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Bush Vows Veto

August 2007 -- South Florida Edition

Bush Promises Veto of Affordable Florida Health Insurance Plan

[ The New York Times reported on Monday that the White House is making it harder for states to bring children from middle income families into the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Instead, the Bush administration, which is currently battling with US Congress over expansion of SCHIP, wants states to focus on making sure the program covers the poorest children first. ]

President Bush has said a number of times in the past few weeks that he will veto both pieces of health insurance legislation, and that his administration supports a policy of tax breaks to encourage families to buy private insurance. "The ultimate effect of this new policy is that tens of thousands of children who have health insurance will effectively lose that insurance,'' said Morgan Moran, health insurance consultant for www.FloridaHealthInsuranceWeb.com, a Florida-based consumer group, in a telephone interview today.

When Congress returns from recess next month, House and Senate Democratic leaders will seek a compromise between their separate measures to expand the health insurance measure called 'SCHIP' that can attract enough Republican support to override a veto from the president. Groups representing hospitals and nurses said Bush's plan to make health insurance more affordable won't work because the proposed tax breaks won't help people pay for coverage.

Health insurance consultant Moran said, Bush has proposed to "tax employer-provided health benefits" while offering deductions to encourage individuals to purchase medical coverage. Those buying insurance would be allowed a deduction of $7,500 for individuals and $15,000 for families. The presidents plan is intended to lower the number of Americans without medical insurance.

``Even with a tax break, coverage remains unaffordable and out of reach,'' the insurance consultant said today in a statement. The number of uninsured American's reached 46.6 million in 2005 and has grown every year of Bush's presidency, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Providing health care for the indigent has stretched Florida's and other states budgets, and unpaid bills are hurting operators of hospitals. The majority of families without medical insurance have at least one full-time worker, according to Census data. Full details on the story available at www.FloridaHealthInsuranceWeb.com/Bush_Health_Insurance_August.html

The President's latest attempt to deal with the nation's health-care problems is based on misconceptions about what causes people to seek care and, if enacted, might do more harm than good. Moran said, Instead of thinking about how to help "16 percent of the population without health insurance" to obtain it, Bush offered a complex plan to make people more conscious of the cost of health care. Predictably it centered on a tax cut, though a small group would pay more.

Administration officials estimate that 80 percent of employees would get a tax cut while the remainder would have some additional tax to pay. The latter group would be encouraged to buy less costly insurance -- perhaps with higher co-pays or a smaller network of health-care providers -- to avoid the added taxes, they say. Beginning in 2009, employers' costs of providing health insurance would become taxable income to employees for both income and payroll tax purposes. Now the value of this fringe benefit isn't taxed. At the same time, couples with health-insurance coverage -- whether provided by an employer or bought from an insurance company -- would get a new standard health-insurance deduction of $15,000 applicable to income and payroll taxes. Individuals would get a $7,500 deduction. The size of the deductions would be the same regardless of the actual cost of the insurance provided by employers or purchased privately.

Cost of `Generous'

The idea is that by 2009, a ``generous'' insurance policy will cost more than $15,000 for a family. If so, then taxes for such a family would go up because its taxable income would rise by more than $15,000.

Administration officials estimate that 80 percent of employees would get a tax cut while the remainder would have some additional tax to pay. The latter group would be encouraged to buy less costly insurance -- perhaps with higher co-pays or a smaller network of health-care providers -- to avoid the added taxes, they say.

The availability of the deductions is also supposed to encourage about 3 million people without health insurance to buy it, a very small fraction of the uninsured. Katherine Baicker, a member of Bush's Council of Economic Advisers, told reporters at a White House briefing on Jan. 22 that the overall impact of the Bush proposal would be to reduce health-care consumption, increase competition among providers and lower prices.

The `Bang'

``And then in the long run, it will affect the development of more cost-effective health technology,'' Baicker said. ``And that's your real bang for the buck.'' ``Putting all of that together, our best guess is that within the medium-term, you're talking about lowering health expenditures, as a share of GDP, by about half a percentage point, and that's a lot of money,'' she said. Based on my family's consumption of health care over the years, all those arguments strike me as wishful thinking at best. Whether for me, my wife or my two children, who are now adults, our decisions to seek care have been driven entirely by need, not whether we happened to have a gold-plated insurance policy. The only way in which having high co-pays or otherwise limited coverage is likely to deter someone seeking care is, if in the absence of better insurance, one simply can't afford the cost.

