Trump and Congress Tried to Make Coronavirus Testing and Treatment Free, but People are Still Getting Big Bills when They Go to the Hospital

In the early stages of the pandemic, the rules regarding insurance and patient billing for a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis were not very clear. One must do his/her due diligence in asking your own insurance company how they will be processing a claim. Many provider billing departments send out invoices automatically via computer. Make sure you check your invoices carefully, as Coronavirus testing and treatment should be “free.” What this truly means is “no out-of-pocket costs or cost-sharing” for the patient.

Kimberly Leonard – – 5/21/20

The Trump administration set up a fund for the uninsured. But Imad Khachan, a coronavirus patient who is uninsured, received a large medical bill after a hospital stay.
– Congress and the Trump administration tried to protect coronavirus patients from getting large medical bills, but problems are popping up.
– Two patients who tried to get treatment for coronavirus symptoms didn’t get tested, but still received large medical bills.
– One uninsured patient living in New York City got a nearly $50,000 bill after a three-night hospital stay for coronavirus care.
David Anthony in New Jersey received a $1,528.43 bill for a chest X-ray.
Lindsay Hill in Milwaukee spent 30 minutes in a triage tent and later received a $1,186 bill in the mail.
Imad Khachan from New York City received a bill for nearly $50,000 after a three-night hospital stay.
Patients who seek medical attention for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, are not supposed to be getting large charges like these.
President Donald Trump signed two measures into law to protect patients with the coronavirus — and those who seek help because they fear they have it — from having to pay for testing and treatment. His administration is also letting hospitals bill the government directly for coronavirus testing and treatment for the uninsured, instead of charging patients.
But the changes aren’t happening seamlessly. Whether because of bad timing, an incorrect billing code, or being unable to get tested, documents sent to Business Insider show patients who sought medical help for the coronavirus are still facing big bills.
Business Insider previously reported on loopholes in the laws that were passed to protect patients from big medical bills related to the coronavirus. Michael Santos, for instance, received a $1,689.21 bill after unsuccessfully seeking a coronavirus test and getting a flu test and X-ray instead. His insurer decided to cover the cost of his emergency department visit after Business Insider inquired about it.
Christen Linke Young, a fellow with the USC-Brookings Schaeffer Initiative for Health Policy, said part of the reason patients are still getting large medical bills is that healthcare providers are “dealing with a whole bunch of new payment options.” On top of that, she said, there are loopholes in the new laws and regulations.
“It’s going to result in a significant amount of confusion on the consumer end,” she said, adding that “people’s fear of bills could deter them from seeking care.”

