Bill intends to extend dependent health insurance coverage to age 30

Democratic Senator Jim Brochin of Baltimore County has sponsored a bill that will allow individuals aged 25 to 29 to be covered by their parents’ medical insurance. However, members of insurance industry have confided to the Senate Finance Committee that this expansion could cause employers to stop coverage and insurance providers to increase their rates.
 
The bill will compel insurance providers in group and individual markets to lengthen the age of eligibility of dependents for medical insurance to 30 years old. On the other hand, it will exempt small companies that have 50 or less workers.
 
A fiscal expert has projected that the bill will cost Maryland $3.8 million in 2011, and by 2015, the cost will reach $24 million. This is due to the fact that eligibility keeps on growing as well as medical costs rising.
 
Brochin refuted these claims in a hearing on Wednesday. He insisted that people who are in their mid to late 20s are generally quite healthy.
 
Maryland Chamber of Commerce’s Ron Winehold said that his organization did not object the expansion of eligibility of dependents to 25 years because the General Assembly approved it in 2007. However, he commented that increasing the age to 30 is not feasible.
 
Prior to 2007, children could be covered by their parents’ medical insurance until they the age of 19 and in the case of college students, they were eligible until they were 23. The 2007 legislation has permitted dependents to be covered until they are 25, whether they are students or not. 

Bill pushes for equal treatment for chemotherapies

The American Cancer Society said that the medical bills of cancer patients who depend on oral chemotherapy for treatment accumulates much faster than cancer patients who receive intravenous chemotherapy as treatment.
 
The American Cancer Society’s Dana Dzwonkowski mentioned that under various health plans, expenses can reach as high as $9,000 each month for a treatment such oral chemotherapy. This treatment, in most instances, belongs to the pharmacy benefits of a patient, and it is not subjected to the stipulations of a plan on health insurance, she added. 
 
Relative to this, Representatives John Kefalas and Randy Fischer have affixed their signatures on House Bill 1202, with the conviction that this can help the financial problems of patients undergoing oral chemotherapy. The American Cancer Society further said that patients who undergo such treatment comprise 15 to 20 percent of all patients with cancer.
 
The bill is set to require all medical insurance plans that cover intravenous chemotherapy medication to offer coverage for oral chemotherapy medication under a similar patient cost.
 
Kefalas said that the bill “creates greater equity, and it helps cancer patients because a lot of times insurance plans don’t cover oral chemotherapy.”
 
Moreover, Fischer stated that he signed the legislation because he is convinced that chemotherapy must be covered by insurance schemes, despite the kind of technology utilized.
 
Dzwonkowski said that, “There are a lot more situations now where oral chemo-therapy is the only kind of chemotherapy that can treat some kinds of cancer.” She added that oral cancer medicines are very expensive, and only two of these generic drugs are available in the market. 

Bills to provide medical insurance coverage for autistic children being pushed

Lawmakers in Missouri are closing in on their goal to ensure that medical insurance providers offer coverage for autistic children. On Wednesday, the Senate and House committees voted to pass legislations that would ensure coverage for treatment and diagnosis for persons up to 21 years old.
 
Gov. Jay Nixon has expressed his concern on this medical issue in his State of the State speech wherein he said that, "Children with autism shouldn't have to wait for their parents to come up with the cash or for insurance companies to grow a conscience."
 
Rep. Kevin Wilson, chairman of the House Health Insurance Committee, mentioned that an undisputed bipartisan backing for autism legislation is prevalent in the committee. The committee also modified bills that were previously submitted to form a new legislation which contained a ranked approach to insurance coverage. If approved, this new legislation would give younger children more benefits in comparison with young adults and teenagers. 
 
Rep. Dwight Scharnhorst is hoping that he can negotiate some changes to the new legislation when it will be submitted to the conference committee. "They're out there struggling and in need, and we've got a lot of little people that we want to make sure that they have the opportunity to have a value of life comparable to anyone else and hopefully an improvement," he said.
 
It is thought that one in every 110 children in the United States have some form of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Blue Care ends acquisition plan of Physicians Health Plan of Mid-Michigan
In an unexpected turnaround, Blue Care Network in Southfield, Michigan, has ended its plan to purchase Physicians Health Plan of Mid-Michigan for 45 million dollars from Lansing-based Sparrow Health System.
Ever since, Attorney General Mike Cox of Michigan and competing health plans have objected that the merger would lessen competition and result to higher costs of health care.
Officials from Sparrow and Blue Cross argued that the acquisition would raise the benefits of both plans’ subscribers by cutting down administrative costs and enhancing services.
Sparrow and Blue Cross believed that the deal would be given regulatory clearance last year. However, a joint statement of the two companies concluded that the deal would not be granted clearance without litigation.
Blue Care President Kevin Klobucar said that unless they could get a federal clearance over a short time, which they have been warned impossible, “a prolonged period of uncertainty would be extremely difficult for client employers, health plan members and employees at both organizations”.
“It was not a desire of either organization to continue to focus our time and resources to litigate this matter”, he further exclaimed.
In a statement, CEO of Physicians Health Plan, Scott Wilkerson, said that PHP intends to continue serving its members.
“Despite this outcome, we are pleased that PHP has operated on a business-as-usual mindset throughout this lengthy regulatory process”, he stated.
According to him, the customer-focused strategy of the company has allowed them to continue to offer “high-quality, cost-effective care that people have come to expect from our award-winning health plan”.

Business groups introduce ad campaign against healthcare reform
Major business groups announced on Tuesday a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign to oppose President Barack Obama’s healthcare bill as it draws nearer in a make-or-break voting in the House.
The ad buy, amounting from $4 million to $10 million, is set to start on nationwide cable outlets Wednesday. Later this week, the campaign will shift to around 17 states home to conservative and moderate Democrats. Their votes are vital to the president’s endgame for passing the bill to overhaul the health insurance industry and expand coverage.
The ad comes as Obama builds up momentum in his last healthcare drive. However, congressional Democrats still lack votes to pass the bill, and they are encouraging several of the same legislators targeted by business groups.
Health insurance firms, criticized by Obama regarding a recent wave of premium increases, help in paying for the ads, claimed US Chamber of Commerce’s top lobbyist Bruce Josten, who coordinates the campaign.
“Health care costs will go even higher under this bill, making things even more difficult for business,” he said. “We are trying to tell Congress to stop with this bill and start over, and get it moving in a direction that makes it more affordable.”
Jeri Kubicki, an expert in employee benefits with manufacturing groups, said that employers are holding up the hiring of new employees due to concerns that the passage of the bill would increase their costs.
The ad’s script says: “Health care costs will go even higher, making a bad economy worse.” It advises the public to tell their lawyers: “Stop this health care bill we can't afford to pay.”
The president’s health plan would not demand companies to grant coverage to their employees; however, it would increase the fees of firms, whose employees would get taxpayer-subsidized policies with the new medical insurance market.