Tax and Risk

And what are the incentives in the Bush proposal to purchase a less comprehensive plan? Suppose such a plan would cost $20,000, so that a purchaser would have $5,000 more in taxable income. For a taxpayer in the 15 percent bracket, that would be an additional $750 in tax. To avoid that added tax, how much risk would someone have to accept? Younger, healthier people would probably be much more willing to accept that risk than someone older or in poor health. Furthermore, how many people would be able to make an intelligent choice given such alternatives? In support of the Bush proposal, administration officials also argue that it's unfair for people who have employer-provided health insurance to get that tax-free benefit while others buying health coverage don't get a similar break. To some extent that's true. The answer, however, isn't to create a new tax break much more valuable to higher-income families than those who don't earn enough to owe any income tax. And particularly not when, in the process, adoption of the proposal would further undermine the nation's already faltering employer-based health-care system.

Nurses Speak

The California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee, representing 75,000 nurses across the U.S., said it opposes the administration's proposal because it ``will encourage people to buy cut-rate plans with high out-of pocket costs.''

America's Health Insurance Plans, the largest trade group for insurance providers, said it supports the idea of tax incentives to encourage people buy insurance, without endorsing the plan. The group said members of Congress also had proposals and that a serious discussion of all options was needed. ``Overall, as a concept we support it,'' said Mohit Ghose, spokesman for the insurance trade group. ``The devil is in the details.''

Health insurance stocks fell for a fifth-straight day. The six-member Standard & Poor's 500 Managed Health Care Index slipped 0.4 percent. The 55-member Standard & Poor's 500 Health- Care Facilities Index, with three members, fell 1.1 percent. Seven of the nine stocks represented in those indexes fell today.

`Deserves Consideration'

Larry Glasscock, chief executive officer of WellPoint Inc., said the president's proposal is ``constructive'' and ``deserves a thorough review and consideration by all the stakeholders.'' Indianapolis-based WellPoint, the second-largest health insurer behind UnitedHealth Group Inc., today said spending to cover medical expenses of people in its insurance plans was higher than it projected because of costs for government programs. ``We're delighted that the issue of the uninsured is being put on the table,'' Glasscock said on a conference call. ``At the end of the day, we think there is tremendous opportunity in having more Americans covered. That will be good for our business.''

Ron Williams, the chairman and CEO of Hartford, Connecticut- based Aetna Inc., called the proposal a ``good start'' in a statement yesterday and said a mechanism was needed to finance coverage for ``those who truly cannot afford it.''

Tax Reform

Bush said changing the tax code would make health insurance more affordable for individuals who don't get it through their employers. Some economists questioned whether the Bush proposal will give people enough of a tax break to help them buy insurance. Individual policies can be expensive and difficult to get, especially for those with chronic conditions or serious illnesses. Employer-provided benefits tend to be cheaper, because employers pool risks across large numbers of workers. The tax deduction will give people extra money that they can use for health insurance, assuming they can find the policies. ``I don't think Bush's plan is the panacea,'' said Paul Fronstin, director of health research at the Employee Benefit Research Institute, a nonpartisan Washington-based research group. ``There's still a major affordability issue.'' Bush's proposal may face a long fight in the Democratic- controlled Congress. Some members have said the plan is flawed. It's unclear whether the plan even will be debated in Congress, one industry analyst said. ``Even if Congress doesn't treat this proposal as dead on arrival, I cannot see how it would achieve the end goal of insuring people in the United States,'' said Sheryl Skolnick, an analyst with CRT Capital Group LLC. To get people to pay for insurance, they need to have the cash in hand, she said.

Florida Health Insurance Web

Morgan Moran --- (800) 554-9142

Medical insurance costs have doubled in the last few years, and because of that a lot of people think they can't afford to be covered. Other people feel they don't need it because they're healthy and won't be stricken with a major medical problem. Wrong on both counts.

Fact is, we all need medical insurance and there are ways to get a cheap medical insurance rate.

Cheap Medical Insurance


If you're in a low income bracket, your state has a Medicaid program that will provide medical insurance for you and your family if your qualify. Medicaid medical insurance provides coverage for dental care, eye care, health care, and prescription drugs. For information on Medicaid medical insurance, call or visit your nearest Division of Family Services office for details.

