Thursday, August 13, 2009

Health Care Reform and MS

If you have MS or love someone who does, I urge you to pay attention to what's going on with National Health Insurance Reform. This issue affects all Americans, but for those those of us who live with chronic, potentially progressive diseases, it could mean the difference between getting and keeping health insurance so we can receive the proper treatment and having to choose between paying for the meds that keep us well and silly little things like rent, food, and utilities.

Regular readers know that I make no secret of my support of President Barack Obama--before and after the election. On this topic, though, I have to tell you that I wish he, his advisers, and Congress could do more.The name alone, Health Insurance Reform, is quite quite a step down from Health CARE Reform. Health CARE includes more than just insurance. Health CARE should include alternative medicine, palliative care, health education, pharmaceutical funding and drug pricing, embryonic and adult stem cell and other research funding, and much much more.

But I digress.

I'm not 100% thrilled with the plan or happy about what it's left out, but I'm afraid if we hold out for something perfect, we will--once again--miss out on the opportunity to make real change in people's lives. Sometimes change has to happen incrementally. I believe the current plan is a good start and, rather than reinvent the wheel, I will use the words from and email I received from David Axelrod, Senior Adviser to the President. I know some people in pretty high places, huh? Me and the other 500,000 people on the distribution list.

8 ways reform provides security and stability to those with or without coverage
  1. Ends Discrimination for Pre-Existing Conditions: Insurance companies will be prohibited from refusing you coverage because of your medical history.
  2. Ends Exorbitant Out-of-Pocket Expenses, Deductibles or Co-Pays: Insurance companies will have to abide by yearly caps on how much they can charge for out-of-pocket expenses.
  3. Ends Cost-Sharing for Preventive Care: Insurance companies must fully cover, without charge, regular checkups and tests that help you prevent illness, such as mammograms or eye and foot exams for diabetics.
  4. Ends Dropping of Coverage for Seriously Ill: Insurance companies will be prohibited from dropping or watering down insurance coverage for those who become seriously ill.
  5. Ends Gender Discrimination: Insurance companies will be prohibited from charging you more because of your gender.
  6. Ends Annual or Lifetime Caps on Coverage: Insurance companies will be prevented from placing annual or lifetime caps on the coverage you receive.
  7. Extends Coverage for Young Adults: Children would continue to be eligible for family coverage through the age of 26.
  8. Guarantees Insurance Renewal: Insurance companies will be required to renew any policy as long as the policyholder pays their premium in full. Insurance companies won't be allowed to refuse renewal because someone became sick.
Learn more and get details:

8 common myths about health insurance reform
  1. Reform will stop "rationing" - not increase it: It's a myth that reform will mean a "government takeover" of health care or lead to "rationing." To the contrary, reform will forbid many forms of rationing that are currently being used by insurance companies.
  2. We can't afford reform: It's the status quo we can't afford. It's a myth that reform will bust the budget. To the contrary, the President has identified ways to pay for the vast majority of the up-front costs by cutting waste, fraud, and abuse within existing government health programs; ending big subsidies to insurance companies; and increasing efficiency with such steps as coordinating care and streamlining paperwork. In the long term, reform can help bring down costs that will otherwise lead to a fiscal crisis.
  3. Reform would encourage "euthanasia": It does not. It's a malicious myth that reform would encourage or even require euthanasia for seniors. For seniors who want to consult with their family and physicians about end-of life decisions, reform will help to cover these voluntary, private consultations for those who want help with these personal and difficult family decisions.
  4. Vets' health care is safe and sound: It's a myth that health insurance reform will affect veterans' access to the care they get now. To the contrary, the President's budget significantly expands coverage under the VA, extending care to 500,000 more veterans who were previously excluded. The VA Healthcare system will continue to be available for all eligible veterans.
  5. Reform will benefit small business - not burden it: It's a myth that health insurance reform will hurt small businesses. To the contrary, reform will ease the burdens on small businesses, provide tax credits to help them pay for employee coverage and help level the playing field with big firms who pay much less to cover their employees on average.
  6. Your Medicare is safe, and stronger with reform: It's myth that Health Insurance Reform would be financed by cutting Medicare benefits. To the contrary, reform will improve the long-term financial health of Medicare, ensure better coordination, eliminate waste and unnecessary subsidies to insurance companies, and help to close the Medicare "doughnut" hole to make prescription drugs more affordable for seniors.
  7. You can keep your own insurance: It's myth that reform will force you out of your current insurance plan or force you to change doctors. To the contrary, reform will expand your choices, not eliminate them.
  8. No, government will not do anything with your bank account: It is an absurd myth that government will be in charge of your bank accounts. Health insurance reform will simplify administration, making it easier and more convenient for you to pay bills in a method that you choose. Just like paying a phone bill or a utility bill, you can pay by traditional check, or by a direct electronic payment. And forms will be standardized so they will be easier to understand. The choice is up to you - and the same rules of privacy will apply as they do for all other electronic payments that people make.
Learn more and get details:

