America is just a few short days away from the election of a new presidential term, and the stakes have never been higher.
On one side is the juggernaut of the Federal government headed up by the incumbent Barack Obama, and on the other side is the locomotive traveling at breakneck speed toward the final depot, with engineer former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at the throttle. On Tuesday, Nov. 6, the nation will have either a new face in the White House come next January, or the same one inhabiting 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for the last four years will just go back to the office for another term.
On the block is health care and either the demise or further propagation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Both candidates have strong views about this landmark legislation, and both the Democrats and the Republicans have their own reasons why they love it or hate it. The PPACA has no middle ground, and it is fast becoming more entrenched into the fabric of the economy, both businesses and consumers, states and federal government agencies, and the health care environment. And health care is the focal point of much of the political landscape in this election year.
According to LifeHealthPro, health insurance channel editor Allison Bell reports that “the two candidates engage in platform-to-platform combat over the future of commercial insurance, Medicare and Medicaid.”
There are 6 key differences on health care between the two:
1. Commercial health insurance system change. President Obama says PPACA already is improving health care access for millions of Americans and “ending insurance abuses” by letting young adults stay on their parents’ coverage up till age 26; forbidding health insurers from imposing lifetime benefits caps; limiting insurers’ ability to impose annual benefits caps; requiring insurers to pay for checkups, vaccinations and other preventive care without imposing out-of-pocket costs on the patients; and requiring that plans that spend more than a certain percentage of revenue on administrative costs send their customers rebates.
Gov. Romney says he would return responsibility for regulating local insurance markets and providing care for the poor, the uninsured and the chronically ill to the states, and his administration would limit moves to apply federal standards and requirements to private insurers, he says. The Republican candidate says he would encourage use of health insurance exchanges, and that he would promote the use of high-risk pools, reinsurance and risk adjustment mechanisms to help people with chronic health problems who cannot qualify to buy conventional health insurance. Also, he would work to “prevent discrimination against individuals with pre-existing conditions who maintain continuous coverage” and “facilitate [health information technology] interoperability.”
2. Women’s health and abortion. The Obama team has worked to link the fate of PPACA to the fate of PPACA provisions that require most health plans to include benefits for contraceptive services in the package of basic preventive services that must be covered without imposing out-of-pocket costs on the patients; many insurance plans are beginning to fully cover birth control without co-pays or deductibles as part of women’s preventive care.
The Romney campaign website does not mention abortion or birth control in its discussion of health issues. The Republican Party, in its platform, says the following about federal health care policy and abortion: “Through Obamacare, the current administration has promoted the notion of abortion as healthcare. We, however, affirm the dignity of women by protecting the sanctity of human life.”
3. Medicare. The PPACA, according to the Obama campaign, already has made important changes in Medicare, such as requiring basic Medicare to impose a package of basic preventive services without imposing out-of-pocket costs on the patients, and reducing the size of the Medicare Part D prescription drug plan “doughnut hole” — the gap between the point at which routine prescription coverage ends and catastrophic coverage begins.
Governor Romney wants to modernize entitlement programs and guarantee their vitality for future generations.
“Instead of paying providers directly for medical services, the government’s role will be to help future seniors pay for an insurance option that provides coverage at least as good as today’s Medicare, and to offer traditional Medicare as one of the insurance options that seniors can choose,” he says. “With insurers competing against each other to provide the best value to customers, efficiency and quality will improve and costs will decline. Seniors will be allowed to keep the savings from less expensive options or choose to pay more for costlier plans.” Medicare would stay the same for retirees and near retirees. Younger workers would get a fixed amount that they could use to buy either traditional Medicare coverage or private plan coverage, and they would have to make up the difference out of their own pockets if they wanted to buy more expensive coverage.
4. Medicaid. President Obama says of Medicaid—the program for poor people and for eligible nursing home patients—mainly that he believes Romney would cut federal Medicaid funding.
Governor Romney says he would replace the current Medicaid funding formula with a “block grant” program that would provide each state with a set amount of cash that it could use as it wished. He says he would “limit federal standards and requirements” for Medicaid as well as for private insurance.
5. Tort reform. President Obama says nothing in his comments aimed at voters about “tort reform”—the idea of controlling health care costs by reducing what doctors and other providers spend to protect themselves against lawsuits.
Romney says he would promote free health insurance markets by capping non-economic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits.
6. Health accounts. The president says nothing on his campaign website about health savings accounts or health reimbursement arrangements on his websites.
Candidate Romney states he would “unshackle HSAs by allowing funds to be used for insurance premiums.” Although he has vowed to streamline the tax code, he also mentioned he would “end tax discrimination against the individual purchase of insurance” and encourage independent entities to rate health plans. Plus, he also has talked about wanting to let health insurance companies sell coverage across state lines.
Regardless of the discussion over health care between now and the election, one thing is for sure. There is going to be a winner and a loser. The debate over Obamacare can ramp up the rhetoric about how good or bad the PPACA is, and the electorate certainly gets energized when it is up for discussion.
Who is telling the truth? We’ll see come Nov. 6. Now, here is your obligation—exercise your inalienable right to vote. If you don’t and you find yourself on the losing side the next day, don’t blame the politicians.