What Is the Cost of Healthcare Reform?
One of the biggest concerns about healthcare reform and the new law is how to afford it. According to http://www.usdebtclock.org on March 24, 2011, the U.S. outstanding debt weighed in at $14,241,546,161,924.46. That’s $45,901.93 per citizen. And the country is about $1.3 trillion over budget. Even if we all agree that it makes economical sense in the long run to insure the more than 10 percent of Americans who are currently uninsured, where can we find the money to pay for it?
The Obama administration maintains that the Affordable Care Act will not only pay for itself but also cut costs over the next 10 years. It will do this by instituting new taxes, fees for healthcare industries, and cuts in Medicare spending. Here’s a brief rundown of taxes and fees designed to help pay for the expansion in coverage now and in the years to come:
- 10% tax on indoor tanning
- Fees for pharmaceutical manufacturers
- 0.9% hike in Medicare payroll taxes greater than $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for married couples starting in 2013.
- 3.8% tax on interest and dividends
- 2.3% tax on sale of medical devices
- Fees on health insurers
- 40% excise tax on employer plans that cost more than $10,200 per year for individuals and $27,500 for families
- Medicare cuts (e.g., Medicare Advantage ) and cuts to home health care and hospital payments
Will these plans to balance the cost with new revenue work over time? That’s the trillion dollar question. It will take time to learn what works and what doesn’t because the Act calls for significant changes in the administration, processes, and infrastructure of health care in the United States. And there are probably more change to come with elections coming up before the Act is fully implemented. With the potential for repeal of key provisions, states and industries securing waivers, and courts deliberating over the constitutionality of the law, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to predict the bottom line.
An Eye on Implementation
One thing you can do as a consumer is pay close attention and monitor the regulations and implementation at both the federal and state level in the years to come. Check out the following tools and resources to stay informed and make the best healthcare decisions for you and your family.
The Implementation Center at HealthCare.gov tracks the progress of healthcare reform in your state, for example, the number of grants awarded and statistics about the number of people taking advantage of new benefits under the law. It also provides information on government regulations and guidance related to implementation, as well as reports (e.g., Report to Congress: National Strategy for Quality Improvement in Health Care, March 2011 (3/21/11) Downloadable brochures are also available for your information (e.g., The Affordable Care Act - What it Means for Rural America) as are fact sheets (e.g., the number of doughnut hole checks distributed to date in each state and videos.
Medicare.gov provides updates, tools, and information about Medicare. For example, one resource is a tool for finding and comparing hospitals in your area for specific medical conditions, such as heart attack. The site’s other many features include news and information on prevention and supplemental insurance.
The Center for Consumer Information & Insurance Oversight (CCIIO) is the arm of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services responsible for implementing the Affordable Care Act. This site provides consumer support and information on its programs and initiatives, such as its work with state and local governments to comply with new regulations and protect consumers.
The Health Care and You Coalition was formed by a group of consumer, patient, and healthcare organizations to provide “easy-to-understand information” about the healthcare law and its impact on consumers. A few of its offerings include email updates specific to your state, an implementation timeline, and glossary of useful terms.
This site from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation provides news and information at both the state and federal level along with public opinion poll results, information on assistance and subsidies (e.g., a subsidy calculator, implementation milestones, and other resources for both insured and uninsured consumers.
This downloadable brochure from Consumer Reports provides an update on healthcare reform for consumers after the first year of implementation.
This site provides assistance in finding affordable health insurance coverage.