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NYT Cites Reagan’s Repealed Medicare Law

From the New York Times:

Lesson Is Seen in Failure of 1989 Law on Medicare

By CARL HULSE | November 17, 2013

WASHINGTON — Angry Americans voice outrage at being asked to pay more for health coverage. Lawmakers and the White House say the public just doesn’t appreciate the benefits of the new health law. Opponents clamor for repeal before the program fully kicks in.

The year was 1989, and the law was the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act, which was supposed to protect older Americans from bankruptcy due to medical bills. Instead it became a catastrophe for Democratic and Republican lawmakers, who learned the hard way that many older Americans did not want to be helped in that particular way.

Seventeen months after President Ronald Reagan signed the measure with Rose Garden fanfare, a series of miscalculations and missteps in passing the law became painfully evident, and it was unceremoniously stricken from the books by lawmakers who could not see its demise come quickly enough.

Wow, this is the one precedent of a law being repealed that we have mentioned repeatedly. And now The Times is bringing it up. But does that mean they think Obama-Care can be repealed? Of course not.

The tortured history of the catastrophic-care law is a cautionary tale in the context of the struggle over the new health law, the Affordable Care Act. It illustrates the political and policy hazards of presenting sweeping health system changes to consumers who might not be prepared for them. And it provides a rare example of lawmakers who were willing to jettison a big piece of social policy legislation when the political risks became too grave.

“It has often been said that if you get an entitlement on the books, you can never get rid of it,” said Bill Archer, who pushed to repeal the 1988 law as a senior Republican, from Texas, on the House Ways and Means Committee. “That is an example of a time we did get rid of it.”

Backers of the Affordable Care Act say comparisons to the catastrophic-care debacle are flawed. They say that the new law fills a major health insurance void and that despite its current problems it will never meet the same fate as that undertaking in 1988…

Because it’s not so terrible? What a laugh. Obama-Care far worse.

The concept of expanding Medicare originated in the Reagan administration in 1986 under Otis R. Bowen, the secretary of health and human services, who proposed a modest change to add an annual premium while capping annual out-of-pocket costs for co-payments and hospitalization at $2,000…

With the White House insisting that Medicare recipients pay the tab, the sponsors devised a sliding payment scale based on income that the Internal Revenue Service would collect. That approach shares some DNA with the current law, since the I.R.S. is responsible for imposing penalties against people who do not buy insurance and for administering other aspects of the Affordable Care Act.

Wary of being accused of instituting a new tax, backers of the catastrophic-care bill chose to call the payment of up to $800 for individuals and $1,600 for couples a supplemental premium…

But the average increase would have been no where near $800. And more like $50 dollars. In fact, the New York Times never bothers to spell out the objections to the Catastrophic Coverage plan. Probably because it doesn’t sound bad at all, compared to what we are facing under Obama-Care.

The program would pay for two hospitalizations, requiring the beneficiary to pay $500 each time, and for 20 percent of approved doctor bills until the $2,000 was used up. Thereafter all hospital and doctor costs would be covered. Compared to Obama-Care, that is a walk in the park.

The supplemental premium quickly became an issue as more affluent Medicare beneficiaries got wind of it. Many of those retirees already had some semblance of the new coverage and resented being asked to pay for it for others…

In a foreshadowing of the angry town hall-style meetings on health care in 2009, older voters began to protest the measure. They were inflamed by an aggressive direct-mail effort by the relatively new National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, which found itself fighting with the American Association of Retired Persons, a champion of the new law.

The dramatic climax came on Sept. 17, 1989, when Representative Dan Rostenkowski, the gruff and burly chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, was hectored in his Chicago district by a band of angry older voters. They surrounded and blocked his car and forced him to escape on foot before he could make his automotive getaway. A news crew caught the episode on camera.

The handwriting was on the wall. Authors of the bill tried to salvage it, but the House voted on Oct. 4, 1989, to repeal almost all of it. The Senate tried to retain the benefits but eliminate the supplemental premium. The House balked, leading to another vote to repeal in November 1989, as House members sat in the chamber with coats in their laps, eager to head home for the holidays…

Mr. Pollack and others dismiss the notion that President Obama’s health care law could be similarly repealed if the backlash becomes overwhelming, arguing that the costs are spread among many people and that the benefits flow to too many for it to be reversed. Many aspects of the law are already being widely taken advantage of, such as the ability to keep dependents on a family’s health plan until age 26.

Mr. Archer agreed. “This Congress and this president are too committed to it,” he said. “But maybe if you get a few white-haired women to jump on the hood of someone’s car, it might change things.”

So get jumping!

This article was posted by Steve Gilbert on Monday, November 18th, 2013. Comments are currently closed.

2 Responses to “NYT Cites Reagan’s Repealed Medicare Law”

  1. captstubby

    just think,in 25 years ,the NYTs will publish another news piece.
    no, i didn’t think anyone would buy it.


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