# Loopholes

Sebelius warns insurers against excluding sick kids

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote to the head of the insurance industry’s lobbying arm yesterday warning against efforts to continue to deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions. Excerpt from the letter, which you can download as a pdf file at Greg Sargent’s blog:

Health insurance reform is designed to prevent any child from being denied coverage because he or she has a pre-existing condition. Leaders in Congress have reaffirmed this in recent days in the attached statement. To ensure that there is no ambiguity on this point, I am preparing to issue regulations in the weeks ahead ensuring that the term “pre-existing condition exclusion” applies to both a child’s access to a plan and to his or her benefits once he or she is in the plan. These regulations will further confirm that beginning in September, 2010:

*Children with pre-existing conditions may not be denied access to their parents’ health insurance plan;

*Insurance companies will no longer be allowed to insure a child, but exclude treatments for that child’s pre-existing condition.

I urge you to share this information with your members and to help ensure that they cease any attempt to deny coverage to some of the youngest and most vulnerable Americans.

A spokesperson for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent Sargent the following statement:

The intent of Congress to end discrimination against children was crystal clear, and as the House chairs said last week, the fact that insurance companies would even try to deny children coverage exemplifies why the health reform legislation was so vital. Secretary Sebelius isn’t going to let insurance companies discriminate against children, and no one in the industry should think otherwise.

Let’s hope this works. I wouldn’t be surprised to see insurance companies challenge the new regulations in court. They must have been counting on that loophole to save them money during the next few years.

UPDATE: David Dayen is probably right about the insurance companies’ motives here:

You can pretty much figure out AHIP’s game here. With no restrictions on cost until 2014, the industry can raise their premium prices almost at will. Even the bad publicity suffered from that 39% rate hike of Anthem Blue Cross [of California] plan has not stopped that scheduled increase from taking effect in May. And when outrage is expressed by families facing double-digit rate hikes, AHIP will clear their throats and blame the pre-existing condition exclusion for children, forcing the poor insurance companies to take on a sicker risk pool and raise prices to survive.

Except covering kids is fairly cheap to begin with. And the universe of kids with a pre-existing condition who aren’t covered through SCHIP, Medicaid, or an employer plan is extremely small. So by making a big issue of this, AHIP potentially sets up large rate hikes in the 2010-2014 period that aren’t at all justified.

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Senate health care bill looking worse every day

UPDATE: Proposed excise tax on insurance looking like a very bad idea too.

One key goal of “health insurance reform” was to prohibit insurance companies from limiting how many dollars they would spend on a patient’s care during a year. This makes sense if you want to eliminate medical bankruptcies, which are unknown in most of the developed world.

But the merged Senate health care bill gives insurance companies an out.

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Some tax day links and open thread

Today is the last day to file your federal income taxes, or file for an extension. Iowa state tax returns need to be postmarked by April 30.

Iowa PIRG has a petition you can sign on closing corporate tax loopholes, and a trivia question. Of the following 10 companies, which is the only one that has not set up an offshore subsidiary to avoid paying taxes?


* American Express

* Bank of America

* Comcast

* Coca-Cola

* Dell

* Exxon-Mobil

* Home Depot

* Pepsi

* Pfizer

Click here for the answer. At that page I also learned that “In all, 83 of the 100 biggest corporations in America have set up off-shore tax shelters, costing the rest of us as much as $100 billion a year!”

The blogosphere is full of funny commentaries on the Republican astroturf campaign to hold “tea parties.” By “astroturf” I mean fake grassroots, organized by conservative interest groups and egged on by their allies at Fox News.

At Daily Kos, KingOneEye has the White House response to the “teabagging” efforts (excerpt):

I think the President will use tomorrow as a day to have an event here at the White House to signal the important steps in the economic recovery and reinvestment plan that cut taxes for 95 percent of working families in America, just as the President proposed doing; cuts in taxes and tax credits for the creation of clean energy jobs.

We’ll use tomorrow to highlight individual and instances in families that have seen their taxes cut and I think America can be — Americans will see more money in their pockets as a direct result of the Making Work Pay tax cut that the President both campaigned on and passed through Congress.

I’m with clammyc: The teabaggers should give up the services their taxes pay for if they believe we get nothing of value in return for our taxes.

Bonddad wants to know, Where were the teabag protests 8 years ago? Good question.

At Open Left, Chris Bowers cites recent Gallup polling, which shows that a solid majority of Americans think upper-income people pay less than their fair share in taxes.

It’s hard to know what’s going on with the Democratic proposal to overhaul Iowa’s tax system. Yesterday key lawmakers predicted it will pass this week, but the Des Moines Register quotes some Democratic back-benchers in the Iowa House today as saying the plan may be dead for this year. I hope we don’t need to add this to the list of good bills we can’t find 51 votes for out of our 56-member Iowa House Democratic caucus.

I haven’t been posting enough open threads lately, so say whatever’s on your mind in this thread–it doesn’t have to be related to tax policy.

UPDATE: I enjoyed Todd Beeton’s Tea Party Palooza linkfest.

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