Uninsured small businesman in NYC gets COVID-19

Khachan, 56, the patient in New York City, spent three nights at the end of March in the hospital being treated for the coronavirus.
Khachan owns a chess shop called the Chess Forum in Greenwich Village that has been shut down since March 20. He had been covered by private health insurance until Dec. 31, 2019, but had foregone coverage for 2020 because of cost.
On March 24, while still in the hospital, Khachan paid the hospital $5,000 out of pocket for care, according to a receipt he received from Northwell Health, the health system the hospital belongs to.
“Everyone in the hospital was extremely kind and nice and wonderful and the hospital itself is a great medical facility that offers great medical care,” Khachan said in an email to Business Insider.
A couple of weeks after he was discharged, he was stunned to receive a bill for $47,915.20. He also received several other smaller bills for treatment and tests, as well as a $788.50 ambulance bill. He said he couldn’t afford the bills and had expected to pay roughly another $5,000.
In a later email from the hospital that Khachan shared with Business Insider, Lenox Hill said he owed a lower amount of $32,864.20.
Khachan appeared to be a victim of bad timing. He received his bill before the Department of Health and Human Services set up a website where hospitals can request reimbursement for coronavirus testing and care for the uninsured.
The administration announced the fund for the uninsured on April 22 and the website wasn’t up until May 6, which was after Khachan received medical care and his first bill. Payments from the federal government to hospitals started going out May 18, according to the Trump administration.
Under the fund’s rules, hospitals can get paid for anyone who is uninsured who received testing or care for the coronavirus starting on Feb. 4. Hospitals aren’t obligated to use the fund, and it is not yet clear how many will choose to participate.
Terry Lynam, a spokesman for Northwell Health, said the hospital first had to enroll to use the online portal, which took a few days, and then started filing claims for uninsured coronavirus patients on May 14.
Khachan’s claims would be included, meaning he won’t have to pay for the medical care and will be refunded his $5,000 deposit, Lynam said. Northwell plans to call Khachan to double check his information and will send the check before the end of this week, Lynam said.
Hundreds more patients were uninsured and treated for the coronavirus at Northwell’s hospitals alone. Bill Fuchs, who oversees billing at Northwell, said so far its hospital system filed coronavirus claims to the government for roughly 800 uninsured patients.
The hospital system said it’s also instituting a 60-day hold on all patient bills, which prevents them from being turned over to collections. The hold can be renewed depending on financial hardship.
As for the bill for the ambulance, which was provided through the New York City Fire Department, that won’t be covered by the federal uninsured fund, because the department isn’t eligible to use it, a spokesman for the department said.
Federal health officials won’t say how much money they set aside for the uninsured and it’s not clear whether the funding will be adequate at a time when nearly 39 million people have lost their jobs — and, many of them, the insurance that came with them. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that the cost of treating uninsured patients with the coronavirus could land between $13.9 billion and $41.8 billion.
Linke Young from Brookings said people with the coronavirus who have smaller bills were likely to pay them rather than contest them under the new rules because they don’t know about the federal fund for the uninsured.
She said she would advise patients to call the hospital or doctor’s office and explain why they believe the provider is entitled to reimbursement from the federal government, and for the patient to ask the provider to pursue that option.
“There is nothing that tells providers they can’t bill the consumer first,” she said.
“These funds didn’t use to exist and providers were just doing what they have always done — sending bills,” she added.
Patients sought help for coronavirus but ended up with no answers and big bills.

Patients are getting billed in other instances
Anthony, 34 — who asked to use his middle name for this story to protect his family’s privacy — did a video visit on March 23 because he feared he had the coronavirus after he had chest pain that lasted several weeks and spread to his abdomen. His doctor recommended he get an X-ray, so he did.
He didn’t receive a coronavirus test and, after examining the X-ray, the doctor told him he likely had inflammation in the lungs and advised he take Advil.
A couple of weeks later, Anthony got a $52.94 bill for the online consultation. A couple of days later he received a bill for $1,528.43 for the X-ray. He was confused about the telehealth bill because he had understood all virtual visits were supposed to be covered without a copay — a change his insurer, United HealthCare, announced March 18.
He received the bill because he hadn’t yet met the deductible for his insurance plan, Anthony told Business Insider. His insurer told him the healthcare provider billed for pleurodynia, a lung infection that causes chest pain.
Anthony paid the bill with money from a health savings account.

‘Textbook COVID’ and a $1,186 bill
Hill, 39, the patient from Wisconsin, on April 5 visited a triage tent at St. Luke’s Medical Center because she worried she had the coronavirus.
Nurses measured her temperature, her pulse, and her oxygen levels, and listened to her lungs. Over a video inside the tent, Hill spoke to a nurse practitioner who told her that her symptoms were “textbook COVID.”
But, the nurse told Hill, she wouldn’t be admitted to the hospital because her oxygen levels were healthy. And because she wasn’t being admitted, the hospital wouldn’t be performing a coronavirus test.
“She told me that I ‘most likely’ had it, told me to quarantine myself for two weeks, take extra cleaning precautions around my family, and come back to the ER if my breathing became even more labored,” Hill told Business Insider in an email. “I was in and out of the triage tent in about 30 minutes. No tests were run on me, but my discharge papers read, ‘suspected COVID-19.’”
At the end of April, she received a $1,186 bill.
“It was my understanding from what I had read and what I had heard that there would not be a bill for it,” she told Business Insider.
Anthony and Hill both sought care because they worried they had the coronavirus. Under Trump administration rules, “presumed cases” of coronavirus are supposed to be covered, but it’s left up to healthcare providers to bill an insurance company for COVID-19.
“A presumptive case of COVID-19 is a case where a patient’s medical record documentation supports a diagnosis of COVID-19, even if the patient does not have a positive in vitro diagnostic test result in his or her medical record,” said a Health Resources and Services Administration spokesperson.
When patients see doctors, they sometimes order other tests to rule out similar conditions. That means patients can still get charged for those tests even if they only went to a provider in the first place because they feared they had the coronavirus.
Linke Young from Brookings pointed out that other patients could end up in similar situations. For instance, patients could get big bills after getting checked out at a hospital that didn’t have coronavirus testing, or after going to a clinic and finding out they didn’t have the coronavirus after all.
“There is nothing to protect them from getting those bills,” she said.