California lawmakers open hearing for insurer rate increase
California lawmakers said on Tuesday that they were surprised by the attempt of Anthem Blue Cross to raise individual insurance premiums by around 39% during a time when the policyholders are striving to pay for health coverage.
A hearing was opened by the Assembly Health Committee to look into the proposal of the largest for-profit health insurance provider in California.
The increase is to take effect on 1 May and will likely affect over 700,000 individual insurance policyholders in the state.
The hearing came in amid an intense national debate on healthcare reform and a day prior to the congressional committee is set to question WellPoint Inc. – Anthem’s parent company.
“How are Californians supposed to afford health insurance with these rate increases?” asked Democratic Assemblyman Dave Jones from Sacramento, California, upon starting the hearing. “What level of profit is enough?”
Jones, who is the committee’s chairman, said that the state could not wait for the federal government to take action.
California has an obligation to protect its businesses and consumers from “outrageous rate increases”, he explained.
According to Anthem, it needs to boost premiums partly because healthier, younger individuals have been abandoning health insurance coverage since the recession, passing it on a group of policyholders who are older and much more in need of healthcare services.
The most recent increase would total to 25%; however, for those who have acquired individual policies, it could reach to 39%.
The firm’s 7.3 million remaining policyholders in California are within employer-sponsored schemes and will not be affected, said Anthem’s spokeswoman Kristin Binns.
Author: Mark Kelsey

Cerro Gordo County changes retiree medical insurance policy for new employees
The supervisors in Cerro Gordo County in Iowa, US, agreed on Tuesday that individuals employed after July 10th will not be entitled to the health insurance offered to early retirees.
The health insurance of employees taking an early retirement – those aged 58 with 30 years of service or aged 62 with 20 years of service – has been paid by the county until they were eligible for Medicare under a scheme that was launched in 1998.
The insurance policy only included the employees. If they wanted their family to be covered, they needed to pay an extra amount.
According to County Administrative Officer Tom Drzycimski, after 1 July, the insurance coverage would still be accessible to retirees and current employees hired before July 10th, provided that they conform to the minimum eligibility requirements.
He stated that the Government Accounting Standards Board is now requiring local governments to pay for future financial liabilities such as the early retirement program’s insurance policies.
“In order to limit our obligations over time, the county decided to discontinue the program”, Drzycimski further explained.
In a related issue, he told the county supervisors that elected officials, their deputies, and non-bargaining workers will experience an increase of 4.9% in insurance premiums for their family. Cerro Gordo County would continue to pay the employees’ premium on single-coverage.
Employees in the county with family insurance policies will see an increase in their contribution from $234 to $245.60 per month.

Democrats planning ahead of health summit
Congressional Democrats, still holding slight hope for the televised bipartisan summit on medical care, are ready to try a more comprehensive bill in the next few weeks without even one Republican vote.
A bipartisan cooperation appears to be highly unlikely, said the members of the two parties on Wednesday. The insurance reform procedures the Republicans might endorse need Democratic-backed measures that the GOP greatly opposes, like government subsidies to allow low-income Americans to purchase health coverage.
Senator John Cornyn of Texas said that the White House’s health reform program “displaces Texas' priorities with Washington's priorities”.
According to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, with Democrats reluctant to start from scratch, “I think it's nearly impossible to imagine a scenario under which we could reach an agreement”.
With these remarks, Democratic leaders say that they are hoping to convince House Democrats to take back their objections and support a health bill passed by the Senate last December. In return, the Senate Democrats would be compelled to agree to make several changes under the Senate budget reconciliation policy, which stops GOP delaying strategies.
On Wednesday, the Democrats easily closed on one of the more famous health care concern, as the House had voted 406-19 against the exemption of the health insurance industry from federal antitrust error. Independent experts greatly agree that the change would have the least effect, partly due to the regulatory role the states are already playing.
“In Texas alone, we have seen insurance industry premiums increase by 104 percent since 2000. It's time to open markets and block closed-door collusion”, said Central Texas Representative Lloyd Doggett on Wednesday.
Author: Van Kelsey

Experts say that removing health insurers' antitrust protection will minimally affect consumers

This week, the House of Representatives is planning to cast their vote on – and probably pass – a bill which aims to remove the antitrust protection of health insurers. This is considered as Congress’ initial step in its desire to overhaul the health care system of the US.
 
Independent experts said that the plan to eliminate the 65-year-old exemption will not affect consumers that much. Center for Studying Health System Change’s Paul Ginsburg stated, “I don’t think this will have much effect. This is strictly political posturing.”
 
This action of the House is done to reactivate the stalled efforts of Congress on medical care. The health plans were greatly affected when Republican Scott Brown won the senatorial race in Massachusetts, once occupied by Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy. 
 
Dialogues on health care reforms have been initiated by the Senate and House Democratic leaders; however, not much progress has been achieved. 
 
Boston University’s Austin Frakt said, “The market power of insurers has been blamed for increased health insurance premiums." He also said that the rising costs emanate from the money which goes through insurance associations to providers of health care, such as hospitals and doctors.
 
Ginsburg has also mentioned that insurers are now prohibited from conspiring to merge and from increasing their prices. 
 
Moreover, the bill will have a hard time in the Senate. Leaders of the House note that putting an end to the antitrust exemption will help consumers. They are also hoping that the health care initiative will benefit freshmen Democrats, who will be judged in the elections in November. 

Fair Lawn Prepares to Change Health Insurance Plan

A proposed health insurance plan for the employees of Fair Lawn Borough, New Jersey could take effect on April 1.
 
Borough Manager Joanne Kwasniewski, in a letter addressed to borough workers, said that the agreement between Insurance Design Administrators (IDA) and the borough relating to a self-insurance program will be laid out for approval through via resolution at the council meeting on February 9.
 
Borough authorities recognized the proposed change to a self-insurance program at the council’s meeting on January 25 while trying to control concerns between the local unions regarding changes to their health benefits.
 
The present union contracts allow the borough to change the medical insurance scheme; however, the borough must offer "equivalent or better coverage" in any program of insurance.
 
Kwasniewski said, "I want to emphasize again that the exact same benefits that are provided in the Horizon (Blue Cross and Blue Shield) plan will be the benefits provided under the borough’s self insurance program."
 
Mayor Joe Tedeschi said that the borough’s present insurer, Horizon Blue Cross and Blue Shield, has planned to raise its rate in 2010 by 25%. This influenced the borough to consider a self-financed insurance plan. Tedeschi has projected that the borough can save $1 million under the new insurance plan.
 
Robert Ventrella of IDA mentioned in an interview that if his company’s arrangement with the borough will be formalized, IDA would then proceed to cover about 350 borough employees under the specifications of the borough. 

