Healthcare Law: Keep or repeal? | Dr. Petter
By DR. LINDA PETTER
Auburn Reporter Columnist
July 3, 2012 · Updated 5:50 PM
The Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Healthcare Act last week, ruling it a tax, and therefore constitutional.
What exactly is the additional tax that will be imposed on U.S. citizens, and can a person avoid paying this tax? What are the specific healthcare changes in the document ... what was omitted or avoided?
First, there are many rules considered positive in the healthcare document – here are four:
1. If you become seriously ill, develop a chronic condition, or cancer, your insurance company cannot drop your coverage.
2. Young adults can remain on their parents' insurance plan up until age 26.
3. Insurance companies cannot deny insurance coverage to children with pre-existing illness.
4. Insurance companies must offer "free" preventative care. However, this only applies to new policies or upgrades of existing polices, the exception being Medicare. But, what is the definition of "free?" Does it only refer to no co-pays when you see your doctor for a physical? What about age-appropriate screening tests (mammogram, bone density, blood work like cholesterol and blood sugar, colonoscopies, etc.), are these covered?
In 2014, there will be additional healthcare rules. Here are three important and major changes:
1. Insurance companies will no longer be able to deny any adult insurance coverage for pre-existing conditions.
2. Small businesses that employ 50 people or more must provide insurance for all their employees, or face a substantial fine.
3. An individual mandate will require all citizens to purchase and retain health insurance or face a substantial tax imposed and rigidly enforced by the IRS (Internal Revenue Service).
Many important healthcare issues were not addressed in the healthcare document – here are just three examples:
1. There is no cap on insurance premiums. As a result, your insurance premiums can increase up to 10 percent yearly, and this is legal.
2. It failed to address the doctor shortage. By the year 2014, there will be an influx of 32 million people into the insurance market looking for a primary care doctor, but there are not enough doctors to properly service this volume. Furthermore, by the year 2030, there is estimated to be a shortage of doctors reaching 500,000.
3. The healthcare document did not address tort reform or legal reform. One of the many issues is the cost of "defensive medicine" – which implies many doctors order more diagnostic test and procedures than necessary, in order to prevent being sued. As a result, consumers pay an estimated $1,700 to $2,000 additionally on health insurance annually.
Lastly, what exactly is this tax? Beginning in 2014, if an individual does not purchase and retain health insurance, there will be a substantial penalty. It will be 2.5 percent of your taxable income or $695.00, whichever is the greater amount. For examples, if your annual taxable income is $50,000, your yearly tax will be $1,250.
Is there a way this tax can be avoided? Yes, this tax, and therefore a more expensive healthcare system, can be avoided. How? The Supreme Court has left this decision up to the people's vote this coming election in November.
Dr. Linda Petter of Auburn is a weekly feature on KOMO TV/News Radio (1000 AM and 97.7 FM) every Saturday and Sunday 7:45 a.m. and 9:45 a.m., and on a weekday during the morning and evening commute. She trained at the Mayo Clinic and the University of Illinois, Carle Hospital. Dr. Petter is chief of the Department of Family Practice at St. Francis Hospital in Federal Way. She is a consumer healthcare advocate, and her books, "Healthcare On a Budget" and "Common Medical Sense", are available on Amazon.com. Visit her website, www.DocForAll.com, or call her office at 253-568-0841.Contact Auburn Reporter Columnist Dr. Linda Petter at www.DocForAll.com or 253-568-0841.