Health insurers revisited the medical bills
When Business Insider asked about Anthony’s charges, United HealthCare said that it was waiving all out of pocket charges for him after reviewing the services he received, and said it would refund his payments. The company is waiving charges for coronavirus treatment from February 4 to May 31, and providers have to bill the visit as related to COVID-19.
Hill is appealing her bill. She called her insurance provider, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, which told her that its billing practices had changed since the beginning of April because of the pandemic. The insurer called St. Luke’s to re-code the diagnosis so that it would be covered.
Hill said her insurer was helpful, and she will find out the result of her appeal within 30 days. BCBS Illinois told her that if for some reason the hospital doesn’t recode the bill, then she can appeal to the insurer and submit her discharge papers that read “suspected COVID-19.”
Asked about company’s practices, Katherine Wojtecki, spokeswoman for BCBS of Illinois, didn’t comment specifically on Hill’s case but said in an email that “our focus is on helping our members access medically necessary care amid the coronavirus public health emergency and ease the burden of individuals who may be facing challenging circumstances, so they can focus on their health and well-being.”
LeeAnn Betz, spokeswoman for Advocate Aurora Health, the health system St. Luke’s belongs to, also didn’t comment on Hill’s case but said in an email that patients who arrive at facilities with symptoms of coronavirus will get tested.
“We’ve had to react quickly to changes that insurance companies made in how they wanted services billed during this pandemic, but it’s a priority that our patients are informed on what services they are receiving and why they are being performed,” she said. “In most cases, insurance companies are paying for COVID¬-related services without any remaining patient financial responsibility.”

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High Medical Bills Driving Some Americans to Extreme Measures

Have you ever delayed, put off or just gone without seeing a physician because of the cost? You would not be alone if you did. A recent study found that many Americans are juggling the high cost of health care by delaying non-essential or non-critical care. In one study, stories of credit card debt and cutting back on food and heating were common, even for the insured.

By Karen Pallarito – HealthDay Reporter

Jan. 18 (HealthDay News)

Insured Americans with serious medical conditions say the financial stress of rising out-of-pocket health care costs is forcing them to juggle household budgets, delay or skimp on care and even run up credit cards or dodge debt collectors, a new study reveals.

The report, published in the January/February issue of the journal Annals of Family Medicine, provides a snapshot of “life disruptions” people experience as a result of their medical expenses and the sometimes extreme measures they take to keep their heads above water.

One study participant was prescribed a drug to alleviate nausea and vomiting caused by his cancer chemotherapy. Insurance picked up $900 of the $1,200 cost, but he could not even afford the co-payment and went without the medicine. “I said, you know what, I’d rather be sick,” he told researchers.

Another paid all her bills but relegated her grocery budget to “whatever’s left.”

“Sadly, our experience with thousands of patients over the last decade has shown us that many of them have to make heartbreaking decisions about following doctors’ orders or putting food on the table for themselves or their families,” said Sarah Di Troia, chief operating officer of Health Leads, a Boston-based organization that works with hospitals and clinics to connect patients to basic resources.

David Lipschutz, policy attorney for the Center for Medicare Advocacy in Washington, D.C., said the study is important, timely and “reinforces a lot of the other literature out there” examining the effects of out-of-pocket spending.