Health care bill is the issue, not the process, says Gibbs
Press Secretary Robert Gibbs explained on Tuesday that the White House would not mind to see the House employ a legislative approach that would let the Democrats vote on changes to the health care bill of the Senate, but not on the bill itself.
"There are I'm sure those that are going to want to make this about the legislative process rather than the heart-wrenching stories of people like Natoma Canfield," Gibbs said. Canfield is a woman from Ohio who was diagnosed with leukaemia after she dropped her health insurance for the plan had become very expensive.
The process being discussed is referred to as ‘deem and pass.’ It allows the House to pass changes and forward them to the Senate, while considering the original bill to have been ratified.
According to Republican critics, the idea is more like a ‘demon pass’ or a devilish effort to evade recorded votes concerning the Senate bill’s more controversial matters, such as special deals with certain states and abortion language.
"The majority plans to force the toxic Senate bill through the House under some controversial trick," Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner said. "There is no way to hide from this vote."
Gibbs said that Republicans made use of the ‘deem and pass’ in times of congressional majorities.
‘Deem and pass’ is also included in the ‘budget reconciliation’ process, which has also been the subject of debate of different political parties.
Through ‘deem and pass,’ Senate Democrats would be allowed to sign off in a final health care reform bill by keeping away from a Republican filibuster.

Health care reform will push forward, says Hoyer
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer promised on CBS’s ‘Face the Nation’ on Sunday that the health care reform would push forward after the historic bipartisan healthcare summit on Thursday with US President Barack Obama.
“We're going to move ahead”, he said in the interview with Bob Schieffer. According to him, the reform on health plans is essential as it will bring down health costs. “We think it will improve the health of America”.
The House’s number two Democrat described Thursday’s summit as ‘extraordinary’.
“I can't remember a similar meeting held by any president, certainly in the 30 years I've been in Congress”, he said. “It was a civil and substantive discussion. I think the American public got the impression that very serious debate and discussion and there were differences”.
However, Hoyer avoided questions on whether there had been enough votes in the House of Democrats to pass the outlined health plans. Although a reform package was approved in the chamber in November, several analysts believe that it may be difficult to acquire the votes next time.
“I don't think we have the votes in terms of a specific proposal because there's not a specific proposal on the table yet”, Hoyer added.
He said he believes that a specific proposal would be set forth within the next two weeks, and then the Democrats would start counting the votes for the bill.
The House Majority leader appeared on the ‘Face the Nation’ program together with Senate Democrat Kent Conrad of North Dakota, as well as Republicans Representative Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.

Healthcare provision extends coverage
The new healthcare reform will allow young people to be covered under the medical insurance plan of their parents until aged 26, a provision a healthcare policy expert and GW professor says will greatly help college students.
At present, young individuals over 22 years old are unable to receive healthcare through the insurance plan of their parents, placing a large burden on many college students – both in the graduate and the undergraduate level – to find coverage amid the increasing tuition cost.
“Private health insurance that the parents have will now include dependents up to the age of 26, so generally speaking students and young adults who've graduated from school may still be eligible for coverage under their parents' policy”, said health policy professor Leighton Ku of the School of Public Health and Health Services. “So that's really great for students”.
He said majority of students at the George Washington University are in favour of this part of the health insurance legislation, adding that most students are usually misinformed or uninformed of the bill’s effects.
This provision may also influence 10% of GW students who acquire health insurance from the Student Health Services, claimed Dr. Isabel Goldenberg, director of SHS. Students may now be covered by their parents’ health insurance, making the SHS insurance unnecessary.
According to Goldenberg, students must evaluate all their healthcare options before calling off their SHS plan, as the dependent’s age extension will only take effect after a few months.
“Students should review their family's policy if they are under age 26 and compare cost, benefits and access to health care to make an informed decision about the best coverage”, she said.
Author: Van Kelsey

HealthNow extends self-insured service

HealthNow New York is spreading out its local third-party administrator based in Pennsylvania to cover national operation. It hopes to take advantage of the growing trend of employers in self-insuring their corresponding healthcare costs, although they are in need of someone to administer their health plans.
 
The Buffalo, New York-based parent company of Blue-Cross BlueShield of Western New York is establishing a new company, HealthNow Administrative Services, to offer outsourcing and administrative services covering self-financed benefit plans.
 
HealthNow already acquired Philadelphia-based Brokerage Concepts in 2006. During that time, it was already serving 900,000 participants and 5,000 clients.
 
The company noted that the new company will handle clients in the mid-Atlantic states and New England, while Brokerage Concepts will continue to operate in Pennsylvania.
 
It has also started trading employee benefit services and products across the US. It aims to develop a business which can cover the whole country.
 
HealthNow Chief Executive Officer Alphonso O’Neil-White said, “We believe there’s a significant market out there.”
 
The company has already opened a client and sales administration department in Dallas to serve the Southwest. Additional staffs are also deployed in Phoenix, Louisville and Boston to aid with countrywide services and marketing. O’Neil-White cited Arizona, Kentucky, Texas and California as among the states that are attractive. This development in HealthNow’s operations focuses on broadening its services and products to stay competitive, particularly with national insurers. 

Hill Physicians in negotiations over PIMG merger
Hill Physicians Medical Group, Northern California’s largest Independent Practice Association (IPA), and the Physicians Integrated Medical Group are under negotiations regarding a merger, said both groups on Monday.
Brisbane-based PIMG represents around 500 doctors practicing in San Mateo County and San Francisco; while the San Ramon-based Hill, headed by CEO Steve McDermott, constitutes around 3,000 physicians in Northern California situated mostly in the Sacramento region, the Bay Area, and the Central Valley.
The merger received a unanimous approval from PIMG’s board of directors, which recommended this move last week to its IPA members, they said.
Plans involve the suspension of PIMG’s independent operations by midyear, “enabling a smooth transition of physicians and members”, explained PIMG Chief Executive James Rodriguez in a statement.
“This orderly transition will enable each of our patients the opportunity to remain with their primary care physician and positions our physicians to realize the benefits that come with being part of a nationally recognized, geographically broad medical group”, he said. “I believe it is likely that most of PIMG’s primary care and specialty physicians will make the move to Hill Physicians Medical Group”.
According to Rodriguez, around one-third of IPA’s doctors in Brisbane already have medical group affiliation with Hill; thus, expanding the association is natural. Of its 500 physicians, PIMG considers 300 to be the group’s core members.
PIMG, which was established in 1995 to offer care to San Francisco Health Plan members, also provides PPO and HMO coverage to patients through Aetna, PacifiCare, Health Net, Blue Shields of California, and Anthem Blue Cross, as stated in its website.
Meanwhile, Hill is already the largest IPA in the region, constituting 3,000 physicians on health plan contracting as well as other business transactions, and providing around 300,000 HMO enrollees.