If you don't qualify for Medicaid, your next step is to go shopping for an inexpensive health care plan. There are two types of insurance that offer the most benefits for the least amount of money - HMOs and PPOs:

HMOs (Health Maintenance Organizations)

HMOs charge a fixed monthly fee for which they provide medical services that include doctor visits, hospitalization, surgery, and prescription drug coverage. Members must choose a primary car physician who oversees their health care, and they can only receive medical treatment from doctors and facilities that are part of the HMO's network.

PPOs (Preferred Provider Organizations)

PPOs are similar to HMOs in that you receive medical services through a prescribed network of physicians and facilities. But unlike HMOs, members do not need to get permission from their primary care physician to see a specialist. PPOs cost about 5% more than HMOs.

Cheap Medical Insurance Rates

You can call local insurance companies or go to individual insurance sites to get medical insurance rate quotes, but the easiest way to get quotes is to go to an insurance comparison website.

Insurance comparison sites let you get quotes from a number of insurance companies. You want to get at least three quotes, then choose the quote that's best for your circumstances. If you have any questions about health insurance, the better comparison sites have insurance professionals on hand who can answer them.

Facing growing consumer concern over soaring costs, America's health insurers are more eager to participate in reform now than in the 1990s, but they will still fight any attempt to reduce their profits, policy experts say.

"If reform means requiring insurers to be much more efficient and would affect their bottom line, they'd probably oppose it," said Robert Laszewski, a health-care consultant at Alexandria, Virginia-based Health Policy and Strategy Associates who has covered the sector for three decades.

"Like any stakeholder in reform, the industry would resist any demand that they change their behavior."

The spiraling cost of health care has risen to the top of voters' domestic concerns in national polls, and health insurers have been lambasted in filmmaker Michael Moore's new documentary, SiCKO.

Unlike a decade ago, big business, consumers and unions say the growing crisis in America's health-care system, which is dominated by the private sector, must be dealt with. And the insurance lobby has stepped forward with a plan that includes tax credits and subsidies, which it says will cover 45 million uninsured Americans.

It's a stark contrast to 1993, when former first lady and current Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's sweeping universal health-care plan was roundly rejected after she failed to elicit critical feedback from those outside the administration or from the industry.

The powerful insurance lobby reacted with a now-infamous television campaign using actors portraying a middle-class American couple, "Harry and Louise," who were perplexed and annoyed at the perceived complexity of the plan.

"The health insurance industry paid a big price for that campaign," said Nancy Chockley, head of the National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation. "They didn't get reform of the system and came to be seen as the enemy."

The problem of spiraling health-care costs has worsened since then. Some 44.8 million Americans, or about 14 percent of the population, lacked health insurance in 2005, up from 39.7 million in 1994. Meanwhile, Americans have seen double-digit annual increases in their health insurance costs.

Health Insurance Expert Darlene Kaitlin recently said at a conference on health insurance, " We all have often heard and quoted the adage 'health is wealth'. But, what exactly is the essence behind this popular and commonly used saying? Its essence can be best explained by a person who has all the money in the world, but at the same time is afflicted with an incurable disease. All his wealth cannot give him the satisfaction or the contentment that comes from living life to the fullest and in the bets of health. In today's fast paced modern lifestyle, we often ignore God's most precious gift to us, our health. With medical facilities advancing, but the cost of availing them hitting the roof, a medical insurance policy is the best way to deal with medical exigencies.

The main requirement in order to avail the best medical facilities and attention, apart from well equipped hospitals and good doctors is finance. Sometimes due to a sudden health problem or complication developed by a person, or even an unfortunate accident or mishap may require immediate medical attention, a surgery or even a prolonged treatment. In all these cases immediate arrangement of finances is extremely necessary to ensure and facilitate medical aid. A medical insurance policy makes sure that the necessary financial help is available to the insured in times of need.

Most medical insurance policies cover small and minor ailments, while there are a few that do touch upon critical illnesses. The policy covers all the expenses incurred staying in a hospital room and all other expenses of medication as well as the doctor's personal visitation and consultation fees. The best part is that medical insurance can even be used by the insured to bail out his family members and other relatives out of health issues as well. These days insurance companies also provide travel medical insurance to cover any medical problems that may occur while travelling.

People are becoming increasingly aware of their health issues and wish to avail the best facilities available in medical care. The assistance rendered by a medical insurance policy has been proven, hence this is the reason that more and more people are availing the policies that cover medical needs and expenses.

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