Medicare has considerable cost-sharing requirements, and many people who have Medicare “simply don’t earn the income in order to afford it,” Lipschutz added.

Consider this: Half of the nation’s Medicare beneficiaries live on less than $22,000 a year, and 45 percent have three or more chronic conditions, according to data compiled by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

Medicare beneficiaries spent a median of more than $3,100 of their own money on health expenses in 2007, the most recent comprehensive data, according to the AARP’s Public Policy Institute. Four million beneficiaries, or 10 percent of the Medicare population, shelled out much more. Their out-of-pocket spending topped $7,800.

With health care costs outpacing income growth, study lead author Dr. David Grande, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, wanted to know how families are coping financially.

“My sense is that we focus so much on whether people are covered or not, which is extremely important, we forget how important it is that the coverage is adequate,” he said.

For the study, researchers interviewed 33 insured, chronically ill adults who were applying for financial assistance at a nonprofit foundation to help pay for their treatment costs. People were asked about illness-related financial challenges and their impact on housing, food, utilities, savings, borrowing and health expenses. The interviews were recorded, transcribed and coded for analysis. (more…)

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Health Insurers Raise Some Rates by Double Digits

Insurance premiums are on the rise for 2013! It doesn’t appear that the Affordable Care Act has stemmed the double-digit increases in premium rates charged by health insurers for 2013.

The New York Times – Online

Health insurance companies across the country are seeking and winning double-digit increases in premiums for some customers, even though one of the biggest objectives of the Obama administration’s health care law was to stem the rapid rise in insurance costs for consumers.

Dave Jones, the California insurance commissioner, said some insurance companies could raise rates as much as they did before the law was enacted.

Particularly vulnerable to the high rates are small businesses and people who do not have employer-provided insurance and must buy it on their own.

In California, Aetna is proposing rate increases of as much as 22 percent, Anthem Blue Cross 26 percent and Blue Shield of California 20 percent for some of those policy holders, according to the insurers’ filings with the state for 2013. These rate requests are all the more striking after a 39 percent rise sought by Anthem Blue Cross in 2010 helped give impetus to the law, known as the Affordable Care Act, which was passed the same year and will not be fully in effect until 2014.

 In other states, like Florida and Ohio, insurers have been able to raise rates by at least 20 percent for some policy holders. The rate increases can amount to several hundred dollars a month.

The proposed increases compare with about 4 percent for families with employer-based policies.

Under the health care law, regulators are now required to review any request for a rate increase of 10 percent or more; the requests are posted on a federal Web site,, along with regulators’ evaluations.

The review process not only reveals the sharp disparity in the rates themselves, it also demonstrates the striking difference between places like New York, one of the 37 states where legislatures have given regulators some authority to deny or roll back rates deemed excessive, and California, which is among the states that do not have that ability.

New York, for example, recently used its sweeping powers to hold rate increases for 2013 in the individual and small group markets to under 10 percent. California can review rate requests for technical errors but cannot deny rate increases.

The double-digit requests in some states are being made despite evidence that overall health care costs appear to have slowed in recent years, increasing in the single digits annually as many people put off treatment because of the weak economy. PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates that costs may increase just 7.5 percent next year, well below the rate increases being sought by some insurers. But the companies counter that medical costs for some policy holders are rising much faster than the average, suggesting they are in a sicker population. Federal regulators contend that premiums would be higher still without the law, which also sets limits on profits and administrative costs and provides for rebates if insurers exceed those limits. (more…)

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Analysis: Employees to face healthcare sticker shock

Here we go again. Health care premiums and out-of-network costs are expected to rise in 2013. Read  more about the increases and what they mean for you.

Sun, Oct 28 2012

By Caroline Humer

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Visit to New York City orthopedist: $223. One X-ray: $50. One follow-up magnetic resonance imaging test: $766. Total bill for checking out that aching shoulder: $1,039 – all to be paid by the patient, rather than the insurer.

Healthcare has gone retail.

Over the next 18 months, between one quarter and one half of Americans who get insurance coverage through their employers will pay more of their doctor bills themselves as companies roll out healthcare plans with higher deductibles, benefits consultants say. The result: sticker shock.

