Sunday, March 28, 2010

Now We Know What's In The Bill. Or Do We?

Here are four words I never thought I'd think, much less type: Nancy Pelosi was right.

On March 9, 2010, Speaker Pelosi (who I'm pretty sure is missing a human soul and warms her body by sunning herself on a rock) gave a little speech to the Legislative Conference for the National Association of Counties and during said speech, she actually said what I thought might have been the most ridiculous thing to ever come out of her mouth. She said, in reference to the then-pending health care bill, "But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it". Um, what now?

That's what she said. I swear. The text of the entire speech is over at her website. That particular little gem is about six paragraphs up from the bottom. But it turns out, she was right. How did I determine that? I came to that conclusion after reading an article by the extremely talented reporter William La Jeunesse of Fox News. The article outlined a provision of the bill, which is now law, called the Class Act, "...otherwise known as the Community Living Assistance Services and Support Act" which " the federal government's first long-term care insurance program."

Now, why we didn't hear about this beforehand is beyond me. No, wait. No, it's not. We didn't hear about it because people out there in the media are simply not doing their jobs. It's not like this bill wasn't available for review beforehand. (Right? It was available, right?) Granted, the thing clocked in at over 2,000 pages long. Am I supposed to read all of those 2,000 pages? Technically, I think that I should want to. And don't get me wrong, I DO want to want to. I DON'T want to, though. But again, technically, I don't think that I should have to. (Don't get me started on how I don't think that ANYTHING should be 2,000 pages long, unless it's a document telling me how great I am, and even then that would be pushing it. My greatness can easily be summed up in a thousand pages or so.) It's not my JOB to read the damn thing. That's the job of the media. Their job is to report. They can't report unless they know what they're reporting on. The only way to know that is to do their damn job and read all 2,000 freaking pages. But no one did, otherwise we would have heard about this before now.

Ready for this? I hope you're either sitting down or sharpening your pitchfork tines. "...The program will allow workers to have an average of roughly $150 or $240 a month, based on age and salary, automatically deducted from their paycheck to save for long-term care." Wait. What now? How much? A month?!

Now, call me silly, but can't you get long term care from the insurance that you're already supposed to be mandated to be purchasing thanks to the passage of the health care bill? I'm thinking that something along those lines would make the most sense. Ohh. That's why they didn't do it that way. It would have made sense. Carry on.

Now, this is a policy where you are automatically opted into unless you opt out. That is the complete opposite of what I thought that things were supposed to be being done. I thought it was supposed to be that you were automatically opted out of something unless you wanted to opt in. Oh, right. That's for things that the federal government isn't trying to siphon money from you for. Got it.
According to William's article, here are some of the more pressing details that you need to know about:

The deduction will work on a sliding scale based on age. Younger workers will be charged less, older workers more. The Congressional Budget Office pegged the average monthly deduction at $146. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services put it higher, at $240. Wait. The CBO and the Medicare/Medicaid folks have figures that differ in cost of around a hundred bucks? Shocking, I know. Who am I going to believe? I'm going to go with the Medicare/Medicaid folks, as they are already ridiculously underpaid, thus the CBO's low estimate would seem to be wrong, all things considered. I'm also going to with with how that seems like an awful lot of money to be deducted monthly from folks. (And just remember, those figures are an "average". That means that some people will pay more than that and some people will pay less than that. My guess is that some people will pay much, much less.)

After a five-year vesting period, enrollees who need help bathing, eating or dressing will be eligible to take out benefits, estimated to be around $75 a day for in-home care. Only a five year vesting period? And then you're good? How do they figure that? By my calculations (and I'll go with the higher figure just to give them the benefit of the doubt), if you're paying in $240 a month, after five years, you'll have contributed $14,400. At benefits of $75 a day that you can tap if you need to after those five years, you'll have yourself a whopping 192 days of care. That's not a full year. That's barely over six months. Now, I don't know what your definition of "long term care" is, but mine is definitely more than six months. Six months isn't what I'd call "long term". Six months is "just gettin' started".

Here's the other frightening part of this: The money that is put into this fund (generously and likely erroneously estimated to be $109 billion in collected premiums by 2019 after being implemented as early as 2012) will not be in a "lockbox" sort of situation. No, it's going to be more of a general fund sort of situation. You know how Social Security money is supposed to be just for Social Security? You know how the Social Security funds have been tapped by everything else AND how it will give out more than it takes in next year? You know how that works? Sure you do. Now, do you expect that this thing will work any differently? Of course you don't. Thus, it's going to end up being what? A mitigated disaster, that is correct.

Of course "The statute says the program is designed to be self-sustaining, with an advisory board to assure the fund remains solvent. But opponents say the fine print already tells another story. Unless modifications are made, according to a CBO analysis of the bill, "the program will add to future federal budget deficits in a large and growing fashion." Sounds great. Good thing that this was passed into law so that we could find out that this was in it!

Since I enjoy math and numbers, let's look at a few more, shall we? If this thing starts in 2012, $109 billion in premiums by 2019 equals out to be $15.57 billion a year. If folks are paying $240 a month, that's 5,228,125 people needed to sustain that figure. If folks are paying $146 a year, that's 8,594,178 people needed to sustain that figure. That's a difference of 3,366,053 people. Um, that's kind of a lot. How do they figure this is going to work? AT ALL! And let's not forget, those are the figures to make it all work out without money being drawn out of the fund. Those are just the numbers for money being theoretically deposited into the fund.

But let's say you participate in this charade starting from the time you're 20. And let's say that you're paying the low, low rate of $146 a month. Fast forward forty five years. You're now sixty five and you're going to retire. You'll have amassed for yourself, after forty five years of paying premiums and at the flex-rate of $75 per day allotted to you for long term care, a whopping three years of long term care. Three. Forty five years, $146 a month for a total of $78,840. That gets you three years of in-home long term care. That doesn't seem like a lot to me. Wouldn't you be better off taking that $146 and investing it somewhere or even setting up a 401k type of dealio so that you can take care of your own expenses? Wouldn't that $146 amount to a hell of a lot more than the $78,840 after 45 years? I'm kind of thinking that it would.

This is ridiculous. And it's now law. Congratulations, Nancy Pelosi. Thanks for saddling the country with another obligation that it cannot afford. What in the hell happened to people taking care of themselves when they retire anyway? (Has she not noticed the high unemployment rate which is still besieging the country? Perhaps she has overlooked the still sagging economy? The perpetually high foreclosure rate? And she's thinking that folks in "times like these" are going to be OK with forking over another $200 a month? Not to be unjustifiably disrespectful to the soulless snake, but she's high.)

I don't say things like this very often, but please read William's article and pass it along to your friends. I guarantee that the majority of them, if not all of them, have never heard a single word about this. I guarantee that the majority of them have no idea that they've already been opted into a plan that is going to cost them a minimum of $146 a month unless they opt out. And again, the reason that people don't know this is because people in the media are not doing their job. Well, except for William. William rocks at his job. But everyone else just sucks. I can't wait to find out what else is in the bill now that it's passed into law. How exciting!

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