Illinois governor will support healthcare reforms
Illinois will not be trying to impede the implementation of the new healthcare reform bill passed by Congress.
Governor Pat Quinn claims he welcomes the new reforms, unlike several other American states. “We aren't going to be dragging our feet, whinning and complaining,” he explained. “We [want] this to be a reality...we want to save money for families and businesses.”
The Illinois governor said that the residents of the state will benefit in several ways. “It's going to eliminate things like pre-existing conditions as a basis of denial or exclusion... it will lead to more equal pricing and price stability, we'll get more for our insurance premiums that we're getting today.”
Quinn went on to say, “Unwarranted rescissions in insurance policies will be prohibited and it will help families in Illinois with their financial security.” According to him, the major cause of bankruptcy in families is unexpected medical expenses.
Quinn added that the new reforms should also require free wellness programs to be set up by health insurance companies, to help promote health and hopefully reduce health related problems.
When implemented, the reform will expand Medicaid. Quinn does not believe that adding participants to the health care rolls will add to the state’s deficit; however, he says that cost estimates are yet to be completed.
The governor admits that the new reforms are not flawless and still have a long way to go; nevertheless, he looks forward to working with US President Barack Obama on their implementation.
By: Van Kelsey

Individual Health Insurance Costs to Increase
Consumers in a minimum of four states who purchase their own medical insurance are being burdened with 15% or more premium increases. It is said that consumers in others states might also experience the same predicament.
WellPoint Inc.’s subsidiary Anthem Blue Cross has been criticized by politicians and regulators for the past week because it has notified its individual policy holders, numbering to 800,000, in California that it is planning to increase rates by possibly 39% on March 1.
The Indianapolis-based WellPoint stressed that it must increase its rates because the low economy has caused fewer people to remain in California’s individual insurance market. Added to this, a great number also have critical health problems. The company said that their healthcare costs have risen because the fees of healthcare providers have also increased and diagnostic tests have been commonly used.
In Oregon, various insurers were allowed to implement a 15% increase this year. This came after a 25% increase had been assigned last year to customers who buy individual health insurance, instead of acquiring the coverage through their respective employers.
Moreover, premiums are more unstable for individual policies in comparison with those purchased by large groups and employers. And as more individuals become unemployed, the healthy ones have opted not to have health insurance, reducing the number of premiums acquired by insurers.
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ Sandy Praeger said on Friday that increases of 20% to 30% will be observed on individual health plans in the near future. She noted that most states do not have the legal power to reduce or block the rate of increases on health insurance.

Insurance commissioner clarifies health care reform
Sandy Praeger, the insurance commissioner of Kansas, has spoken out to help clarify the confusion that surrounds the new healthcare reform.
Among the things consumers will immediately notice include health insurance firms not being able to set a lifetime or annual cap on the cost they should pay out in covering health care.
The federal government will provide states billions of dollars to aid in lowering the premiums for individuals with pre-existing health conditions, since insurance firms can no longer reject coverage based on the health history of a person.
Children up to 26 years old will be covered by the health plans of their parents. Individuals who are on Medicaid will be eligible to get drug discounts and more people will be entitled for health care as the requirements ease up.
Some parts of the healthcare plan claim that all routine medical examinations, such as immunizations, will be administered for free. Consumers will no longer need to have a co-pay for preventative visits to doctors.
In covering the national healthcare program’s cost, everyone will have to acquire medical insurance. While several individuals are dismayed by this requirement, authorities said that it is vital for the plan to work.
“If they can't exclude you from a pre-existing condition, you just wait until you're sick to buy the coverage so you really need to have a requirement that everyone has to have the coverage,” said Praeger, speaking to KCTV 5 News.
Officials still do not know the exact cost for consumers each year; however, they hope that the competition as well as adding 32 million uninsured individuals to the health plans will, maintain the low cost.

Insurance costs increase up to 60% in Illinois, says senator
As the debate on national healthcare advances in Washington, Illinois residents are experiencing an abrupt increase in medical insurance costs.
Insurance companies in Illinois are increasing their premiums by up to 60% – during a time when they are also enjoying their profits at maximum, according to Senator Dick Durbin, an advocate of President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform bill.
“For those who say go slow, I can tell them this -- the health insurance companies aren't going slow when it comes to raising premiums”, said the Illinois senator at a press conference on Sunday.
According to him, passing the healthcare reform bill would help in changing the existing system, which permits medical insurance to earn while the patients suffer.
”Families are facing skyrocketing costs”, said Durbin. “Emergency rooms are overflowing. Health centers are struggling to meet the increasing demand. Yet insurance companies continue to raise premiums for hardworking families and, consequently, their profit margins”.
Over the past ten years, insurance premiums throughout the country have increased by 131%, while the wages have increased by only 38%, explained the senator. The cost crunch implies that an average of around 11,000 workers in America lose their insurance coverage each day; while the top ten health insurance firms, on the other hand, saw their profits increase by 250% over the last ten years.
Durbin said in a statement that the profits of insurance companies are “the only thing rising faster than insurance company premiums”.
President Obama’s bill will eliminate the unexplained and unprecedented increase in premiums and end the abuses of insurance companies, he claimed.
“It’s what Americans deserve, and we’re too close to let this opportunity pass us by”, said Durbin.

Iowa Democrats support medical insurance plan
On Thursday, majority Democrats stated that they will back an initiative that would compel health insurance providers to offer justification for sizeable rate increases, and to be more receptive regarding factors that can lead to cuts in rates.
House Commerce Committee Chairwoman Representative Janet Petersen said that action on the initiative could be reached in the coming week. She contended that immediate action was necessary to tackle this disturbing trend in the insurance industry.
She said, "We really do not have a full picture of what is impacting Iowans' health care costs. This is a good first step in having more accountability.”
The initiative was influenced by the announcement of Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of its plan to increase the rates of medical insurance for approximately 80,000 Iowans by 18%.
Under this new initiative, the Insurance Commissioner of Iowa would be obliged to make an itemized report regarding health expenditures, including health care expenses, data on rate increases, and factors associated with medical insurance costs.
Moreover, Senator Becky Schmitz said that she will advance the initiative in the Senate.
She said, "As lawmakers, it's our job to ensure that the insurance rate hikes are justified, and that the insurance companies aren't taking advantage of small businesses and families."
Des Moines Wellmark spokesman Rob Schweers said that the company is open with the details of the increase of insurance rate. He reiterated that the increase was essential so that they can meet the demands on health care.
Senate Majority Leader Michael Gronstal also said that he will support the initiative, which will give state regulators the power to collect more information on the issue.

