Journalism in the Public Interest

Eye on Health Care Reform

‘Medicare Tax’ Now to be Called ‘Unearned Income Medicare Contribution’

 The payroll tax increase that was formerly known as "Medicare tax" in both President Obama’s health care reform reconciliation proposal and the original House reconciliation bill is NOT A TAX. Repeat: NOT A TAX.

Sure, individuals with earnings over $200,000 and couples with earnings over $250,000 will have to fork over 3.8 percent of their capital gains (which were not formerly subject to Medicare taxes) to Medicare, in addition to .9 percent more of their earned income.

But among the 15 pages of changes to the Reconciliation Act included in the manager’s amendment released over the weekend was a wee name change: references to ‘Medicare tax’ were deleted, and replaced with the much gentler, and voluntary-sounding, ‘unearned income Medicare contribution.’

We called Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office for more insight, and will pass along anything we hear back.

For a look at all the changes that the reconciliation bill would make in the health care reform law, check out our side-by-side comparison.

Biofuel/Health Care Mystery Demystified

 Last week, we asked readers to help us figure out why, amongst the talk of health care in the House reconciliation bill, there was a paragraph eliminating the "unintended application of [a] cellulosic biofuel producer credit."

We were as curious as anyone as to what sediment in biofuel has to do with health care, but it was Friday afternoon, after all, and even journalists like to go home sometimes, even if said home is a dank cell in Brooklyn.

Luckily, our readers came through for us (we owe you one).

Why You Should Check Out the Health Care Bills Side by Side

Click to use our bill comparison tool Thanks to many hard-working souls at ProPublica, we’ve created a side-by-side comparison of the full versions of the Senate healthcare bill versus the bill that will likely go before the House for a vote on Sunday.

What you’ve seen elsewhere—the text put out by the House Rules Committee—is a 150-page list of amendments to the Senate bill ("strike paragraph 4", "insert this new sentence in paragraph B…").

What we’ve created, the final proposed bill in full—and highlights of the changes—allows you to easily compare House’s reconciliation proposal to the earlier Senate bill. We’re also showing you exactly what the House has proposed to change, add, and delete. So far as we know, this is the only place on the Web where the full proposed final bill is available. (Disclaimer: Creating the full version of the reconciliation bill involved some old-fashioned and frenzied cutting and pasting – we're only human, please let us know of any errors.)


What Health Care Reform Means for: ‘Young Invincibles’

Using results from a questionnaire we did with American Public Media’s Public Insight Network, we’re looking at how the proposed health care reforms will actually affect people facing common health care coverage situations.

Neil Thurgood, 26

Location: Washington, D.C. Health Care Status: Insured through his wife Household Income: $65,000

His Story:

When Neil Thurgood graduated college in the fall of 2006, his health insurance lapsed while he looked for a job. At the time, he says, “I just kind of figured, I’m young and healthy and everything is cool,” so he didn’t worry when it took longer than planned to find a job. His wife eventually got one that offered insurance, but the premium was still too expensive for Thurgood to be covered.

That wasn’t a problem until January 2007, when Thurgood came down with what he now refers to as “some crazy renegade virus,” which landed him in the hospital with a fever of 105. A spinal tap and a day later, Thurgood was sent home with fuzzy understanding of why he was sick and a bill for about $6,000.

Nearly three years later things are looking up for Thurgood. He’s landed a job and is now insured through his wife’s coverage, which costs them $260 a month. But he’s still paying down his hospital debt.

“I feel bad having those kinds of obligations outstanding,” he said. “It’ll be paid when it’s paid.”

Thurgood is part of the group called “the Young Invincibles.” Young adults between 19 and 29 have the highest uninsured rate of any age group – they aren’t as worried about getting sick, they’re less likely to have jobs that will offer insurance, and they typically make less money than other age brackets so they can’t buy private insurance. In the last year, 47 percent of people between age 19 and 34 went without health insurance at some point, and one in three is uninsured now.

What health reform means to him...

What Health Care Reform Means for: Medicaid Recipients

Using results from a questionnaire we did with American Public Media’s Public Insight Network, we’re looking at how the proposed health care reforms will actually affect people facing common health care coverage situations. See our previous posts on what health care reform means for the uninsured, the underinsured, small businesses, those enrolled in Medicare programs, and the insured.

Sarah Goodwin, 25

Location: Harveys Lake, Pa. Health Care Status: Medicaid recipient Household Income: $0, but she has a Social Security application pending

Her story:

Sarah Goodwin, who has chronic fatigue syndrome and a slew of immune deficiencies, relies on Medicaid for health coverage.

Medicaid serves low-income and disabled individuals, with the federal government paying for about 60 percent of the program (with a temporary boost of that percentage included in the stimulus bill) and states paying for the rest. Goodwin has experienced firsthand the wide leeway that states are given in determining who is eligible and what services are covered.

In Maine, Goodwin was able to get only temporary Medicaid, which meant she was constantly reapplying, and having to fight to get the medications she needed. Two years later, she has moved from Maine to Pennsylvania, where she says she’s had a better experience. “The Medicaid people here are really helpful,” she says.

What health care changes would mean for her ...

Health Care Reform Step-by-Step

Graphic: How the Health Care Bill Passed

Photo by flickr user sparkieblues


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