HIPAA, The Glaring Omission

By Ross Schriftman, RHU, LUTCF, ACBC, MSAA

The day that the U.S. House of Representatives began debating repeal of Obamacare the Secretary of Health and Human Services released a report claiming that there are between 50 million and 129 million non-elderly Americans with pre-existing medical conditions.  According to the report many of 

I am not sure why there would be such a wide range in the numbers of people with pre-existing conditions in this report but even on the low end of 50 million the report indicates that we have high health care costs in this country because we have a lot of sick people.  If the report is correct adding the high number of uninsured with conditions to health insurance coverage will most certainly cost lots of money and will result in higher premiums for everyone.  You can say that the need to get these people covered is an admirable goal.  You can’t say at the same time that adding them will reduce costs.

Listening to the debate on repeal I heard one Democratic member of Congress after another claim that if someone changes jobs and has a pre-existing condition they couldn’t get coverage with their new employer or that condition would not be covered.  Between their statements and the report from the Administration there is not one word mentioned of the protections most Americans already had prior to the passage of last year’s massive “reform” bill.

Fifteen years ago the bipartisan Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was enacted.  This landmark legislation was also known as Kennedy (D-Mass.)/Kassebaum (R-Kansas)  The law guaranteed that if a person changed jobs the new employer’s health plan would cover them.  HIPAA eliminated pre-existing condition clauses for anyone who had coverage from their old employer for at least 18 months and didn’t have a break of more than 63 days in coverage.  It also required each state to set up mechanisms to provide that those who had group coverage could get individual coverage without being turned down or having a pre-existing condition clause applied under reasonable rules. In my state of Pennsylvania the Blue Cross Associations act as the insurer of last resort under HIPAA.

The omission of HIPAA in printed materials and debate by those who support Obamacare is a glaring and purposeful act.  It hurts the ability of millions of Americans to make informed decisions about their health, finances and careers.  For example a person who wanted to take a better job and has a sick child could listen to the debate and read the government report and unfortunately think that that the child’s condition would not be covered under the new employer’s health plan.  This person might then turn down the opportunity to get that better job.

Giving out wrong information by our government hurts the very people they claim that they want to help.  To the Republican members’ discredit I didn’t hear one word about HIPAA protections in their response during the debate.

Yes.  There are problems that need to be addressed with our current health care system.  But to make a case and tell people wrong information that can harm them is malpractice on the part of our government officials.



Was I Too Harsh?

By Greg Scandlen

My last post was pretty critical of the House Republicans in their debate over repealing ObamaCare. Was I too mean to them? Not at all. My skepticism about Republicans and health care is well-earned. Most of the leadership of the Republican Party over the past twenty years has been perfectly willing to discard free markets when it suits them.

I am reading George W. Bush’s book, “Decision Points.”  On page 46, he writes, “… I stood with Senators Pete Domenici and Ted Kennedy and signed a bill mandating that insurance companies cover treatment for people with mental illness.” Why did he do this? Because he once had a business partner, Rusty Rose, who had clinical depression. So, it didn’t matter a whit that signing this bill made coverage more expensive for working people, and increased the number of people who couldn’t afford to be covered at all. Good ol’ rich Rusty needed mental health services, so why not make those working stiffs pay for it?

In June of 2008, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and prospective candidate for the Republican nomination for president, said it was “fundamentally immoral” for anyone making over $75,000 a year to be uninsured. He was all for an individual mandate. Gingrich has also been a big proponent of government-mandated health information technology.

The front-runner for the Republican nomination, Mitt Romney, of course was the person who signed the Massachusetts mandate into law, and he defends it to this day. Granted he tries to wiggle out of any comparison of his plan and Obama’s plan, but really the only difference is that one is state and the other is federal. The workings of the two are otherwise identical, to the point that Romney’s point man on his plan, Jon Kingsdale, has written, “We should all feel very proud of having created the model for national health reform. The power of the Bay State’s example is enormously consequential. I believe that national reform would not have happened without it.”

Former Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is “is urging House Republicans to drop their effort to repeal the health care law,” according to NPR. He went on to wax euphoric over it, saying its elements “need to be preserved, need to be cuddled, need to be snuggled, need to be promoted and need to be implemented… I mean, what came out of Washington, D.C., the vision, the construct, the policy, is beautiful on paper…”

Bob Dole urged Republicans to help pass ObamaCare in October 2009, saying “This is one of the most important measures members of Congress will vote on in their lifetimes if we don’t do it this year I don’t know when we’re gonna do it.” This is the man Republicans chose as their standard bearer in 1996.

These have been the leaders of the Republican Party — former President, former presidential nominee, former speaker of the House, former Senate majority leader, and front-runner for the nomination in 2012.  All could care less about free markets in health care. All want Washington (or Boston) to dictate the health care system.

Fortunately, they are all former office holders. These are the people who destroyed the Republican brand after Ronald Reagan left office. They are the reason Republicans had lower approval ratings than even the Democrats in Congress.

Fortunately there is a new generation now in office. One example is Paul Ryan, who did exactly what needs to be done yesterday. See this short video of his statement during the debate.

These guys have one opportunity – just one – to show the country they have some principles and some spine.