“They have huge out-of-pocket costs before they get any insurance coverage, it’s a real slap in the face,” said Ron Pollack, the executive director of Families USA, a healthcare advocacy group.

High-deductible plans set a threshold for medical expenses that an individual must pay for, often in the thousands of dollars, before insurance kicks in. Studies show people on these plans are three times more likely to delay or skip care than people on traditional plans, where doctor or emergency room visits are covered by a relatively low co-payment.

These plans have been around for years, pushed by employers, insurers and industry experts who believe that consumers with “skin in the game” will drive demand for better quality care at a lower cost. It is a rationale also backed by President Barack Obama’s Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

But now corporate America’s adoption of high-deductible plans is accelerating, partly because of Obama’s healthcare reform, which requires insurance plans to provide more expansive coverage such as preventive care.

Several industry surveys forecast a two-percentage-point increase in the number of companies offering only high-deductible plans in 2013 to about 19 percent, and a larger jump of anywhere from 5 to 25 percentage points in 2014.

“2013 is almost a calm period before a period of intense change in 2014,” according to Randall Abbott of Towers Watson & Co, a Boston-based senior consulting leader at the human resources firm.

The shift means consumers will have to spend many more hours researching their treatment options and managing costs on websites like, which helped budget the cost of examining the shoulder pain mentioned above.

It could also spur lawsuits against doctors whom patients may blame for not making clear whether a test or procedure would spare them future harm, legal experts say. (more…)

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Big Firms Overhaul Health Coverage

Where do the majority of American citizens get their healthcare benefits? From their employer! That may not be the case in the future. Read how two large employers are fundamentally changing the way they provide healthcare benefits to their employees even before implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Wall Street Journal – HEALTH INDUSTRY September 26, 2012, 8:41 p.m. ET


Two big employers are planning a radical change in how they provide health benefits to their workers, giving employees a fixed sum of money and allowing them to choose their medical coverage and insurer from an online marketplace.

Two big employers are planning a radical change in the way they provide health benefits to their workers, giving employees a fixed sum of money and allowing them to choose their medical coverage and insurer from an online marketplace.

Sears Holdings Corp. and Darden Restaurants Inc. say the change isn’t designed to make workers pay a higher share of health-coverage costs. Instead they say it is supposed to put more control over health benefits in the hands of employees.

Darden Restaurants, owner of Red Lobster, is giving staff money and allowing them to choose health coverage.

Some Workers Will Choose From Array of Benefits

The approach will be closely watched by firms around the U.S. If it eventually takes hold widely, it might parallel the transition from company-provided pensions to 401(k) retirement-savings plans controlled by workers and funded partly by employer contributions. For employees, the concern will be that they could end up more directly exposed to the upward march of health costs.

“It’s a fundamental change…the employer is saying, ‘Here’s a pot of money, go shop,’ ” said Paul Fronstin, director of health research at the Employee Benefit Research Institute, a nonprofit. The worry for employees is that “the money may not be sufficient and it may not keep up with premium inflation.”

Neither Sears nor Darden would say how much money employees would receive to buy health insurance. Darden says its sum would rise as health-care costs rise. Sears declined to disclose details of its contributions strategy.

Darden did say that employees will pay the same contribution out of their own pockets that they currently do for approximately the same level of coverage. Employees who pick more expensive coverage will pay more from their paychecks to make up the gap. Those who opt for cheaper insurance, which may involve bigger deductibles or more limited networks of doctors and hospitals, will pay less.

“It puts the choice in the employee’s hands to buy up or buy down,” said Danielle Kirgan, a senior vice president at Darden. The owner of chains including Olive Garden and Red Lobster will let its approximately 45,000 full-time employees choose the new coverage in November, to kick in Jan. 1. Darden says that employees with families to cover will be given more money to buy insurance than employees covering just themselves. (more…)

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Billing Errors in Health Care Abound as System Heads for More Complexity

New coding requirements may create even more disarray in an already complex industry. The result could leave consumers with a greater sense of confusion in understanding medical bills.

