analyst at George Mason University who says he thinks the Democrats should go ahead and pass legislation.

But few policy analysts think Congress can afford to do absolutely nothing. Lawmakers are instead likely to try a series of smaller fixes, said Stuart Butler, a health policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, a research group that favors market solutions over a larger government role.

After President Bill Clinton failed to get Congress to pass his health care bill in 1994, Republicans, who then had substantial victories in the House and Senate, worked with him to pass legislation like the health care privacy bill, a children’s health insurance program and the Balanced Budget Act, which contained significant changes to the Medicare program. Under President George W. Bush, the Republicans went on to pass a drug benefit under Medicare. “In the space of less than 10 years, you have several major bills,” Mr. Butler said.

If nothing passes now, Mr. Butler says he thinks Congress will tackle narrower areas, like insurance regulation, to make it easier for people with pre-existing medical conditions to find coverage, or maybe it will try another expansion of Medicaid or the children’s program.

But President Obama clearly prefers passage of a broader bill. In wrapping up Thursday’s session with lawmakers, he and other Democrats warned that an incremental approach was likely to provide too little relief to the people already feeling the effects of a broken system. “It turns out that baby steps don’t get you to the place that people need to go,” he said.

And even some people without a partisan point to make argue that the series of bills passed in the last 15 years have not made enough of a dent in slowing down medical costs. “We’ve had a lot of incremental reforms already,” said Mr. McArdle, the Hewitt consultant.

And many argue that putting off the inevitable has an additional cost. The Commonwealth Fund estimates that the nation would be spending hundreds of billions of dollars less than it does today if any of the health care legislation proposed by previous administrations had been enacted, assuming that they reduced costs by about 1.5 percentage points. If President Nixon’s plan had passed, the United States might be spending a trillion dollars a year less than it does now, and President Clinton’s plan would have reduced spending by some $500 billion a year. the new york times …

“It makes a huge difference over a long period of time,” said Ms. Davis of the Commonwealth Fund.

Monopoly power …


Most Republicans were too embarrassed to publicly support insurance industry price-gouging. But not Republican leader John Boehner, who was one of 19 Republicans to vote against the bill. Click here to see            our new ad calling him out

oss have too much power. The Senate must subject them to antitrust laws, just like every other company.”

Sign the petition


Hi,

Unlike just about every other industry in America, health insurance companies are completely exempt from antitrust laws.

They can establish monopolies and raise rates without having to worry about competition, like Blue Cross just did in California, where they’re raising premiums by up to 39% for some customers.

But the House, led by freshman Rep. Tom Perriello, just passed a bill to strip them of their special exemption by 406-19. Can you join me in pressuring the Senate to follow the House’s lead by signing this petition? http://pol.moveon.org/perriello_antitrust/?r_by=19140-9640874-LO_p2_x&rc=confemail

Thanks!

Weekend news …


This is Black History Month

It’s the end of the weekend and while all tsunami warnings have been cancelled the assessments and clean up begins in Chile  and  around other areas hit by the earthquake and tsunami.

WA Senate Approves State Budget Plan

Posted on February 28, 2010 at 4:31 PM

by MojoPages

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — The state Senate’s Democratic majority has narrowly approved its plan for balancing the state’s $2.8 billion budget deficit.

The Senate budget counts on about $920 million in tax increases. But Senators haven’t settled on the details of their tax package yet.

The budget also calls for about $840 million in spending cuts, $580 million in federal aid, and $500 million in one-time fixes like fund transfers.

Majority Democrats say it’s a balanced approach that would protect critical state programs. But Republicans say it relies too heavily on tax hikes and short-term solutions.

The budget passed on the Senate a 25-19 vote. It will have to be blended with a competing budget from the House before legislators can adjourn their short, election-year session.

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President Barack Obama returns to the White House from the National Naval Me…

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama’s doctor says the commander in chief’s first medical checkup since he took office finds the 48-year-old is in “excellent health” and is “fit for duty.”

