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Posts Tagged ‘employer health benefits plan’

What’s Happening to Your Health Care: 3 Things to Know Right Now

Friday, February 17th, 2017

There is definitely lots of talk about how President Donald Trump and Congress are planning to make major changes to Americans’ health benefits. That’s because Trump and Republican leaders in Congress have said that repealing the Affordable Care Act is one of their top priorities. Although it is not clear when they will act or exactly what they will do, here are three things to know right now:

1. Your health benefits are at risk, no matter where you get them:

  • Medicare: A straight-up repeal of the ACA would eliminate some Medicare benefits by reinstating the full Medicare prescription drug donut hole and taking away free preventive care. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is still pushing his plan to turn Medicare into a voucher system, meaning benefits would no longer be guaranteed and health costs for seniors and people with disabilities would go up dramatically.
  • Workplace Health Benefits: Kevin Brady (R-Texas), the powerful chairman of the tax writing committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, wants to tax part of the cost of workplace health benefits by including the cost in working people’s taxable income. So does the person Trump hired to be in charge of health care, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. If you get your health benefits on the job, this will raise your taxes and lead to even higher deductibles and co-pays. Some employers could even cancel their health plans in response.
  • Health Insurance You Buy Yourself: Most media coverage is focused on what impact repeal of the ACA will have on the approximately 10 million people who now buy individual health coverage through the ACA’s health insurance marketplaces, often with the help of federal tax credits. A straight-up repeal of the ACA would not just take away the tax credits that help people buy health insurance. Full repeal also would eliminate the ACA’s protections that require insurance companies to treat people fairly, to give them meaningful insurance without tricks and traps, and not to discriminate against anyone because they have a pre-existing condition or even because of their gender.
  • Medicaid: Medicaid is the health plan run by states with significant federal funding that enables 74 million people to get the medical care they need. One-in-three kids in the United States get their health coverage from Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Plan. Millions of seniors and people of all ages with disabilities also count on Medicaid for nursing home care and the long-term supports and services that allow them to live independently in their homes and communities. A straight-up repeal of the ACA would take health coverage away from some 11 million people who now have benefits because the ACA allowed states to expand Medicaid. Trump and Republican leaders in Congress also want to cut Medicaid for everyone who receives it by imposing new limited caps on what the federal government will contribute, even if the cost of health care keeps going up much faster than prices in the rest of the economy. That will shift costs onto states and likely force cuts in benefits.

2. People are speaking up, and that’s having an impact on Washington: Lots of people are showing up to meet with their members of Congress about health care and to let them know just how important it is to them personally. Many people are asking their members of Congress tough questions. For example, check out this article about a Tennessee high school teacher who attended a town hall and watch the video showing her tough question for Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.), Meet the Teacher Whose Powerful, Christian Defense of Obamacare Made a GOP Town Hall Go Viral. The hard questions and strong show of concern from voters are affecting what’s going on in Congress. What once was a mad dash to repeal the ACA right away has slowed to a crawl for the moment, and there now is a split among Republicans in Congress. While many congressional Republicans still want to repeal the ACA immediately regardless of whether they have a replacement, at least a few are saying they want to figure out what the impact will be on real people and how they might address the harm that will do.

3. We’re still waiting to hear what the plan for repealing and replacing the ACA is: In mid-January, Trump said he had a plan that was finished except for some finishing touches and that he was just waiting for Price to be confirmed by the Senate as his HHS secretary. Price was confirmed last Friday, so maybe we will see his plan soon. Congressional Republicans are still trying to figure out what their plan should be. Some Republicans want to go ahead with repeal of the ACA now and figure out whether and how they might replace it later.

This blog originally appeared in aflcio.org on February 16, 2017.  Reprinted with permission.

Shaun O’Brien works for AFL-CIO.  His interests include retirement security and health care. Follow him on twitter @ShaunOBrien30.

Coal Communities Ask Trump To Honor His Promises

Friday, December 16th, 2016

Coal miners, their communities and Faith groups are calling on President-presumed-Elect Donald Trump to honor his campaign promise to help coal workers. In an “Open Letter to President-Elect Donald Trump from coal miners,” hundreds of coal miners from Appalachia to Western coal lands asked for help for coal communities across the country.

They want Trump to take action to make sure coal CEOs and companies keep promises to restore the landscape and local environments by “reclaiming” the old mines, which would mean jobs in coal communities. They also asked Trump to protect the pension and health benefits they were promised. The companies and CEOs made millions from the mines and should not be allowed leave behind a devastated environment and ruined communities.

The letter was organized by Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ), a network of Faith groups and worker centers working “to mobilize people of faith and work advocates in support of economic justice and worker rights at the local, state and national levels.” It asks Trump to stop coal CEOs and companies from abandoning their responsibility to clean up old mines.

The letters asks Trump to, “Ensure federal and state governments use every legal option to prevent coal companies from shirking their commitment to reclaim and repair the public lands mined for private profit.”

Please visit the website Help Coal Workers to read stories from coal workers, read the letter and sign a petition asking Trump to honor his promises.

For example, one of those stories:

“I worked in the mines for 25 years until I had an accident and could not work anymore,” said Charles E. Boyd of McCalla, Alabama. “I am on disability due to my work injury. I also have black lung. My pension and health benefits was promised to coal miners by our government. Please keep the promise.”

