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Healthcare changes effective Jan 1, 2011

January 1, 2011

Courtesy of the thoughtful David Frum, who credits The Kaiser Family Foundation for the work:

Kaiser Family Foundation offers a helpful timeline of the portions of the federal healthcare law that go into effect in 2011.

Among them:

  • Last year, health insurers were required to report the percentage of their income they spent on non-clinical services. This year, insurers that spend too much on administration and profit will begin to face federal penalties.
  • More subsidies for prescription drug coverage under Medicare.
  • Higher Medicare premiums for beneficiaries earning over $85,000 a year.
  • Demonstration grants to states to find alternatives to the tort system for malpractice claims.
  • More money to states to pay for long-term care under Medicaid.
  • Nutritional labeling for menu items at chain restaurants.
  • Grants to states to begin setting up health care exchanges.

These issues should be easy for Democrats to “win” on in the next Congress, despite being the loyal opposition** minority party.  For example:  How can conservatives honestly argue that Medicare recipients earning more than $85,000 can’t afford slightly higher premiums?

Remember that Medicare insures the elderly, i.e. retired persons. Most of your retired people are living off their investments – 401k’s or pensions or stock & bond income.

Imagine how much you have to have invested in order to earn $85,000+ per year from those investments. A frakking lot! (see below) If you’ve earning $85,000 per year from investments, you are financially comfortable and I will not feel sorry for you when your health insurance premiums go up a bit.

How the Republicans are going to be able to argue that these wealthy folks deserve a break is beyond me. But they will. I know this because they do it time and again, year after year after year.  And I think the conservatives get away with it because of Americans’ basic ignorance of finance.

Conservative talking heads will shout and scream that $85,000 in annual income isn’t very wealthy, and let us all completely ignore the fact that you’re pretty damn well off if you’re earning $85k per year from investments only. And the media will let them get away with it, because they’re too lazy or too hurried to meet publishing deadlines to do some simple math.

Get ready America. The conservatives are about to take us on another year-long rant-fest about health care insurance. It’ll be a wasted year because there’s no way on God’s green earth that President Obama will misplace his veto pen if/when they send a repeal bill to his desk. He’ll let his chances for a 2nd term go down in flames before he signs a bill repealing his health care overhaul.

So get ready for another year of fighting about whether or not the new legislation endorses “death panels”, and the amusingly ridiculous conservatives claims that  America has “the best health care in the world”.

When the dust settles, we’ll have to get down to the nitty-gritty business of back and forth negotiations over which parts of the health care overhaul should stay, which should be scrapped, which should be expanded, and which were just giveaways to get certain crucial Senate Republican votes for passage.

2011: It’s going to be an interesting year.

**By the way, I like the phrase “the loyal opposition” and I think we Americans should adopt it from our British friends. It’s an overt reminder that we’re all Americans, we’re all in this together, and while we may disagree, we do so with loyalty to the best interests of the entire country in mind. American politics has become so viciously partisan that we could all use a reminder that we’re all in the same boat and taking pot-shots at each other might just sink the boat faster.

***In fact, a simple online financial calculator shows you’d have to have nearly $1.5 million invested with a 6% rate of return to earn this kind of retirement income. That assumes no fees and also assumes you can actually GET a 6% annual rate of return. Some years would be higher, some would be lower; and there will certainly be fees.

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