Written by: Ruth McCambridge

Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer

As health care systems prepare for all of the many changes that the Affordable Care Act will entail, there is one that is relatively hidden from view: the ten-fold increase in billing codes that the federal government is planning to roll out next year (pushed back from a planned launch this year).

Stephen Parente, a professor of health finance and insurance at the University of Minnesota, claims that his research on medical billing found that up to 40 percent of claims sent between insurers and hospitals have errors. These errors, often caused by human error but sometimes the result of alleged fraud, may include double billing, billing for the wrong treatment, unexpected costs, or billing that is more than what an insurance contract allows. The American Medical Association claims these mistakes cost health care providers $17 billion last year and it blames insurance company practices, but others say the blame can be shared, and this article details many problems with hospital billing practices as well.

According to Kevin Theiss, a vice president at the Summa Health System, at the Summa Akron City Hospital, as many as 250 people may take part in the billing process, including intake workers, doctors and nurses and those who assign billing codes. He says that the potential for mistakes at the hospitals is “astronomical.” In the midst of all of this, a change is brewing that is likely to make the whole system even more impenetrable for consumers. That is, the federal government, which requires that all medical billing use the same set of 16,000 universal codes (called ICD-9 codes) to identify medical problems and treatments, is planning to increase the number of codes to 155,000. While rolling out these new codes has been delayed by a year, the project is apparently moving forward apace. Some, including the American Medical Association, are heralding the delay. Even before new codes are introduced, the complexity of the current system has created what the article describes as a “cottage industry” of experts that are there to advocate between institutional players.

“There are certified coders, ‘revenue cycle’ consultants, auditors who check claims, ‘denial management’ experts who step in for hospitals and doctors to help negotiate with payers for more money, and debt collectors who specialize in ‘accounts payable,’ or the bills hospitals and doctors think they can get the patients to pay if they press hard enough.

Consumers, in contrast, have no army of experts. They pretty much just have themselves and their bills.”

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Insurers Alter Cost Formula, and Patients Pay More

Beware of even greater out-of-pocket healthcare costs. Read the following article and learn how insurers are shifting the cost of out-of-network care to consumers.

Doug Benz / The New York Times

Despite a landmark settlement that was expected to increase coverage for out-of-network care, the nation’s largest health insurers have been switching to a new payment method that in most cases significantly increases the cost to the patient.

Jennifer C. Jaff, founder of Advocacy for Patients with Chronic Illness. She has Crohn’s disease.

The settlement, reached in 2009, followed New York State’s accusation that the companies  manipulated data they used to price such care, shortchanging the nation’s patients by hundreds of millions of dollars.

The agreement required the companies to finance an objective database of doctors’ fees that patients and insurers nationally could rely on. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, then the attorney general, said it would increase reimbursements by as much as 28 percent.

It has not turned out that way. Though the settlement required the companies to underwrite the new database with $95 million, it did not obligate them to use it. So by the time the database was finally up and running last year, the same companies, across the country, were rapidly shifting to another calculation method, based on Medicare rates, that usually reduces reimbursement substantially.

“It’s deplorable,” said Chad Glaser, a sales manager for a seafood company near Buffalo, who learned that he was facing hundreds of dollars more in out-of-pocket costs for his son’s checkups with a specialist who had performed a lifesaving liver transplant. “I could get balance-billed hundreds of thousands of dollars, and I have no protection.”

Insurance companies defend the shift toward Medicare-based rates under the settlement, which allowed any clear, objective method of calculating reimbursement. They say that premiums would be even costlier if reimbursements were more generous, and that exorbitant doctors’ fees are largely to blame.

But few dispute that as the nation debates an overhaul aimed at insuring everybody, the new realpolitik of reimbursement is leaving millions of insured families more vulnerable to catastrophic medical bills, even though they are paying higher premiums, co-payments and deductibles.

“They’re not getting what they think they’re paying for,” said Benjamin M. Lawsky, the superintendent of the New York State Department of Financial Services, whose investigators recently found that under the switch, 4.7 million New York State residents — 76 percent of those with out-of-network coverage — are facing reimbursement reductions of 50 percent or more.

