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Something wicked this way comes

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Some years ago there was a movie with the catchy title of "Something Wicked This Way Comes" and it seemed perfectly appropriate for what’s coming down the pike toward the American people over the next few years.

Of course, I’m talking about the so-called health care reform law, affectionately known as "Obamacare," which is scheduled to take full effect over the next four years.

Since this is a matter of some import to everyone I decided to check out the Republican Committee on House Ways and Means to see if I could determine when the key provisions of this awful legislation would kick in.

There are several other sources on the Web you can find which give a calendar also.

It is becoming apparent now exactly who the winners and losers are, and one of the big losers appears to be corporations that are not in the health insurance business.

Take AT&T for example.

They took a $1 billion write-off directly attributed to the changes in tax law mandated by this bill.

According to the Wall Street Journal, these tax changes are a "wholesale destruction of wealth and capital."

Friends, those are pretty strong words from a very respectable source.

Politics being what it is, it should come as no surprise to anyone the more onerous or distressing provisions, such as higher taxes and a growing budget deficit, are delayed until the future.

Some of the provisions that take effect right away are: Children with pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied coverage and adults with pre-existing conditions can join temporary high-risk pools to obtain coverage.

The law forbids insurance companies from dropping your coverage if you get sick, and the Medicare rebate for buying brand-name drugs goes from15.1 percent to 23.1 percent.

Also, companies that have 25 or fewer employees and pay half of their worker’s premiums can qualify for a federal tax credit of up to 35 percent of those costs.

In September, young people become eligible for coverage under their parents’ policies until they turn 26, and plans can no longer charge co-payments for preventative screenings and wellness checkups.

In 2011, federal cuts begin for Medicare Advantage, the private alternative to traditional Medicare.

Pharmaceutical companies will give Medicare patients a 50 percent discount of pharmaceuticals.

Seniors earning $85,000 ($170,000 per couple) will begin paying higher Part D premiums, plus Flexible Spending Accounts and Health Savings Accounts will no longer be used to buy over-the-counter medications.

Another twist requires insurance companies to spend at least 80 percent of the collected premiums on medical claims.

Medicare cuts for dialysis treatments and hospice services begin in 2012 along with a provision that hospitals will receive financial incentives for providing quality healthcare.

In 2013 several tax provisions kick in. High income individuals (those making more than $200,000 per year, $250,000 for couples) will see an increase in Medicare Part A tax rate, and high wage earners will pay a new "Medicare tax" of 3.8 percent on "unearned" investment income.

Flexible Spending Accounts will be capped at $2,500 annually and an excise tax of 2.3 percent will begin on medical devices.

2014 is when many painful provisions go into effect. For example, penalties of up to 2.5 percent of income will begin for those who don’t maintain acceptable insurance coverage.

Penalties of up to $3,000 per employee will begin for employers who refuse to offer coverage to their employees.

This is the year all states must establish "exchanges" or marketplaces and about 25 million are expected to use them; self-employed people and those without insurance will be able to purchase insurance there.

States now must provide Medicare coverage to all adults earning up to 138 percent of the official poverty level ($22,500 for a family of four) and to help pay for this, federal assistance to states will increase. The prohibition of denying coverage for pre-existing conditions is extended from children to all citizens.

So, over the next few years, those wanting to know what’s in store should now have at least some idea of what’s in it for them.

We will shortly look at some reasons why this is such a bad deal.


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