BILL CRAWFORD: Get ready for health insurance changes

By Bill Crawford

Hotels, restaurants, manufacturers and small businesses fear the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Representatives of these groups made it clear last week that they see “Obamacare” as terrible legislation, unlikely to work as intended and financially harmful.
The Mississippi Manufacturers Association, the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the Mississippi Hospitality and Restaurant Association and the Mississippi Economic Council jointly sponsored the seminar to warn business owners they better seriously prepare for the new law and forthcoming regulations. Even Gov. Haley Barbour, who joined 20 other governors to seek a court order stopping the act’s implementation, said businesses need to prepare in case legal efforts fail.
My take is that the average citizen better get on the stick too.
Because no matter what happens – the new law gets implemented, lawsuits stop it or it gets repealed – health insurance will become more complex, more regulated, more expensive and more difficult to get.
Maybe it would be useful to remember why all this came about. For decades, health care costs have skyrocketed. Insurance premiums go up, deductibles and co-pays go up, prescriptions go up, unpaid care at hospitals goes up, all faster than inflation and with seemingly with no end in sight. At the same time, Medicare is going broke and Medicaid is making states go broke. So, individuals, small businesses, hospitals and state governments have yelled at Congress for years to fix things.
Not all businesses yelled for change, of course. Health insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and certain health care providers prospered and liked things just fine.
Despite all this clear evidence that our health insurance system was broken and going broke, Republicans chose to do little while they were in control of Congress. Democrats made this a major political issue in 2008 and when they took control believed they had a mandate to do something. They did so without GOP participation, though Republicans finally came up with an alternative plan.
Now, we have what Congress does best, whichever party is in control. We have a terribly complicated, hard to understand, grossly regulatory, penalty-ridden, over-reaching, 2300 page monster of a law. Folks, nothing of this ilk can be good or less costly for the average citizen.
Beware, though, that any alternative – and there will be one if the new law is halted or repealed – will be crafted in like manner. That’s what you get when sharp-witted lobbyists and committee staff huddle in the back rooms of Congress to put into detailed legal wording what political leaders tout so simply.
And, after such heady legislation becomes law, the wonderful bureaucrats crowded in those massive federal buildings get to decipher it and formulate nice regulations to govern implementation.
You best get ready.

Bill Crawford is a former legislator and state bureaucrat from Meridian. His email address is crawfolk@att.net.