Last night, the health care reform bill passed.
Most of the provisions of the bill change the way insurance companies do business. But will insurance companies just find new ways to screw the public? Will they simply come up with new scams, higher premiums and less coverage. Will the new law help the LGBT community?
Insurers will no longer be able to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions. More people with HIV should be able to get insurance without going into the unaffordable assigned-risk pool — should be able to get insurance, if there are enough safeguards in the law that will prevent insurance companies from raising premiums so high that an employer would have to drop coverage for everyone.
LGBT-specific provisions of the original bill are gone from the final version. One would have taxed domestic partner benefits equally with married opposite-sex couples. DP benefits will continue to be taxed as income. A provision prohibiting discrimination in health insurance based on “personal characteristics” was stripped from the Senate bill passed by the House yesterday. Also, Health and Human Services would have begun studies to end health disparities for people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.
And just because you have insurance, the law does not force insurance companies to actually pay claims. An example of insurance company fraud was detailed in this week’s Dallas Voice. Legitimate claims have simply been denied for certain types of care and some more expensive medication by Blue Cross of Texas.
The law does little to reign in costs. In California, for example, Anthem Blue Cross raised rates 39 percent this year in anticipation of this law passing. The law does nothing to restore affordable rates.
Parents will be able to keep children on their insurance until age 26. That will benefit some LGBT youth. The hope is that by age 26, younger people will get onto company health insurance plans. That also assumes most people going to work for large companies that can afford health insurance policies for their employees and does nothing for freelancers, entrepreneurs and others (like myself) who could never work in corporate America.
The law creates some health insurance exchanges that will come into effect in four years. Also, the government will underwrite insurance for small companies and individuals. That may help more people obtain coverage. I’m not sure this will work to make insurance affordable for those who are not now covered. That will be seen as these provisions are implemented.
One benefit of the new law is that I am expecting many of the most vocal bigoted opponents of this legislation to die of apoplexy today. Watch for Fox News-clown Glenn Beck to cry through his show today followed by his head exploding. And Rush Limbaugh promised to leave the country today.
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