The 4man US bobsled team won GOLD, the first in 62yrs. Saturday 2/27/2010 at or around  1:30AMET an 8.8 earthquake rocked Chile, 200miles from the epicenter, with after shocks of up to 6.9 even 8hours after the original, over 900times stronger than the Haiti earthquake.  Over 400thou victims in the BioBio region; This quake has made an impact on 2million or more people in Chile and  south of there as well as the entire Pacific basin. Warnings of Tsunami’s possible all along the coast  of the epicenter, people have been told to move to higher ground; with some possibility of Tsunamis threats to the Philippines,  Alaska,Russia, Japan, California, Oregon, Guam, American Samoa, and the Australian coast as well as Hawaii. A 6.0 earthquake hit Argentina killing 2 people.

TVNZ reports that Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said a huge wave hit the Juan Fernandez islands, and archipelago where Scottish sailor Alexander Selkirk was marooned in the 18th century inspiring the novel Robinson Crusoe.  “There was a series of waves that got bigger and bigger, which gave people time to save themselves,” pilot Fernando Avaria told TVNZ television by telephone from the main island. Six people were killed and 11 are still missing there, he said.

Bachelet said residents were evacuated from coastal areas of Chile’s remote Easter Island, a popular tourist destination in the Pacific famous for its towering Moai stone statues.

Unusually big waves battered Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands, where residents were moved to higher ground as a precaution.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a Pacific-wide tsunami warning for the US state of Hawaii and countries as far away as Japan, Russia, Philippines, Indonesia and the South Pacific. French Polynesia was also put on alert.  “Chile probably got the brunt force of the tsunami already. So probably the worst has already happened in Chile,” said Victor Sardina, geophysicist at the warning centre.  “The tsunami was pretty big too. We reported some places around 8 feet. And it’s quite possible it would be higher in other areas,” he added.

To find info about your loved ones please call 1 888-407-4747

other news this weekend ... leading up to Tuesday …

The President call’s for the GOP to help get HCR done sooner than later will probably ring on deaf ears as they seem to have decided to remain being the Political Party of NO; Cap and Trade is all but dead if you listen to Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, yet,  the Washington Post reports that Senator Reid (D-Nev.) told Kerry this week that he and his colleagues need to produce a bill as soon as possible to have any chance of passage in 2010. Jim Manley, Reid’s spokesman, said it is the majority leader‘s “hope to bring it up to the floor for a vote,” adding, “But we’ve got a whole host of other things on our plate, and a Republican Party that’s making it difficult for us to pass all but the most routine legislation.”  Kerry said that although the package the three senators will unveil will not have 60 votes when it becomes public, he is confident that it will win over skeptical lawmakers.  “What people need to understand about this bill is this really is a jobs bill, an economic transformation for America, an energy independence bill and a health/pollution-reduction bill that has enormous benefits for the country,” Kerry said.

and …

Monday will be filled with meetings to move ui benefits, cobra and other temp measures forward as they expire on Sunday; votes for these may not happen until Tuesday.  The Cape Wind project meeting is scheduled on March 1, with hopes of an agreement by both parties involved; rumors that land being used was sacred, while tribal leaders have said the wind turbines would be in everyone’s best interest, which, made me confused because of the information about NPS ruled the Nantucket Sound a historic landmark because of it’s cultural and spiritual significance to 1st nations people; however, that has been challenged and information should be corrected after the March 1 meet-up.

things we should know about …Rubio brings up in his attack on Crist the name of Terri Schiavo…stay classy Rubio; can i say yup this is the real deal right there…not worthy of a Public Servant position; if you didn’t know before …  Newt Gingrich runs A HEALTH INDUSTRY “TRADE ASSOCIATION,anyway he says he wont register as a lobbyist/TP; ok, so who is his proxy?

