published Monday, August 16th, 2010

Eve of change

Many still skittish on health care


by Emily Bregel
Audio clip

Claudia Deane

Allison Peters has deep misgivings about health care reform and its potential impact on spending — both the government’s and her own.

But her overriding feeling is one of uncertainty.

“Obviously there’s more to it that none of us know and probably won’t know until it happens,” said Peters, a former social worker and a stay-at-home mom in Chattanooga. “I think even the politicians don’t understand every little thing of it.”

She’s not alone. Five months after the landmark health care reform bill passed Congress, insurers, medical providers and residents are bracing for changes. But confusion reigns a month before some key components go into effect, according to Chattanooga residents and recent polls.

The most recent weekly Rasmussen Reports opinion poll shows that 55 percent of Americans favor repealing the health care bill and only 38 percent support it.

But monthly telephone surveys from the Kaiser Family Foundation — a health care nonprofit that supported the reform — found support remaining stable. The Kaiser survey showed opposition dropping 6 percentage points from June to July, to 35 percent.

ON THE WEB

healthcare.gov

WHAT’S COMING

* Up to 4 million small businesses are eligible for tax credits to help them provide insurance to workers. (Already in effect).

* Medicare enrollees who hit the “doughnut hole” — a gap in Medicare prescription drug coverage — will receive a $250 rebate. (Started in June.)

* Young adults up to age 26 can stay on their parents’ plan, unless they are offered insurance at work. (For new health plans that start after Sept. 23.)

* Insurers no longer can impose lifetime dollar limits on essential benefits. (For new health plans that start after Sept. 23.)

* Starting in 2014, if your employer doesn’t offer insurance, you will be able to buy insurance directly through an exchange, an insurance marketplace where individuals and small businesses can buy health plans that must meet certain cost and benefits standards.

Source: Healthcare.gov

The contradictory results largely come from how survey questions are phrased and details such as whether President Barack Obama’s name is used, Kaiser spokeswoman Claudia Deane said.

She said there has been no clear majority for or against the overall reform package, but there’s a clear partisan divide: Most Democrats support reform, and most Republicans reject it.

“What you’ll find is basically a pretty divided public on this law,” she said. “That was true before passage, and that’s been true since passage.”

Some polls find misconceptions about reform. A Kaiser survey found that more than 40 percent of Americans believe that “death panels” will make end-of-life decisions for families, which is untrue.

In a July poll, Harris Interactive found that 36 percent of respondents believe that the so-called “public option” — a government health plan to compete with private plans — is included in reform. That provision was removed from the legislation.

PROVISIONS TAKING EFFECT

Some of the easier-to-sell parts of reform are the first to take effect.

Checks for $250 are in the mail for seniors who are hitting Medicare’s prescription drug coverage gap, known as the “doughnut hole.” The White House says 4 million seniors will benefit.

For new health plans starting on or after Sept. 23, young adults up to age 26 can stay on their parents’ health plans if they can’t get insurance at work. Some insurers already have complied with this rule.

People who have been uninsured for at least six months because of a pre-existing medical condition will be guaranteed a place in state high-risk health insurance plans. That lasts until 2014, when insurers no longer can deny coverage based on health status.

Tennessee’s high-risk insurance pool, AccessTN, will run parallel to whatever federal plan is set up. Georgia officials are leaving it up to the federal government to bring a high-risk plan to the state.

For Chattanooga resident Denise Drake, a Cigna Healthcare employee, health care reform was long overdue.

“People are dying from things that could have been prevented,” Drake said. “It’s our duty to help people, as citizens.”

But Peters worries that reform will raise insurance premiums and balloon national health care expenditures.

“I worry about how it’s going to affect our paychecks,” she said.

Deane said polls show broad, bipartisan support for some parts of the reform law, such as the small business tax credit.

Other, more controversial pieces, such as one requiring people to buy insurance or be fined, won’t go into effect until 2014.

Earlier this month, 71 percent of Missouri voters favored a state measure to bar the government from enforcing mandatory coverage, The Associated Press reported.

St. Elmo resident Rodney Johnson, who works in customer service at a local paper company, said he strongly supports getting coverage for the uninsured, whose medical expenses often get passed along to other payers.

“It’s not free care. It’s getting paid for either by the state or by people like me who are actually paying premiums,” he said.

Click here to vote in our daily poll: Do you support health care reform?

Continue reading by following these links to related stories:

Article: A delicate balancing act

Article: Health care responses

about Emily Bregel...

Health care reporter Emily Bregel has worked at the Chattanooga Times Free Press since July 2006. She previously covered banking and wrote for the Life section. Emily, a native of Baltimore, Md., earned a bachelor’s degree in American Studies from Columbia University. She received a first-place award for feature writing from the East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists’ Golden Press Card Contest for a 2009 article about a boy with a congenital heart defect. She ...

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pamelajo said...

You guys should stop complaining cuz one the health care we have now isnt as good as it was supposed to be. also the law has just been signed give it a try u guys are too hard on democrats they went to college and we voted for most of these people.so if u want to say u have the right to choose tell that to ur congress men or state official. as for obama people are just tryin to make it look like america made a mistake he has done things to help us and we had a full 8 years of a terrible president and i will be so as happy as ever when a obama fixes bush's mistakes. You can find full medical coverage at the lowest price from http://bit.ly/9fDY7U . obama has to put up with the world judging his every move and trying to fix the mess we are in we are lucky anyone wants to be our president. STOP COMPLAINING AND GIVE HIM A BREAK. i wanna see one of yall do what he has done. some people are just so ignorant.

August 16, 2010 at 12:42 a.m.
tgarr2001 said...

Americans want security and want a fair system. Our current system was not providing this. No health care is free. Somebody somewhere is paying for your health care if you cannot afford it. In addition, health care in this country is too expensive. Our current system was not working very well for most Americans. It needed to be changed. Let's give it a chance. We want to know that if we do the right thing, pay our taxes, work everyday, then the insurance industry should not be able to deny you or me care. We all want security and we want to be treated fairly.

August 16, 2010 at 2:45 p.m.
Vigilante said...

Give it a chance? Seriously? Socialized medicine is failing in other countries - why don't we look at their results? This health care scheme is about politics.

Our health care system DOES need to be changed - no doubt about it. And the Republicans did nothing about it while they were in power. But this legislation will only succeed in putting insurance companies out of business - they have to be able to pay their employers. Then guess who will be our insurer? Yep, the Federal Government.

August 16, 2010 at 4:43 p.m.
hotdiggity said...

Vigilante, please explain how this legislation "will only succeed in putting insurance companies out of business".

August 16, 2010 at 5:05 p.m.
FM_33 said...

Drink some tea that's health care.

August 16, 2010 at 5:14 p.m.
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