The switch “certainly creates the appearance that insurers are trying to end-run the settlement and keep out-of-network payments low,” Mr. Lawsky said.

Mr. Lawsky, who worked for Mr. Cuomo when he was attorney general, is seeking legislation in New York State to require that minimum reimbursements be linked to the new database, known as Fair Health. (more…)

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Health care mandate is about personal responsibility

Is ObamaCare dead? The decision lies with the Supreme Court which is expected to rule sometime in June. Onething is for certain, the current model of paying for and subsidizing healthcare can not remain. Whether the law is repealed or not, the current system has to change. This, all of us can agree on.

Issac J.Bailey | The Myrtle Beach Sun

“Now, it is as plain as the spectacles on Antonin Scalia’s nose that opting out of the health-care market is about as realistic as opting out of dying.” – John Cassidy of the New Yorker.

Following the debate over the Affordable Care Act has reminded me of that old saw, everybody wants to get to heaven but nobody wants to die.

The public doesn’t want private insurance companies to be able to throw people off their rolls for the sin of getting too sick, or for denying them coverage because of a pre-existing condition, something they will no longer be able to do under the Affordable Care Act come 2014.

The public wants to keep in place the Reagan-era federal law that compels emergency rooms to treat whoever shows up, no matter if that person has not a dime to his name and won’t pay no matter how many harassing phone calls bill collectors make to their home.

But the public doesn’t want to be compelled to pay for those rights.

According to a variety of studies, from the independent Congressional scorekeeper the Congressional Budget Office to independent health care industry analysts, those with insurance are subsidizing those without to the tune of maybe $43 billion every year.

The annual premiums for those with health insurance are roughly $1,000 higher to make up for the unpaid bills of the uninsured.

According to the National Coalition on Healthcare, hospitals lose about $34 billion a year providing unpaid for care – services they are required to render because of federal law dating back to 1986. The group also said that “private insurance and some public payers pay an additional $37 billion on behalf of those with no insurance.”

What’s worse is that this is probably the least efficient, most wasteful way to operate the world’s most expensive health care system.

Justice Antonin Scalia alluded to it during this week’s debate when he said that one way to solve the problem would be to simply allow insurance companies the to right to throw sick patients off their rolls.

In fact, it is. Another way to solve the problem is to no longer guarantee access to emergency medical care, meaning that if you get into a car accident and can’t speak and your insurance card isn’t visible – or you don’t have insurance – medical officials should be able to deny you care, no matter how urgently you need it.

That’ll learn Americans who are not responsible enough to either purchase insurance without being compelled or have their insurance information tattooed to their forehead in case of an emergency. (Of course, if you suffer an ugly head trauma, that tattoo wouldn’t do any good.)

The Affordable Care Act has already done a variety of things, including slowing the rise in health care costs, convincing more medical institutions to go to a pay-for-quality rather than pay-for-quantity of care model, saving seniors tens of billions of dollars in drug costs and uncovering billions of dollars in fraud.

Because it has become a political lightning rod, all of those things and the contradictions being made by opponents are being overshadowed.

Conservatives have long claimed that they are the party of personal responsibility, yet conservatives have joined with a sizable number of liberals in opposition to the individual mandate, which will require everyone above a certain age who can afford it to buy health insurance.

The individual mandate is designed to make sure as many Americans as possible are paying into a system for which each of us is benefitting, to defray some of that $43 billion bill of annual uncompensated services, to assure that the insured no longer have to pay an extra $1,000 a year to pay for the uninsured.

If not the individual mandate, then something needs to be implemented that will accomplish the same goal – something those same conservatives seem to not want to do.

Or, we can take Justice Scalia’s advice and repeal all federal laws that compel medical officials to provide services to people who can’t pay for them, emergency or not.

The problem we’ve long had with balancing our books is that we too frequently demand things for which we don’t want to pay.

The individual mandate is unpopular largely because it threatens to shift that paradigm.