IRS coverage aids on healthcare cost
The IRS said that it will help Michiganians who were forced to purchase medical insurance after losing their employment because of foreign competition or because their retirement benefits and pensions were terminated.
Den Black, who is representing retirees of bankrupt car supplier Delphi Automotive LLP, said: "It has literally made the difference for people who were bankrupt or foreclosed upon, where they have a chance to survive economically."
Those employees lost their life and health insurance coverage last year and will have reduced pensions now that the US government’s pension insurance provider, Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., has absorbed the responsibility to continue the health plan.
The IRS is implementing some measures to publicize the Health Coverage Tax Credit, which aims to refund 80% of premiums on health care and can help in settling the majority of the premiums every month thereafter. This credit covers individuals whose employment loss is verified by the Trade Adjustment Assistance Act, and those aged 55 and above whose pension arrangements have been assumed by the pension board.
The tax credit can be claimed by employees as a form of refund by completing IRS Form 8885 and the proper documents accompanied by a federal tax return. They can also sign up with the IRS so that IRS can charge them 20% of premium on health insurance, with the IRS completing the required payment every month.
Luis D. Garcia, the spokesman of IRS in Detroit, said that 40,300 employees in Michigan are qualified for the program. He added that, "Having this kind of help with your health insurance premium can be a game-changer for people, and really increase their quality of life."

Joe Sestak takes senate crusade to the campus
On February 1, Congressman Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania held a town hall-style conference at Eastern Univeristy with local residents, students and faculty. He is currently the 7th district’s representative, and is eyeing to defeat Senator Arlen Specter to become the official candidate of the Democratic Party in the senatorial elections in 2010.
He opened the meeting by emphasizing his priorities, which include establishing more jobs, promoting “accountable leadership”, and passing the House healthcare. He reiterated the need to pass the bill, which has now become controversial. Concerns regarding healthcare reform were the major topics during the meeting.
Sestak stressed his support for compulsory individual health insurance, saying that when uninsured people get ill, taxpayers generally shoulder the bill. When asked how he can aid college students in paying for their mandatory medical insurance, he said the House’s healthcare bill would permit youths to be covered by the insurance of their parents until they are 27 years old.
He emphasized the need to initiate measures to stop individuals with pre-existing medical conditions from being excluded in getting health care, and assured that there will be equality in gender in terms of insurance prices. He also stressed that he will help small businesses to keep healthcare costs at manageable levels.
Meanwhile, Sestak trails Senator Specter in terms of voter polls party support and recognition. Specter has been a prominent figure in the politics of Pennsylvania since he was elected in 1965. This is his first time running as senator since changing affiliations from Republican to a Democrat in April. The primary voting will be held on May 18.
Author: Mark Kelsey

Lack of health coverage may result to deaths, says Families USA
A report from Families USA – a non-profit consumer healthcare advocacy organisation – says that failure to pass the reform on healthcare this year would result to around 300,000 premature deaths across the country in the next ten years. Ron Pollack, the organisation’s executive director, explains that the report also considered the conditions from the past fifteen years and discovered numerous needless deaths.
“Approximately 295,000 people died due to a lack of health coverage”, says Pollack. “In Iowa, about 1,600 people between the ages of 25 and 64 died due to a lack of health insurance coverage”. He claims that the organisation has also estimated figures for the next decade if there is no healthcare reform.
In Iowa, the organisation approximates that around “1,500 people will die in the next decade due to a lack of health care coverage, if health reform fails”. Pollack says that on average, it would amount to about “three (Iowans) dying per week over the next 10 years”.
The Families USA executive director states this is mainly because under-insured or uninsured people are less probable to have regular medical check-ups; hence, they are not screened for possible diseases and get no pre-emptive care. Majority of individuals with no health insurance delay treatment though they are already in pain, simply hoping it would go away. Pollack stresses that this situation needs to change.
According to him, numerous people will die unnecessarily and prematurely in the next ten years because “our terribly flawed health care system excludes these ordinary Americans”.
He says that failure to enact the healthcare reform and not doing anything to make healthcare affordable would result to a “huge and terrible cost” and Americans may continuously “pay in tragic, unnecessary deaths” for the next several years.

Lancet praises US effort on health care
The medical journal Lancet, in its most recent lead editorial, has applauded the US Health Care Reform Bill for extending health care access and for aiming to reduce the gap between health outcomes and expenditure.
According to the editors, the winners are the 32 million uninsured US citizens who were previously too poor or too sick to obtain medical insurance, but will now have coverage starting in 2014. It is also said that by 2019, the coverage will extend to 95% of the population.
The new bill pushes insurers to take in all applicants regardless of their health status. While the increase in coverage will promote the private health industry, the journal stresses that Medicaid and Medicare – the insurance program for low income and elderly citizens, which currently cover 28% of Americans – “will have a catastrophic additional operational and financial burden for which solutions are not clearly defined within the current bill.”
The editorial stated that the suggested cost-saving options, like the initiative to pay for the quality and not the quantity of care (known as pay-for-performance instead of the fee-for-service), and also the proposal to reprimand medical institutions for high rates of readmission, are “welcome but will probably not reduce health-care costs.”
Preventive health care, which includes healthier eating and more exercises, are the key to success of the new bill. The editors wrote, “Preventive behavioral changes, necessary for the well being of the entire society, are not only the most difficult to bring about but are also those that, if unaddressed, will have a heavy toll on the cost of the country's health care.”
“The success of the health-care reform bill will greatly depend on its acceptance by the public,” they added.
Author: Avery Smith

Law students join fight to increase boxers’ medical insurance
Jayme Martinez, who belongs to a legal group connected to the University of Nevada‘s Boyd Law School in Las Vegas, is helping prepare a legislation that can assure boxers that they have health insurance coverage upon entering the ring. Martinez was greatly inspired by the medical condition of Filipino boxer Z ‘The Dream’ Gorres, who had a brain injury and suffered from partial paralysis after fighting in November 2009 at the House of Blues in Mandalay Bay. Gorres’ medical expenses at the University Medical Center (UMC) reached approximately $600,000, but his medical insurance only managed to cover $50,000 of the medical costs.
Martinez said that the boxer’s condition pushes them to help boxers in securing health insurance.
She, together with law teacher Robert Correales and law students Ryan Devine and Jonathan Winn, met with Gorres and asked the boxer whether there is an urgency to increase the health insurance of boxers. Gorres said boxers need help.
Gorres’ medical expenses will be partially shouldered by the taxpayers of Southern Nevada because the current state legislation only requires boxing promoters to assign $50,000 worth of medical insurance for every boxer before a fight.
Dr. Benito Calderon, who monitors Gorres’ medical condition, befriended the boxer after the bout that transformed his life. After Gorres was released from the UMC, Calderon has been helping the fighter in his rehabilitation.
Moreover, Martinez has been working to promote boxers’ safety because her husband also trains young boxers. She has also started researching on the injuries of boxers in Nevada, with the goal of determining the amount of health insurance that should be given to them.
Author: Warren Blumberg

Legislation expanding access to medical insurance introduced by governor
Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue has recently announced that Representative Matt Ramsey, a floor leader for the governor in the House, has instituted House Bill 1184. This legislation is set to increase access to medical insurance.
“This legislation will open up the individual insurance market and allows consumers to find the plan that best fits their needs,” the governor said. “It will also help those that are uninsured find a plan that works for them.”
It is said that the legislation will permit families and individuals to purchase health plans that were already approved for sale in other US states. Insurers who are licensed to operate in Georgia, but who also have other products that are marketed in other states, will be allowed to vend those policies in Georgia too.
Added to this, permitting the acquisition of medical insurance across state lines will enable reasonably priced health insurance to become more accessible. It will also increase the kind of health plans that can be offered to Georgians.
Representative Ramsey stated, “This legislation empowers Georgians to find a health insurance plan that meets the needs of their family.”
Governor Perdue initially publicized this proposal on health insurance in January. He made use of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce’s Eggs and Issues breakfast to inform his constituents regarding this measure on health care reform.

