Dick Cheney Hospitalized With Chest Pain

Dick Cheney has been hospitalized with chest pain. He is now resting comfortably in the hospital after water boarding his nurse to find out what channel Fox is on the hospital’s cable system. Luckily for him, he doesn’t need a sixty vote super-majority to receive health care like the rest of the country.

Update: Dick Cheney has just shot his nurse in the face. The nurse has issued an apology.

We Finally Really See “ObamaCare”

The White House has released their health care legislation proposal.  This was accompanied by threats to pass the legislation through budget reconciliation (a strategy often used during the Bush years) if the Republicans try to block an up or down vote.

I’ve only had time to skim the proposal so far, and it is certain that this will not be the final law, but here’s a few first impressions of some key points.

As expected there is no public option in the current proposal, with this plan being essentially the Senate plan with some fixes. Some are upset by this but the public option was never expected to be in today’s proposal. Instead there has been talk over the past week of adding a public plan at reconciliation.

I suspect that there will ultimately be a public option as a majority of both Democrats and the public support one, even if it isn’t in the initial health care plan. It is hard to object to allowing people the option of voluntarily paying for a government-run plan (unless you are a Republican). If  not, there are items in Obama’s proposal which reduce the problems created by the absence of a public option. One reason that many in the individual market hope for a public option is the fear that they will have no choice but to purchase plans from insurance companies which they do not trust. Obama’s plan does call for greater regulation of insurance companies, including oversight of rate increases.

The plan also weakens the mandate even more than the Senate plan, which we might have expected considering that Obama ran for president opposing the individual mandate. The plan lowers the maximum penalty for not having insurance to $695 which won’t be phased in until 2016. There will be a hardship waiver so people can opt out of the requirement if premiums cost over 8 percent of their income. Couples earning under $18,700 would be exempt from the requirement, with tax credits being available for many who earn greater than this.

Besides providing more money to individuals to pay for health care coverage, the proposal includes $40 billion for small businesses to help with costs of providing health care coverage.

The proposal includes state exchanges instead of a national exchange. There are added provisions to fight fraud and abuse in Medicare. The Medicare prescription drug donut hole will be closed.

All of this is in preparation for the health care summit where Democratic and Republican plans can be compared. This is an excellent strategy. Put up against nothing, it is easy to find fault in the Democratic plan. There’s a lot I don’t like in it because this is a problem without an easy fix which will please everyone. However, if they change the question to how health care will be fixed (getting viewers to understand something must be done) then it becomes a matter of comparing the Democratic vs. Republican plans. That becomes a far easier argument to win with since the Republican plan would worsen rather than improve the situation for many people.

The summit will also make it more obvious if the Republicans continue with a strategy of blocking anything. If Republicans fail to cooperate in good faith, this leaves the Democrats more free to do whatever they want (if they can sell the public), such as restoring the public option.

Anthem Blue Cross Violated State Law More Than 700 Times

Anthem Blue Cross has received a lot of  unfavorable publicity for their recent rate increases. The Los Angeles Times also reports that they have committed many violations of the law:

California’s largest for-profit health insurer violated state law more than 700 times over a three-year period by failing to pay medical claims on time and misrepresenting policy provisions to customers, the state’s insurance commissioner said Monday.

Anthem Blue Cross of Woodland Hills could face fines of up to $7 million stemming from the alleged violations from 2006 to 2009. Commissioner Steve Poizner said that the insurer repeatedly failed to respond to state regulators in a “reasonable time” as they investigated complaints over the last year.

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