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Consumer group says spending caps in national healthcare law will bring relief to people seeking medical care

There could be relief for out-of pocket costs under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Under the act, out-of-pocket costs will be capped at a certain dollar amount.  Hopefully, this will protect consumers from increased debt and potential bankruptcies due to exorbitant medical bills.

Los Angeles Times

It’s a well-known complaint among consumers and healthcare advocates: The soaring cost of medical care is forcing millions of Americans to drain their savings, run up credit card bills, declare bankruptcy or lose their homes to foreclosure.

A report out Tuesday that examines the problem in California says the nation’s year-old healthcare law –- currently under assault by congressional Republicans — would help protect people in the Golden State from financial catastrophe.

In its study, the consumer group Families USA points out that the law would cap how much people with insurance must spend out of their pockets for healthcare services, starting in 2014.

If the law were to take effect this year, the group says, the caps would be $5,950 for an individual and $11,900 for a family of any size. Low-income people would pay less than higher earners.

More than 1.9 million Californians would exceed the spending caps if they were in place this year, the group reports. That extra spending would surpass the caps by more than $3 billion.

Once the new spending limits are in place in 2014, insurance companies will have to pick up the tab for essential  medical services -– including the costs for doctors, hospitals, prescription drugs and emergency care — after consumers pay their share.

“These new out-of-pocket caps will protect families from catastrophic medical costs when illness or [an] accident strikes,” the report states.

The spending caps will apply to health insurance plans sold through new insurance exchanges scheduled to open in 2014 in California and other states. The limits also will apply to new insurance plans sold to individuals and small businesses outside the exchanges.

In addition to the report on California, Families USA produced data for other states. To read the reports, go to

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More Americans oppose health-care law, but few want a total repeal

The nation still appears divided over the Affordable Care Act.  According to the below Washington Post article, a recent poll by ABC shows an even split over those in favor of the law and those who want a total repeal. What’s your position? We’d like to know.

Jon Cohen

The Washington Post

Republican claims that the new health-care law will hurt the country’s fragile economic recovery and inflate the deficit resonate with the public, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. But few opponents of the law advocate an immediate, wholesale repeal of the legislation.

Overall, Americans’ views of the sweeping health-care overhaul, again under debate on Capitol Hill, remain firmly entrenched, with little change in stiff partisanship on the issue. Some 45 percent of those polled support the law, and 50 percent oppose it, numbers that exactly match their averages in Post-ABC polls going back to August 2009.

Three-quarters of Democrats support the new law, and 80 percent of Republicans oppose it; both are within a few points of their long-term averages. Independents tilt against the legislation, just as they have in most previous polls.

Republicans surveyed in the poll overwhelmingly see negative consequences if the law remains unchanged: 80 percent say it is likely to hurt the economy, 78 percent say it will increase the deficit, and 67 percent say it is apt to cost the country jobs. On each of these points, a majority of independents also take the pessimistic view.

On the economy generally and on jobs, most Democrats see long-term positive effects of the current law. But on the deficit, they divide down the middle, with 46 percent saying the law is more likely to increase the federal budget deficit and 46 percent saying it is more apt to decrease it.

Despite the relative popularity of the detractors’ arguments, there is still little consensus among opponents about the right approach to amending the legislation.

Those who do not support the law are split about evenly between advocating for its complete repeal (33 percent), a partial repeal (35 percent) and a wait-and-see approach (30 percent). Fully two-thirds of all Republicans say they want the law repealed, at least partly.

Recent polls on repeal yield very different answers depending on how the question is asked and how many answer categories respondents are offered. In every iteration of the question, a relatively split verdict on the law appears intact.

As reported Monday, for the first time in Post-ABC polling, congressional Republicans are now tied with President Obama on the question of whom the public trusts when it comes to dealing with health-care change. Overall, 43 percent of Americans approve of the way the president is handling the issue, matching a career low; 52 percent disapprove.

Another factor in the debate is that a quarter of those who oppose the health-care law say the legislation is faulty because it did not go far enough, not because it pushed change too far.

The poll was conducted by telephone Jan. 13 to 16, among a random national sample of 1,053 adults. The results from the full poll have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

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