Missouri cracks down on fake health insurance providers

Legislators in Missouri have enforced an order to stop the operations of various companies that have promised health plans, though in reality they have left thousands of dollars’ worth of unpaid medical expenses to a lot of consumers.
 
The order from the Missouri Department of Insurance’s consumer affairs division, which was filed on Monday, insisted that 12 individuals and 14 companies must answer the charges of defrauding Missouri consumers. The companies were ordered to be present at the February 17 hearing to answer the allegations. They could receive a fine of $250,000 as well as cease-and-desist orders.
 
The charges stemmed from the complaints of around 150 consumers who have purchased services from these companies that were promoted as insurance, utilizing the terms “Group Health Plan,”  “dependent coverage,” and “PPO.” Moreover, some of these companies have promised low-cost medical insurance.
 
Missouri has started administrative enforcement measures against the following companies: Beema-Pakistan Assurance Ltd. a/k/a Beema-Pakistan Co. Ltd.; Serve America Assurance Ltd. a/k/a Serve America Assurance Ltd. Co. a/k/a Serve America Assurance; Professional Benefits Consultants a/k/a PBC Direct a/k/a Professional Benefit Consultants of Del. Inc.; National Alliance of Associations; Affinity Group Benefits Association Inc.; Peak Membership Alliance; Spencer & Associates LLC; Real Benefits Association; Americans for Affordable Healthcare Inc.; and Smart Data Solutions LLC, among others.
 
Missouri Department of Insurance Director John Huff further said, “State law provides severe punishment for any company selling unauthorized health plans in Missouri.” 

Nevada Division of Insurance launches campaign to protect insurance consumers
Nevada’s insurance division has recently launched a campaign against deceitful medical insurance plans while persuading consumers to ’check before writing a check’.
The Nevada Division of Insurance along with The Nevada Surplus Lines Association targets the confusion that sometimes envelop health insurance and health insurance scams aimed at individual consumers as well as small firm owners across Nevada. They launched the ’Question the Company and their Plan‘ 2010 Public Education Campaign, which playfully discusses to consumers the importance of gaining complete information before buying a particular policy linked to health insurance plans or ’checking before writing a check’.
The campaign was launched Sunday throughout the state including website banners and upgrades to www.nvinsurancealert.com and television spots to provide consumers and insurance agents information regarding their concerns. The viewers are about to see various amusing ads of pitchman ‘Herm Sleaster’, who promotes the plan that will provide consumers the “fruitcake, a pooch and health insurance coverage for only $29.95 a month…not including some tax”.
The television spots expose the ‘not far from the truth’ re-enactment of how a pitch for a fraudulent health plan might look . It also aims to remind consumers that some of the medical insurance plans sold are invalid, strongly reinforcing that it is always best to use a reputable Health Insurance provider.
The 2010 campaign urges consumers to increase their level of awareness regarding the possible effects of deceitful fraudulent health insurance products and plans or illegal insurance companies.
Author: Van Kelsey

New Jersey representative unveils bill that requires preventive services to be covered by medical insurance
On Monday, US Representative Leonard Lance of New Jersey disclosed a legislation he has written that will assure that preventative services, like mammograms, cannot be refused coverage by health insurance providers or group health plans as an effect of federal rule.
At the Summit news conference, authorities connected with the North Jersey and Central/South Jersey Affiliates of Susan G. Komen for the Cure declared their support for Lance’s bill, entitled "Safeguarding Access to Preventative Services Act of 2010."
The bill came as a response to the declaration made by the US Preventive Services Task Force which stated that women should only receive a mammogram whey they reach the age of 50, a proposal Lance and cancer groups have strongly rejected.
Lance said that, “While we don't know the cause or cure for cancer, we do know that early detection is still the best protection. My bill would make sure that women can't be denied coverage for the preventative screenings they need despite the misguided federal guidelines."
Those who joined Lance at the news conference include Dr. Jan A. Huston of the Medical Advisory Council of Susan G. Komen for the Cure North Jersey, Deborah Q. Belfatto of Komen North Jersey Affiliate, Lisa Berkower of Komen North Jersey Race for the Cure, and Nancy Healey of Komen Central and South Jersey Affiliate.
Barbara Waters, Advocacy for the North Jersey Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s co-chair, said: “Breast cancer continues to be the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women. It is important that we continue to work to increase awareness and maintain access to life-saving screening measures."
Moreover, the legislation would forbid the US Secretary of Health and Human Services from employing any proposal of the US Preventive Services Task Force to decline coverage for a service or an item by health insurance providers or group health plans.
Author: Avery Smith

Obama cancels overseas trip to push health care bill
US President Barack Obama has delayed his trip to Australia and Indonesia to work with legislators on having the health care bill approved.
White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs stated on reports that the president will reschedule his travel for June.
“The president greatly regrets the delay,” he said.
According to Gibbs, Obama has spoken to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia and will talk to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd of Australia; and both leaders understand the significance of the health care reform and Obama’s wish to see it through.
“The president believes right now the place for him to be is in Washington seeing this through,” Gibbs explained.
In the past days, he said that Obama has appealed to “more than two dozen” lawmakers to help assure votes for passage. On Sunday, the House is aiming for a possible vote on the sweeping reform, which would provide health care coverage to over 30 million Americans and enforce new rules on the health insurance industry. The president will carry on with his outreach in order to secure 216 House votes, said the press secretary.
He also disclosed that Obama had an influence in persuading Catholic nuns to back the health care bill. Gibbs, who pertained to the nun’s support as “very, very important,” said that Obama had recently convened with Sister Carol Keehan, the Catholic Health Association president.
The president was set to leave on Sunday morning for his first overseas trip this year. Obama and his aides did not want to wait till the last minute to call on to Australia and Indonesia and say “we’re not coming,” said Gibbs.
“That would cause some problems...in just common sense and manners,” he added.

