Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 29, 2010

HEALTH CARE IMPROVEMENTS -- AHEAD OF SCHEDULE.... Marc Thiessen recently urged Republicans to fight as hard as they can to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The GOP need not fear political repercussions, the Bush speechwriter turned Washington Post columnist said, because Americans won't see the law's benefits kick in for several years. "The charge that Republicans are 'taking away your benefits' will hardly ring true for Americans who don't yet enjoy those benefits," he said.

It's worth appreciating, then, that new benefits are already kicking in, in some cases, well ahead of schedule.

In recent weeks, we've seen many major insurers begin implementing a provision of the law that allows young adults to stay on their family health care plan through their 26th birthday. What's more, the industry agreed to stop denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions (after initially intending to exploit an alleged loophole in the law).

And this week, consumers and families received more good news -- the industry will scrap its "rescission" practices, four months before the new federal ban was scheduled to go into effect.

The health insurance industry has decided to end its practice of cancelling claims once a patient gets sick next month, well before the new health care law would have required it, the industry's chief spokesman said Wednesday.

"While many health plans already abide by the standards outlined in the new law, our community is committed to implementing the new standards in May 2010 to ensure that individuals and families will have greater peace of mind when purchasing coverage on their own," AHIP president and chief executive Karen Ignagni said in a letter to top House Democrats.

The decision to end rescission, as the practice is known, was made during a Tuesday afternoon conference call of chief executives organized by their trade group, America's Health Insurance Plans, and represents the industry's latest attempt to build political good will after the bruising health care fight.

The heartening announcement on rescissions came on the heels of a Reuters report on WellPoint routinely dropping coverage for women diagnosed with breast cancer. Yesterday, the company said it would end the practice by this weekend.

White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer described all of this as "a clear sign of momentum for changing the health care status quo."

Go ahead, Republicans. Promise to undo all of this progress, turn back the clock, and eliminate these needed, popular advances. I dare you.

Steve Benen 8:30 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (29)

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"end the practice by this weekend."

Do they still want a few days to be able to engage in rescission?

Posted by: Paul on April 29, 2010 at 8:28 AM | PERMALINK

As Chuck Grassley is demonstrating, you can have your Republican cake and eat it too. As tiresome as this meme has become, we always have to remember there's no downside to the Republican bubble. Anything you want to be true can be true. It goes beyond mere reality inversions, from epistemic closure, to the absolute certitude of the message machine itself. It's always right, and repetition is the proof.

Posted by: walt on April 29, 2010 at 8:31 AM | PERMALINK

...It's always right, and repetition is the proof.
Posted by: walt on April 29, 2010 at 8:31 AM | PERMALINK***********

And any criticism or calling out of the hypocrisy is summarily dismissed as "proof" of the 'liberal bias' and 'baseless attacks' of the other side.

Posted by: in what respect, Charlie? on April 29, 2010 at 8:43 AM | PERMALINK

Isn't it nice that GOP hacks working for Hiatt's Post don't even bother to hide their total cynicism.

[MT]If we repeal it quickly, they'll never know what hit them.[/MT]

Politics, not policy is always what comes first.

Posted by: howie on April 29, 2010 at 8:45 AM | PERMALINK

Now if only denying coverage for pre-existing conditions would kick in before 2014, my wife and I won't have to worry about this if we lose our jobs subsequent to an infertility diagnosis. I was amazed to discover that if we visit a reproductive specialist to investigate our issues, we could be denied coverage if I lose my job because infertility is labeled as a pre-existing condition for both the woman and the man.

Posted by: terraformer on April 29, 2010 at 8:45 AM | PERMALINK

Go ahead, Republicans.... I dare you.

I make it a practice to never dare the devil nor call attention to myself by naming one of his minions by name.

Posted by: oh my on April 29, 2010 at 8:48 AM | PERMALINK

Steve, suggest you peruse the article in the Providence Journal, this AM, about Bishop Tobin pulling two Cathlic hospitals in Providence from the Catholic Health Association due to the CHA's support of ACA. This is the same Bishop who refused communion to Patrick Kennedy. Not much different from other conservative Bishops who have gone after nuns for supporting said legislation.

Posted by: berttheclock on April 29, 2010 at 8:56 AM | PERMALINK

oh my is quite correct; one shouldn't tempt fate. Having said that, Republicans, I double-dog dare you to try to repeal the bill. Run on it, Ba-by!
My dear Republican countrymen/women, you are well on your way towards becoming the most powerful political party in rural Mississippi and lower Alabama. Congratulations.

