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WtH Update: Health Care

January 17, 2010

In Seattle last week, Farm Bureau delegates approved new language in the association’s health care policy strengthening our opposition to the final health care bill being negotiated behind closed doors in Washington.

The following resolutions came from several states including Illinois and reflect different aspects of the health care debate of past several months.  

Health 152

  •  We oppose compulsory national health insurance, including laws requiring all individuals or employers to purchase health insurance, and a national health plan in any form.
  • Any national health plan and or compulsory national health insurance for U.S. citizens will also be required of members (current and retired) of Congress, the President, past Presidents, their family members, and all federal employees with the exemption of active duty, retired, and disabled military personnel.
  • Health care policy should embrace the following principles:  Reduce health care spending through the use of coordinated care, electronic records, provide incentives for results (not procedures) and preventative care, responsibly reduce hospital stays, and allow payments to medical professionals for their service through telecommunications and email.
  • We support allowing insurance companies to sell and individuals to purchase health plans across state lines to create competitive prices.
  • We oppose taxpayer funded healthcare for illegal immigrants.
  • We oppose increasing Medicaid eligibility, in an effort to have national health care reform, that would result in increased cost shifting to the states.
  • We oppose reducing Medicare funding to help support another national health care program, and
  • We oppose the taxing of employees on their health insurance benefits.

Because of the lack of Republican support for either the House or Senate health care bills, Congressional leaders have disposed of the usual conference committee process.   For the past week, Democratic congressional leaders and President Obama have been negotiating the final health care bill in private.

Out of those negotiations, it has been reported that leaders and the White House have agreed how to treat the proposed excise tax on so-called Cadillac health insurance plans.  

In the Senate bill, any taxpayer with group policy premiums of more than $8,500 for an individual or $23,000 for a family will be subject to the 40 percent excise tax. 

The Wall Street Journal reported this weekend that unions’ five-year exemption from the tax on expensive healthcare insurance plans is drawing both criticism and concern over how to pay the $60 billion price tag over the next decade.    Workers covered in private sector contracts and unionized state and local government workers would not pay the tax until 2018.

All others with “Cadillac” plans would pay beginning in 2013.

According to the AFL-CIO, the earlier version of the tax passed by the Senate Dec. 24 would have affected 19% of workers with employer-provided health coverage in 2013, or about 31 million people. Of the 31 million, about 40% are union members, the AFL-CIO said.   Government analysts assumed that most employers affected by the tax would change to less-expensive plans to avoid it. The reprieve deal would remove that pressure on employers, allowing union members to keep existing benefits for longer.  “Democrats are placing the interests of their narrow political base over the interests of every other American,” said Rep. Tom Price (R., Ga.). “Real reform wouldn’t treat people better simply because they have a union card in their wallet. Union members and bureaucrats should pay the same taxes as the rest of us.”

Beyond that, we don’t know what’s in the final bill.   But staff from the three House committees that wrote the House bill have put together an excellent 11-page side-by-side comparison of the Senate and House bills.

Many news reports show that leaders hope to send provisions of the new bill to the Congressional Budget Office for review by the end of this week.

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