What the Health Care bill means for Georgians

Published 2:45 pm Friday, April 2, 2010

The new health care law signed last week by President Obama will pose tremendous financial challenges for both the state of Georgia and for individual Georgians.

While it contains some good things, such as covering Americans with pre-existing conditions, the law is riddled with shortcomings, including the biggest obstacle of all: cost. By signing this law, the president expanded a health care delivery system that is already too expensive instead of reducing its cost so more Americans can afford insurance.

Another hitch is that it taxes those who create jobs, such as small-business owners and investors, during an already-deep recession.

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It’s a pity that the president and Democratic congressional leaders refused to work with their Republican colleagues in drafting a bill we could all agree on.

Here is what the new law will mean for Georgians:

 Each Georgian’s share of the national debt will increase when the cost of paying doctors to serve Medicare patients is included.

 The government will spend $8,470 more on health care for every Georgian.

 According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, some 176,000 Georgians enrolled in Medicare Advantage will have benefits reduced. And the half-trillion dollars in Medicare cuts will be used to pay for new programs, not to shore up Medicare, which experts say will be insolvent by 2017.

 About 2.1 million Georgia households making less than $200,000 will pay higher taxes, based on estimates by the Joint Committee on Taxation.

 Some 70 percent of small employer purchasers would face higher premiums.

 Georgia small businesses employing 50 or more people, and 8,104 Georgia construction companies with five or more employees will pay either higher health care costs or a penalty due to new government mandates.

 The federal government will overcharge 253,000 Georgians who have student loans an average of $1,600 to help pay for health care and other government programs. Effective July 1, this Washington takeover of the student-loan program will deprive young Georgians of choices and increase the federal debt by another half-trillion dollars.

 The $1 billion in new costs to Georgia will force the governor and the legislature to raise taxes, hike college tuitions and/or decrease the quality of education.

As I noted, there are worthwhile provisions in this 3,000-page law, including the creation of a high-risk pool for many with pre-existing conditions, a prohibition of insurance companies’ denial of coverage to sick children and the ability of Americans under the age of 26 to stay on their parents’ insurance policies. However, these reforms were also in Republican proposals.

The largest new provision of the health care law, starting in 2014, makes hundreds of thousands of low-income Georgians eligible for Medicaid. But poor reimbursement rates means that some 50 percent of doctors in America do not take new Medicaid patients.

Growing the Medicaid program will not keep hospital emergency rooms—used by Medicaid patients at twice the rate of insured or uninsured Americans—from filling up. In Georgia, Gov. Sonny Perdue says the Medicare expansion in this law will cost Georgia at least $1 billion a year.

We need a law that actually reduces health care costs and enacts insurance reforms immediately. Americans should be allowed to buy insurance policies across state lines; allow small businesses to pool resources and offer more affordable insurance to workers; limit baseless lawsuits against doctors, and expand health savings accounts. Again, Republicans urged Congress last year to implement these measures.

Congress needs to take these steps to make health care more affordable for all Americans while trying to keep our nation’s fiscal house in order.