8 Reasons We Need Health Insurance Reform Now
  1. Coverage Denied to Millions: A recent national survey estimated that 12.6 million non-elderly adults - 36 percent of those who tried to purchase health insurance directly from an insurance company in the individual insurance market - were in fact discriminated against because of a pre-existing condition in the previous three years or dropped from coverage when they became seriously ill. Learn more:
  2. Less Care for More Costs: With each passing year, Americans are paying more for health care coverage. Employer-sponsored health insurance premiums have nearly doubled since 2000, a rate three times faster than wages. In 2008, the average premium for a family plan purchased through an employer was $12,680, nearly the annual earnings of a full-time minimum wage job. Americans pay more than ever for health insurance, but get less coverage. Learn more:
  3. Roadblocks to Care for Women: Women's reproductive health requires more regular contact with health care providers, including yearly pap smears, mammograms, and obstetric care. Women are also more likely to report fair or poor health than men (9.5% versus 9.0%). While rates of chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure are similar to men, women are twice as likely to suffer from headaches and are more likely to experience joint, back or neck pain. These chronic conditions often require regular and frequent treatment and follow-up care. Learn more:
  4. Hard Times in the Heartland: Throughout rural America, there are nearly 50 million people who face challenges in accessing health care. The past several decades have consistently shown higher rates of poverty, mortality, uninsurance, and limited access to a primary health care provider in rural areas. With the recent economic downturn, there is potential for an increase in many of the health disparities and access concerns that are already elevated in rural communities. Learn more:
  5. Small Businesses Struggle to Provide Health Coverage: Nearly one-third of the uninsured - 13 million people - are employees of firms with less than 100 workers. From 2000 to 2007, the proportion of non-elderly Americans covered by employer-based health insurance fell from 66% to 61%. Much of this decline stems from small business. The percentage of small businesses offering coverage dropped from 68% to 59%, while large firms held stable at 99%. About a third of such workers in firms with fewer than 50 employees obtain insurance through a spouse. Learn more:
  6. The Tragedies are Personal: Half of all personal bankruptcies are at least partly the result of medical expenses. The typical elderly couple may have to save nearly $300,000 to pay for health costs not covered by Medicare alone. Learn more:
  7. Diminishing Access to Care: From 2000 to 2007, the proportion of non-elderly Americans covered by employer-based health insurance fell from 66% to 61%. An estimated 87 million people - one in every three Americans under the age of 65 - were uninsured at some point in 2007 and 2008. More than 80% of the uninsured are in working families. Learn more:
  8. The Trends are Troubling: Without reform, health care costs will continue to skyrocket unabated, putting unbearable strain on families, businesses, and state and federal government budgets. Perhaps the most visible sign of the need for health care reform is the 46 million Americans currently without health insurance - projections suggest that this number will rise to about 72 million in 2040 in the absence of reform. Learn more:
Visit to see video responses to the incredibly vicious and insidious attacks on this important legislation. And, if you don't know how to reach your elected officials, click here and let them know how very important it is to pass Health Insurance Reform now. It really is that important.


    1. – Will it affect what the premium can be? More government control=less private competition. Competition restrained means less technological and medical improvements--think USSR.
    2. – Will it affect what the premium can be?--think USSR
    3. – How can a profit company give away services and stay in business? Seems to portend a single-payer, government option, doesn’t it?--think USSR
    4. . – Okay but does that require a complete overhaul of the health insurance system?
    5. – Interesting; solved by government mandate. Here I had always thought there was a physical difference between a man and a woman, requiring different levels of service and care.
    6. – Again, a combo shot: as a profit-oriented organization, how will this affect the premiums, and why does this require a complete overhaul of the health insurance system?
    7. — a combo shot: as a profit-oriented organization, how will this affect the premiums, and why does this require a complete overhaul of the health insurance system?
    8. — Ditto, combo again: as a profit-oriented organization, how will this affect the premiums, and why does this require a complete overhaul and government control of the health insurance system?

    1. – David, you need to read your boss’s speeches, consider the promises he’s made to unions and other community organization. Presently, if the insurance company offends by rationing or some other fashion, there are other choices. Good choices? but choices. How many other Federal governments, how many other choices exist in a US-controlled plan? Veritas vos liberabit
    2. – I’m from the government; trust me. The Federal Government’s own CBO says it too expensive!
    Moreover, reform is an understood practice of America’s free-enterprise and tort system without centralized, federal control and centralized access. Reform the tort system.
    3. – May be; likely not. However, it is highly indicative of the electorates’ feelings about government. Having centuries of experience with Medicare, Social Security, etc., the citizenry is hardened to government’s promises.
    Especially laws ‘meaning’ when enacted and put in to concrete over the years by bureaucrats.
    5. --AND, penalize them for not providing healthcare, adding an additional tax burden to an already ‘burdened’ bottom-line and create an alternative healthcare track which will ultimately squeeze out private insurers in a government-only environment as a low-cost solution. Question: Does low-cost coverage ensure the same, historic quality care?
    6. – Not only does an independent analysis of the House Democrats’ government-run plan indicates their legislation slashes Medicare by some $362 billion, i.e., fewer choices and lower health care quality for our nation’s seniors, the Democratically-controlled House Bill includes $362 billion in funding cuts.
    7. – Government has its own plan. Government determines reimbursement rates to providers and insurance companies. Government determines levels of patient care, education of doctors, and sets up the overseers’ panel. Seems totally reasonable—seems to lean heavily toward sustaining a private health system, huh?
    8. . – HEALTH INSURANCE REFORM WILL SIMPLIFY ADMINISTRATION—name the last time the government legislated anything that simplified anything…waiting….waiting…waiting. Okay, check back with you. I’m going for a donut and coffee.

  2. Don't let anonymous fool you about talk of tort reform. Politicians of all stripes have been trying to pile tort reform onto every bill they can. Tort reform translates to "Let's let American Companies do whatever they want in other countries without any accountability in American courts."

    Check out for more information about what American oil companies did in Burma and many other countries--including forced labor. They were only held accountable because of very old tort laws that have yet to be overturned, but boy is Congress trying.

    And man up Anonymous and leave your name if you're going to leave your opinion (or talking points).