Republicans for it before they decided they oppose it … got’cha on tape


The last year  has been a whole lot of contradiction on the behalf of Republicans  …Democrats need people to see it for themselves… Republicans have promoted bills, initiatives and endorsed political action for the same things the President is now endorsing; that they now oppose: as Senator DeMint said this could be his waterloo; Republicans cannot be considered true Americans with this kind of behavior can they ?

McCain can’t seem to find the words to express how bad it would be to use reconciliation; does he have memory problems or planning to score a cameo on  Jersey Shore … because the Republicans did lay the ground work for its use;for example the 2TAX cuts Bush gave out and didn’t pay for, to the rich,which help cause our current economic crash

TGIF … news reviews and what’s on CSPAN.org live-stream


This is Black History Month

Friday …

will be spent analyzing  what actually was accomplished at the Thursday Summit or not, this will probably go on through the weekend maybe more.  My take on the summit was that Democrats, specifically the President, Pelosi and Reid were able to see through the wall the continued rhetoric from Repubs as a sign that after a year no major moves to the center was on the Republican agenda; hoping Americans watched and truly listened to the need to move forward with HCR.  The governing body has the right to keep bills that passed already;  I hope our Democratic Party finally understands the ramification and votes HCR through reconciliation; we are the majority and it’s time to act like it… don’t we use majority rules in most things we do in our lives.

In the news this Friday …

**Governor Paterson will not be running in 2010: Democratic officials in Washington were informed of Paterson’s plans early Friday. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because Paterson had not publicly disclosed his plans.huffpost

Democrat Charlie Rangel is under investigation for breaking House rules… taking gifts(trips)

**VP Biden will be announcing new Labor Regulations aimed at protecting worker’s retirement savings

watch V.P. Biden Remarks

**Our economy grew by 5.9% stronger than expected but it’s not expected to carry forward for too long

**The House passed extensions to unemployment benefits with a voice vote and Senate Republicans JimBunning and McConnell have been blocking the temp extension of unemployment benefits,which end on 2/28/10  the vote  next Tuesday… TP reports that Senator Bunning was missing his BB game,tough sh-t on unemployment benefits. Democrats made repeated attempts to pass the extension by unanimous consent, and Bunning blocked them all. He then complained that the Democrats’ insistence on trying to ensure that unemployment benefits not expire had caused him to miss a college basketball game: GOP Rep. Dean Heller claims extending unemployment benefits is creating ‘hobos.’ TP

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Today on CSPAN.org

HR2701- Intelligence programs; Democrats stripped the torture amendment

First Hundred Years of the NAACP

Panelists talked about history and the future of the NAACP. Panel: – Patricia Sullivan, University of South Carolina, history professor; author “Lift Every Voice: The NAACP and the Making of the Civil Rights Movement” – Robert Zangrando, University of Akron, history professor; author “The NAACP Crusade Against Lynching, 1909-1950” – Kenneth Mack, Harvard University, law professor; author “Representing the Race: Creating the Civil Rights Lawyer, 1920-1955”


White House Briefing with Press Secretary Robert Gibbs Press Secretary Robert Gibbs conducts a daily briefing at the White House.

Washington, DC : 49 min.

watch White House Press Briefing

Hearing examines small business and commercial real estate lending

The House Financial Services and House Small Business Committees hold a joint hearing on lending programs for small businesses. Witnesses will likely discuss the state of lending, and how credit standards affect small businesses.

read WSJ: Examiners Aren’t Hindering Lending
read Washington Independent: Plan Meets Skepticism

watch Joint Hearing: Panels 1 & 2 watch Joint Hearing: Panel 3

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JEC Hearing on Prospects for Jobs and Growth

Joint Economic Committee Chairman Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) holds a hearing to discuss ways to promote job creation. The committee hearing, titled “The Road to Economic Recovery: Prospects for Jobs and Growth,” will include witnesses from Manpower Inc., the jobs services agency.

visit JEC website

watch JEC Hearing: From Earlier