Obama exploring Republican proposals for updated health care bill
President Obama is currently exploring four heath care plan proposals, according to a letter he sent to congressional leaders today.
Discussed at the bipartisan health summit last week, the GOP ideas include proposals to expand the use of fraud investigators disguised in patients' clothing to help uncover wasteful behaviour and abuse in federal programs like Medicaid, as proposed by Republican Senator Tom Coburn. Obama has stated he is also open to more ambitious pilot programs to change the rules governing malpractice lawsuits within the medical profession, a longtime GOP issue.
Among the ideas to be added to President Obama's $950 billion plan which were discussed last week also include a proposal by Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, calling for higher Medicaid reimbursements for doctors, and a proposal by Republican Senator John Barrasso to look into the expansion of health savings accounts.
"After decades of trying, we're closer than we've ever been to making health insurance reform a reality," Obama's letter stated. "I look forward to working with you to complete what would be a truly historic achievement."
Obama will discuss an updated version of the plan on Wednesday at the White House, however he stated that other Republican proposals will not be included, nor will proposals that republicans have attacked in recent weeks, such as maintaining Medicare Advantage benefits from Florida residents, and exempting the state of Nebraska from Medicaid costs.

Obama signs temporary extension of 65% COBRA subsidy
President Barack Obama on Wednesday signed into law the Temporary Extension Act of 2010 (HR 4691), just hours after it was passed in the Senate with a 78–19 vote.
The bill’s main purpose is the extension of health care subsidies and unemployment benefits for unemployed individuals. However, through March 31, 2010, it also extends a federal tax credit, allowing the government to subsidize around 65% of the cost of Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (CORBRA) premiums. The new law also refined the treatment of COBRA continuation, which results from the reduction of hours consequent to employment termination.
COBRA was initially approved as a part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, PL 111-5. The provision states that group health plans must consider an eligible individual as having his/her premium fully paid provided that the person pays 35% of the COBRA continuation coverage premium. Those eligible persons may receive the subsidy for over fifteen months, and 65% of the subsidy is reimbursed on the employer by taking credit on their tax returns.
Eligible individuals are those who have been unwillingly terminated from their jobs between August 31, 2008 and April 1, 2010. The bill extended the eligible period’s closing date from February 28, 2010 to March 31, 2010.
The newly signed bill also added particular rules for those individuals who lost their health insurance coverage due to a reduction in their working hours. Under the provision, if a person failed to make COBRA continuation coverage election after his/her working hours have been reduced, followed by an involuntary termination from employment, it will be regarded as qualification for COBRA continuation coverage.

Obama to issue executive order ahead of health care vote
US President Barack Obama has said he will issue an executive order once the health insurance reform bill is passed, which will reaffirm the longstanding restrictions regarding the utilization of the federal government’s funds for abortion.
This announcement seems to have appeased the conservative Democrats headed by Michigan Representative Bart Stupak, who allegedly claim that they will now back the healthcare reform given the votes to pass.
According to President Obama, the bill as written preserves current law; however, the executive order offers additional protection to ensure that the situation is maintained and imposed, and that the restrictions of the health care legislation over the public abortion funding cannot be avoided.
The House of Representatives is set to vote on the health care reform, with about 216 votes needed for its passage.
The $940 billion package is projected to extend the medical insurance coverage of around 32 million individuals by 2019. It will also make insurance more affordable by offering health care’s highest middle class tax cut in history, cutting down costs for numerous families as well as small business owners, who are presently rated out of coverage.
The bill also establishes a new competitive health insurance industry, giving millions of Americans the same insurance alternatives that the members of the Congress will have. It is also expected to end discrimination against people with pre-existing health conditions.
According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the health care plan will reduce the federal deficit by around $138 billion within 10 years and will amount to around $940 billion in costs over the course of a decade.

Pelosi promotes healthcare reform in San Francisco
Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, spent most of the past weekend promoting healthcare reform and denying allegations that the Democratic Party lacks the necessary votes to pass it.
The Democratic leader, during a break in a dedication ceremony at San Francisco’s Chinatown, said it’s more crucial than ever for some type of healthcare reform to be passed in the near future.
“It’s very clear that the status quo is not acceptable. Too many people in our country do not have health insurance,” she stated.
However, Republican Congressman John Boehner of Ohio, who appeared on CNN’s State of the Union Program, disagreed with Pelosi, saying:
“The only bi-partisanship that’s going on in this town right now with regard to health care is the bi-partisan opposition to what they’re attempting to do.”
He went on to say that the Democrats don’t have enough votes to pass the health insurance bill through; because if they did, then the deal would have been completed months ago.
Pelosi said that the Democrats will continue to push for the bill to go through, though she did not give further details on what would make up the bill once the vote takes place.
According to newly elected Republican Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts, the debate over the matter has been a waste of time. He said the present reform needs to be scrapped and then start over again.
An “entire year has gone to waste” as the Democrats take on what he defines as a “destructive” effort, Brown explained.
Author: Van Kelsey

Proposed Senate jobs legislation includes provisions on healthcare
The healthcare legislation might have been suspended in Congress; however, the $80-billion employment legislation’s draft that was just released by the Senate has several provisions on healthcare.
While Majority Leader Harry Reid is preparing to propose the legislation’s final version before the month ends, experts are already inquiring whether this jobs legislation is another form of health-care reform. Last December the House passed it’s own version of a jobs bill that amounted to $154 Billion.
The provisions being considered by the Senate employment legislation include a Medicare physician compensation fix which will last for seven months. This will prevent scheduled Medicare reimbursement cuts to physicians, and delay a possible 21% payment cut to doctors.
People who are newly unemployed would receive an extension of three months to their individual health insurance to aid them to continue purchasing insurance coverage through their former employers.
An upward alteration in the computation of Medicare Advantage compensation rates for 2011 will also be included.
Moreover, the provisions propose payment extensions of one year for Medicare programs like ambulance add-on fees, Medicare Part B treatment caps, improved payments for services on mental health, and extensions related to the Long Term Acute Care Hospital Moratorium, which is scheduled to expire in December 2010. The majority of these provisions are only temporary. They are aimed at maintaining programs until lawmakers can settle concerns through healthcare legislation towards the end of the year.
It is expected that Senator Reid will attempt to bring the final legislation to a vote for the succeeding two weeks.
Author: Avery Smith

Public support on healthcare law to increase, says Etheridge
Democratic US Representative Bob Etheridge believes that the healthcare law will see an increase in support as the public’s awareness regarding its benefits widens.
He said that Republicans falsely viewed the healthcare law for considering it a ‘government takeover’ of the healthcare industry, reports Rob Christensen.
"It's not true", said Etheridge on Wednesday when he met with reporters and editors of The News and Observer. "We are putting together a framework that operates in the private sector".
According to Etheridge, the bills supporters have to explain how the healthcare law’s benefits everybody, including those suffering from pre-existing health conditions like cancer, those who have gone through heart attack, or pregnant women. Under the newly established law, those individuals would be provided with medical insurance in the easiest way possible.
“We have to push back", he said. "We have to tell the truth. It's hard to get the truth out. It's a lot easier to be against something".
Etheridge said the criticisms aimed at the healthcare law are like those aimed at other social bills.
"If you go back and read about what happened in Medicare in the sixties and Social Security in the thirties a lot of the same words were being used", said Etheridge, adding that doing nothing will not improve the system and also make it worst.
Etheridge voted for the bill despite the majority of people in his district being opposed to the measure. Etheridge believes public opinion on the healthcare law will be more favorable by this November once people actually see it working.
Author: Warren Blumberg

Republicans propose amendment exempting Kansans from federal directive to have medical insurance

On Tuesday, Republican lawmakers have proposed a constitutional amendment that they said was targeted at impeding any kind of federal mandate that would require Kansans to purchase medical insurance. They said that the initiative was imperative due to the possibility of passing a Democratic health reform in Congress, which requires medical insurance coverage.
 