Posted by: Kordo on April 29, 2010 at 8:59 AM | PERMALINK

Oh my gosh! You are so, so, so right. But, uhm, who is going to talk about it? The corporate-owned media and bestest friend of the insurance corporations? Hhhmmm...maybe the corporate-owned media that receives millions in ad campaign money from the insurance industry? Well, how 'bout FOX News...surely FOX News will trumpet the improvements brought on by health care reform? See, the point is that it doesn't matter that health care is improving. It doesn't matter, because the American people will never know about, because no one in the mass media is going to champion anything, ever that doesn't benefit corporations. I get your point. But, you act as though the only thing that matters is what is happening and you seem blind to the fact that no one knows that a tree fell in the forest unless someone was there to witness it falling. I am glad you mention this stuff, but if you are assuming these positive developments matter or will matter just because they occur, then, sorry, but you are wrong! Unless or until the media takes up these causes they way they take up GOP talking points...it will not matter.

Posted by: Ralph Kramden on April 29, 2010 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

As the insurance companies made the changes before the law forced them to, the Repubs can just say:

"Look, the free market works without regulations. Insurance companies can be trusted to regulate themselves. Let's get rid of these burdensome and unnecessary regulations."

It's worked before.

Posted by: martin on April 29, 2010 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

Paul asks "Do they still want a few days to be able to engage in rescission?"

More likely, they just want to phase in a new policy on the first of the month. Saturday (start of the weeked) is May 1.

Posted by: Zandru on April 29, 2010 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

Ooo, martin: "Look, the free market works without regulations. Insurance companies can be trusted to regulate themselves. Let's get rid of these burdensome and unnecessary regulations."

That has a chilly, chilly ring to it.

Posted by: chrenson on April 29, 2010 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

So, the crux of Thiessen's argument comes down to one of TIMING? Act now Republicans before it's too late and all those popular benefits kick in. Doesn't quite square with the idea that Democrats rammed an unpopular bill down our throats against our will, does it?

Posted by: Ted Frier on April 29, 2010 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

terraformer, unless you are 19 or younger (doubtful given context), you are not helped by the "guaranteed availability" of individual insurance until 2014. You could still be denied coverage on account of a pre-existing condition (even if it's one that almost no one provides coverage for, like infertility). Likewise, you could get an individual policy that might still (as many do) refuse to cover pre-existing conditions. These provisions were intended to apply early only to children, but will apply across the board in 2014.

You are helped if you get individual insurance and the issuer tries to rescind the policy. That's the rescission provision, and that applies to everyone right away (it was supposed to kick in for everyone in September).

Now, since you have group insurance, you have a one-time guaranteed availability option in the individual market if you lose that group coverage, if you act on a timely basis, and THAT option does not allow pre-existing conditions to be excluded from coverage.

I hope that helps.

It's not that complicated, but unless you use the verbiage daily it can seem confusing.

Posted by: Barbara on April 29, 2010 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

Unless or until the media takes up these causes they way they take up GOP talking points...it will not matter.

Ralph - It won't matter to whom? To the people whose policies would have been rescinded, had this policy not change? Of course it matters to them. They'll now have real insurance when they need it.

No, you're talking about POLITICAL considerations. Policy-wise, this is great news. And you're upset that the corporate-owned media won't report it. Yet...Politico is reporting it. And Yahoo had it as a main story on its homepage yesterday, which is where I first read about it.

Will it get covered as much as it should? Probably not, because there's nothing sexy or particularly interesting about it. Liberals don't have our equivalent of Fox News (thank god) and all the other networks will only cover news that will get them more viewers. That's just how it works.

So could we PLEASE do away with this idea that Dems always get screwed? How many more victories do we need before people will finally realize that the media isn't out to get us? Or that the media isn't nearly as influential as people imagine?

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on April 29, 2010 at 10:25 AM | PERMALINK

@ Ted Frier: Doesn't quite square with the idea that Democrats rammed an unpopular bill down our throats against our will, does it?

Repeated for emphasis.

Posted by: Gregory on April 29, 2010 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

For months is significant to a breast cancer patient. Screw the politics--this is good news. Send it to everyone you know and it won't matter if the great stuffy mass media consider it unimportant. And as for politics, after this year's "death panels" campaigns from the GOP, I wouldn't vote Republican again if the alternative were not to vote at all.

Posted by: Anne on April 29, 2010 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

Thanks for your response, Barbara.

So if I understand you correctly, prior to 2014 if I were to lose my group insurance, my wife and I are guaranteed to be eligible for (i.e., if we can pay for it) individual insurance (e.g., no exclusion due to an infertility diagnosis)? What is time frame for this 'timely basis' aspect you mention?

Posted by: terraformer on April 29, 2010 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

Around 60 days. Your employer should give you a document that certifies you were covered by the group for whatever period of time you were covered, which is what you would use to prove that you are guaranteed eligible.

