Resetting the health reform agenda

Friday, November 12, 2010

In the summer of 2009, President Obama pledged to America that if he succeeded in passing health reform, no one who liked their health plan would lose it.

Yet in Missouri, 128,000 seniors enrolled in Medicare Advantage will lose their plans due to the new health care law, according to the Heritage Foundation. It found Missouri's Medicare Advantage plans will be reduced by $3,631 annually prompting many insurance companies to cancel coverage.

Last week's election and the Republican takeover of the House may be good news for those who are upset about losing these Medicare plans. The election results will allow a new Congress to slow down implementation of these controversial parts of the Patient Protection and Affordability Act.

If the new Congress doesn't repeal the entire health care law, it may have the opportunity to pass individual bills that could address some of the most contentious provisions. It could also use its power to set the budget and halt funding of some sections of the new law and some of its 159 bureaus, agencies, offices and programs.

We at the Center for Health Transformation suggest that some of the top priorities that the new Congress should address are:

* Halt the $500 billion in planned cuts to Medicare Advantage. Let seniors sustain their current health plans as the president promised in 2009.

* Rescind the CLASS Act, a punitive payroll tax that will charge $150 to $240 a month per worker to finance long term care for individuals based on an employee's age.

* Repeal othertaxes including taxes on medical devices such as wheelchairs, hearing aids, prosthetic devices and eyeglasses.

* Cease the vast expansion of Medicaid, a program which currently serves low-income families with children. The new law would expand the eligibility to higher-incomes and include childless adults. In Missouri alone, there would be a 31 percent increase to almost 1.3 million MO HealthNet eligible residents. This would bankrupt states around the country once federal assistance runs out.

* Immediately eliminate the 1099 reporting requirement for businesses. Lawmakers decided to require that businesses must report all transactions of $600 or more and turn in all paperwork to the IRS.

When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democratic leaders would have to pass the new health care bill to discover what was in it, she literally meant what she said. Americans are discovering every day the side effects of what was included in this legislation. The outcome of last week's elections gives Congress a chance to hit the reset button and attempt to stop the implementation of some of these controversial proposals, regroup and present a sound health care plan that all of America can then agree to. This nation wants the right health care reform -- not one forced upon it.

Julie Eckstein is the former director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. She currently is a vice president at the Center for Health Transformation, founded by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

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