Wednesday, June 27, 2012

US Congress and Supreme Court as Death Panels

While Congress is preparing to take a long vacation until November 6, leaving the business of the country in limbo, 5 justices of the US Supreme Court could kill the Affordable Care Act - Obamacare - in a ruling expected tommorrow. The inaction of Congress on the jobs bill and students loans and the decitions taken by the Supreme Court place both government institutions in contempt with the American people.

Health insurance
Most of the Affordable Care Act affects health insurers like UnitedHealth Group (NYS: UNH) and Aetna. Many of the changes have already gone into effect:
- Coverage for young adults to stay on their parents' insurance until they turn 26.
- Certain preventive services are covered without charging a deductible or copay.
- Preventing insurers from rescinding coverage for errors or technical mistakes on an application after a  
  customer becomes sick.
- The ability to appeal insurance companies' decisions.
- Removal of lifetime limits on essential benefits like hospital stays.
- Insurers must cover pre-existing conditions for children.
- Minimum percentages of premiums that insurers must pay out for services.
- Elimination of increased payments for privately administered Medicare Advantage plans over standard 
- Estimated 30 millions more Americans will be insured after 2014. 

Assuming the Supreme Court doesn't strike down the entire law, the cost of healthcare insurance will go higher than is already now and will pass to customers due to:
- Annual limits on insurance coverage being phased out starting in 2014.
- No discrimination due to pre-existing conditions for adults starting in 2014.

To help curb the cost, the most controversial part of the law mandates that all individuals have health insurance coverage beginning in 2014 and instills fines for individuals who can afford insurance but choose not to. There are also fines for certain businesses that don't offer health insurance to their employees.

UPDATE: U.S. House Republican leaders plan to combine a multiyear highway bill with a one-year freeze for government subsidized student loan rates, Speaker John Boehner told reporters today.

The highway measure will reduce the number of projects funded and “streamline the regulatory process,” Boehner said. He said the measure allows “us to focus our highway dollars on fixing America’s highways, not planting more flowers around the country.”

As usual, the bill being cooked is another of those important few bills, among them the NDAA that Congress managed in this 112th session, with temporary mandate. Meanwhile prominent GOP leaders keep accusing president Barack Obama for resorting on temporaries Executive Orders. Congress has the power to sanction bills with long lasting solutions but prefer to play games with the lives of millions of Americans.

Besides the Executive Order provision, maybe Obama will resort to the NDAA approved by this Congress which authorize the President to detain any American indefinitely under suspicious of being "enemy combatant". Some scholars said that the "enemy combatant" only apply to regular Americans not members of Congress or Justices of the Supreme Court.

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