Senator Mary Pilcher-Cook said, “We can provide health-care reform in our state without forcing citizens to take certain actions, and we can provide good health care in Kansas without putting citizens at risk of being sent to jail.”
 
The “Kansas Health Care Freedom Amendment” is outlined after a proposition by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
 
Christi Herrera, ALEC’s Health and Human Services Task Force director, insisted that health care option is still an issue in civil liberties.
 
The Kansas Republican legislators supporting the amendment include House members Todd Tiahrt, Lynn Jenkins, and Jerry Moran as well as approximately 15 state lawmakers. Representatives Brenda Landwehr, Peggy Mast, and Pilcher-Cook were the ones who introduced the amendment.
 
Glenda Overstreet of NAACP has labeled the measure as “disingenuous.” She also said that without the reform on health care, insurance providers will continue dropping coverage relating to pre-existing conditions. In addition, she said that 300,000 Kansans who have no insurance will not be given a chance to be covered.
 
The proposal will be discussed on Tuesday. If it can pass the scrutiny of the Senate and the House, it will be included in the November election to be decided by Kansas voters. 

Senate passes $140 billion jobs bill – Health Insurance Benefits Affected
The US Senate passed a $140 billion jobs bill on Wednesday that would extend the deadline of the unemployment insurance until the end of 2010 as well as extending some tax breaks which will soon expire.
The bill passed the Senate with a 62-36 vote and will now advance to the House for voting. The majority of the 15 million unemployed Americans would like the White House to act more to produce jobs, and this jobs bill does not include new major initiatives. Nevertheless, it does include a $15 billion job creation effort however; some Americans believe that more needs to be done.
In December alone, a $154 billion job creation bill passed the House, and a number of Republicans are worried of adding additional money to the deficit.
The new bill will extend the COBRA health insurance benefits, as well as unemployment insurance benefits for those without work, till the end of 2010. Under the new jobs bill, tax credits that had expired by the end of 2009 will be extended until the end of December this year, there will also be a deduction for teachers’ education expenses and a research and development benefit for businesses.
Unemployment has been steadily increasing over the past few months. In Utah for example the unemployment rate in December was 6.7%, up from six percent in August.

Supervisors to decide on accepting refund of medical insurance premiums
In Lake County, California, several months after the Board of Supervisors’ approval to give eligible employees a one-time stipend worth $700 from a health insurance assistance holiday, the supervisors have also recently accepted the payment. All of them have pledged to give their respective shares to charity.
In November and December, Lake County accepted a “premium holiday” from its respective insurance carriers, which was approved last year by the board to be returned to employees through a one-time stipend.
Presently, the decision lies with the board on whether to accept the reimbursement for the members, who also contribute into the county’s medical insurance plan.
Supervisor Denise Rushing has raised concern on how the board could cast their vote on an issue that would aid its members financially. However, County Counsel Anita Grant stressed that this process can be compared with the board’s vote for salary increases.
Supervisor Rob Brown stated that the board has the option not to accept it. However, he also proposed that they can also accept it and give it to community groups.
Board Chair Anthony Farrington noted that the only manner in which he can cast his vote on it is if a regulation can specifically identify where he would be giving the money. He also inquired whether the auditor-controller of the country could write the check for him so that it will be given directly to Hospice Services of Lake County and Clear Lake High Sober Grad.
Supervisor Jeff Smith also said that it would be disappointing if the ordinance was not approved. “I think it's a good way to get some money out there in the community,” he added.
Brown decided to advance the decree to February 23, which was seconded by Comstock. It was approved 4-1 on its initial reading, with only Farrington rejecting it.
Author: Van Kelsey

US House not likely to vote on schedule over health insurance bill
The House of Representatives are unlikely to set a vote by March 18 on the medical insurance reform, said White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs on Thursday, adding that the Congressional Democrats are carrying out actions to consolidate position within their own party.
According to him, it may take several days after March 18 before the House could finish the bill. Last week, Gibbs told reporters he thought the House was scheduled for voting on the legislation by the 18th, when President Barack Obama departs for overseas trips to Australia and Indonesia.
Prior to Gibbs’ statement, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told the media that the Congressional Democrats are “not going to set any arbitrary deadlines,” because of issues still to be discussed in order to advance the reform.
The White House was urging for an early vote on the health insurance bill. Obama said during a rally in St. Louis, Missouri, on Wednesday that “the time to talk is over. It's time to vote”.
Reid officially informed the Republicans that the Democrats “plan to use the regular budget reconciliation process that the Republican caucus has used many times”.
Reconciliation only needs a simple majority to press forward a contentious budget reform, as the Democrats are lacking just a single vote for a filibuster-proof supermajority in the Senate.
The Democrats are now taking actions to secure their needed votes, particularly in the House, where several politically-vulnerable Democrats fear that the bill may bring damage to them in an election year.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met with the House Democrats on Thursday to address, ‘member-by-member,” the issues they raise.
“We have a pretty good idea of where we are going,” Pelosi said.

US president promotes new healthcare bill
US President Barack Obama is now promoting the historic healthcare reform, as a recent survey shows that Americans are split over the sweeping bill he signed into law last Tuesday.
Obama promoted the reform during his speech before an audience in Iowa on Thursday. During the speech he stated that the new medical insurance reform bill is now the country’s law.
On Thursday, the US Senate also authorized changes to the new rule, sending them out to the House of Representatives. Several minority Republicans attempted to stall these changes through a succession of amendments; however, all were rejected.
A number of Democrats in the House called for the changes in exchange for the approval of the original healthcare reform bill.
The Republicans are firmly against this new law. In a survey conducted by Quinnipiac University, results indicate that Americans are generally divided over the issue, with almost 50% of the respondents saying that they do not approve of the new legislation, while around 40% claim they approve.
Congressional Democrats have also been the target of acts of vandalism and threats following the vote over the healthcare bill.
Democrat Nancy Pelosi, a speaker for the House of Representatives, and Republican Minority Leader John Boehner stated that those measures do not have a place in US politics.
Steny Hoyer, the House Majority Leader, said that at least ten members of the Congress have received some threats to themselves or their families over the last couple of days.