You might also qualify for "regular" individual insurance, and the smart thing to do is make sure you get quotes for both, because the "guaranteed" kind tends to be rated higher. The diagnosis of infertility probably is an issue because it is a signal you intend to reproduce soon, and that's a cost driver, in insurance speak. Also, because of the current state of infertility treatment, people who do have children as a result of infertility treatment are much more likely to have twins and thus, complicated pregnancies and expensive newborn care.

It's not a nice world, the one we live in, when it comes to health insurance, but it is much better to be informed than not. The term job lock exists for a reason.

Posted by: Barbara on April 29, 2010 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

The health insurance companies are simply raising premiums to cover all this "generosity". We went from COBRA to individual insurance when our COBRA ran out. Here are our actual premium costs, for two healthy adults who rarely visit the doctor, and only then for routine simple tests:

December COBRA: $679 premium
January COBRA: $810 premium
February Individual: $1279 premium
March Individual: $1410 (no explanation as to why the increase--I assume they were trying to get us to drop coverage)

How can anyone afford this? I assume April would have been another increase, but thank merciful G-d my spouse got a job and we have benefits again.

Posted by: hb on April 29, 2010 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks a bunch, Barbara. Yes, the term job lock is indeed around for a reason.

Again, I am amazed at this nice world we live in. Apparently just by meeting wit a doctor to begin to look into the issue, this necessarily means that we are having fertility problems. Even if we don't do anything further, such as begin fertility treatments of some kind. This revelation has led us to cancel our upcoming, initial meeting with the doctor, for fear of the 'infertile' label.

Posted by: terraformer on April 29, 2010 at 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

The insurance companies are running scared - of the idea of a public option. Bring that back into the conversation and they'll be VERY vocal about how good they are. My take: as long as they post a profit while funded with any tax payers money and don't provide actual health care, they are wrong.
Health care already has a bottom line, and profit motives only get in the way.

Posted by: in70 on April 29, 2010 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

A couple of earlier commentators danced around the point of Thiessens unacknowledged admission "of benefits for Americans"
After arguing for the last year that the health care bill is all bad for all people, death panels, higher bills, lose your doctor, etc, Thiessen shows that he knows it benefits Americans broadly enough that once they start seeing those benefits actually implemented and working the Republican arguments will be rendered moot.
Really, just callous lying assholes, every one of them.

Posted by: patrick on April 29, 2010 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

What Patrick said, yes.
Three hundred million times over.
Would it be too much to ask that liberals / progressives / normal human beings start e-mail chains of our own to attempt to counteract the corporatist / Publican lock on the mass media? It should be easy to adopt the conspiracist mindset of the reichwing e-mail chains, but make it clear that the real bad guys are the mega-corps, and their pet pols.

Posted by: smartalek on April 29, 2010 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, how nice that those folks in the public sector will be able to add their over 22 kids back on their insurance sooner. As a middle wage federal worker, they forced my son off at age 22, two years earlier than anyone in my state had to find insurance for their college student. We have kluged together ways to pay for his health care costs since then, as he worked for low wage no-benefit jobs part-time while he attended college part time. OPM is now interpreting the law to mean that even though it comes into effect in October, we can't add him back until January when the new plan year begins--and when he will no longer be eligible. Heckava job, US OPM.

Posted by: Ella on April 29, 2010 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

What, you mean, when we pay premiums, the insurance companies actually have to INSURE coverage?

What is the world coming to?

Sounds like a sh*tty-deal. For them. No more getting paid premiums, getting paid premiums, getting paid premiums then - whoops! you're sick? No more coverage for you!

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on April 29, 2010 at 6:55 PM | PERMALINK

"Sounds like a sh*tty-deal. For them. No more getting paid premiums, getting paid premiums, getting paid premiums then - whoops! you're sick? No more coverage for you!"

What I don't understand is how people don't seem to get that this is the natural result of an unregulated market for insurance.

Most people are pretty healthy and won't notice, so the company that drops the most sick people will end up making the most profits, and will be able to offer the lowest rates.

Companies that behave ethically, and allow their sick people to continue their coverage will just end up losing business to companies offering lower rates, and eventually they'll be left with only sick people.

Therefore, without regulation, all the insurance companies are forced to behave unethically just to stay in business.

Posted by: ds on April 29, 2010 at 10:35 PM | PERMALINK

This is an interesting post. Calotren can be taken regularly along with plenty of fruits and vegetables. But the effects can be observed over a long period of time. It is pointless to expect the results to be obvious within a few days of taking the drug. The best thing about Calotren is that it makes fat-loss a completely natural process. You have to take healthy food and exercise a lot besides taking Calotren.

Posted by: Calotren on May 5, 2010 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe there are other people in here just like me who thinks the same about this issue, because for me it isn't a big issue.

Posted by: online marketing bureau on December 28, 2010 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK



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