The Open Letter to President-Elect Donald Trump from coal miners:

Dear Mr. President-Elect Trump,

Dear Congressman Zinke, nominee for Secretary of the Department of the Interior,

Anybody who works on American coal mines knows that the industry is rapidly changing. Mines are closing, coal companies are declaring bankruptcy, and many of us are losing our jobs and our livelihoods. For some of us, these are the only jobs that we’ve ever known – once assured of a lifelong and stable career with good pay and a community in which to raise a family. No more.

We all have strong opinions about why our industry is suffering: which politicians or whose agenda is to blame. Regardless of politics, the bottom line is that we need to take care of our brothers and sisters who are facing uncertain times.

That means ensuring that coal companies follow through on their commitments to coal miners across the country. As you take action to revitalize the coal industry, we urge you and Congressman Zinke to do everything possible to hold true to your promise on the campaign trail that you are beholden to “no special interest. My only interest is you, the American people.”

Here’s how the Trump Administration can be a champion for coal mining communities in crisis:

Ensure federal and state governments use every legal option to prevent coal companies from shirking their commitment to reclaim and repair the public lands mined for private profit.

Through bankruptcy proceedings, we have learned that several companies are working to drastically reduce their financial and legal responsibility to reclaim mined land.

Any new or expanded coal leasing should be in concert with the strongest possible assurances that coal companies will honor their obligations to communities to create jobs by reclaiming and rehabilitating mined land.

Work with Congress to increase revenue and funding for communities as well as programs that support local economies.

There are a number of pieces of legislation on the table in Congress that would invest in coal communities, fund reclamation and economic revitalization projects, and protect promised benefits to coal miners and their families.

We urge you to work with Congress to pass these laws if they do not move forward before your inauguration

We, the undersigned coal miners and concerned individuals from across the country, demand action that will bring relief to coal communities.

This post originally appeared on ourfuture.org on December 15, 2016. Reprinted with Permission.

Dave Johnson has more than 20 years of technology industry experience. His earlier career included technical positions, including video game design at Atari and Imagic. He was a pioneer in design and development of productivity and educational applications of personal computers. More recently he helped co-found a company developing desktop systems to validate carbon trading in the US.

 

Former Massachusetts Reform Head Warns HHS Not To Overreach On Essential Benefits

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

Igor VolksyThis morning, the Institute of Medicine began its second day of deliberations into defining what would constitute “essential health benefits” under the Affordable Care Act. Even though the law identifies general categories that insurers will have to cover beginning in 2014 — emergency services, mental health care, outpatient and inpatient care — these meetings are designed to help HHS reach more specificity on the issue. The agency is also required to ensure that the scope of essential health benefits “is equal to the scope of benefits provided under a typical employer plan.”

During the second session, John Kingsdale — the former director of the Massachusetts Connector Authority — predicted that defining “essential health benefits” will be “one of the more challenging parts in implementing the ACA” and warned the agency against “overreaching” in detailing which benefits insurers will have to provide:

KINGSDALE: The nation is highly divided by this and so whatever is put into the essential health benefits package that can be portrayed by those who tend to oppose ACA as unfairly burdening those employers or individuals, who want a different benefit package will be used as political fodder to tear down the ACA and I strongly believe that overreaching…could doom implementation. […]

There is a tendency to think about benefits in the context of negotiation for something more someone else would pay for and I think it continually surprises people to understand, ‘oh there are real people who cannot afford what we consider to be an ideal benefit package and they actually have to pay for it in premiums. ….This was very much about giving people decent coverage as opposed to primarily a policy of it just being about raising the standards of coverage and it seems to me when you have to make close calls about benefits, it’s important to return to that principle. Secondly, obviously, most benefits cost dollars no matter what you will hear about how they will save money and that the ACA will live or die on affordability. And thirdly, that there is a fair degree of consensus about minimum benefit steps and so that you will find most states don’t even mention most of the things that are covered typically by commercial insurance and there are additionally very few benefits that significantly improve [inaudible] or save dollars. So, I think it’s not difficult to find that essential minimum benefits package and then, as you can tell from my other principles, I would advise you to be very conservative about adding on to it. […]

My experience suggests revisiting and learning from cases and some flexibility and even phasing in would all be very helpful as you go down the path of defining a minimum benefit that will be extremely controversial.

Indeed, as CQ Healthbeat reported, it’s still unclear “if officials will seek a specific list of treatments or ask insurers to mirror benefits in particular plans, such as the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program.” Either way, they will have to balance Kingsdale’s suggestions with the concern that too loose of a definition would allow insurers to design plans differently — possibly even in such a way that would lead to adverse selection.

IOM will publish recommendations for HHS “by September, and HHS will issue its proposed rules by the end of the year, giving insurance companies time to adjust plans before the provisions take effect.”

This article was originally published on Wonk Room.

About The Author: Igor Volsky is Health Care Editor for ThinkProgress.org and The Progress Report at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. He also writes on LGBT Equality issues. Igor is co-author of Howard Dean’s Prescription for Real Healthcare Reform. Prior to joining the Center, Igor blogged at BodyPolitik.org and interned with ThinkProgress, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), and the Hudson River Valley Institute at Marist College. Igor grew up in Russia, Israel, and New Jersey. Igor has appeared on MSNBC, CNN, Fox Business, and CNBC television, and has been a guest on many radio shows.

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