Health Bill 3962 began its life as a plan to reform the healthcare system under the name “The Affordable Health Care for America Act”, but while the original intent was completely abandoned in favor of the Senate bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (H.R. 3590), a different bill under the number 3962 was eventually passed which also had important consequences for the middle class. This was the Preservation of Access to Care for Medicare Beneficiaries and Pension Relief Act of 2010, which President Obama signed into law on June 25, 2010.
This bill provided many complicated fixes to Medicare and pension funding with the goal of protecting the healthcare coverage options of the middle class and lower class, as well as retirement plans for many Americans, while still protecting the economy from further job loss. The main two areas that it contained when passed were a package of pension funding relief measures and what is known as the Medicare “doc fix.”
The so-called “doc fix” reversed a 21% cut in Medicare physician reimbursements that went into effect on June 1, 2010. In fact, it instead provided a 2.2% increase to the formula that determines payment to doctors through November 30, 2010, and even retroactively covered payments to June 1, 2010. This helped to ensure that those members of the middle class covered under Medicare, including many seniors and military families, did not lose access to their doctors who could not afford to accept Medicare patients facing such a steep decrease in payment.
The pension funding relief measures were put into place to protect American jobs during the recession, which was in full force during most of 2010. The law is credited with helping many large employers to reduce layoffs while still maintaining their bottom line. Many employers were (and still are) struggling with artificially inflated pension obligations, and H.R. 3962 increased the amount of time they have to amortize pension funding shortfalls. It was projected that the bill will raise $2.1 billion over 10 years.
But the employers were not relieved of their pension obligations. The bill just made it easier for them to meet them while lessening the burden on the companies. This helped to maintain retirement plans for the middle class while keeping more people working.
While these were the major issues that Bill 3962 took up, a few other changes include:
- A revision to the requirements for calculating payments for inpatient hospital services, which allows outpatient diagnostic services and admission-related outpatient non-diagnostic services that occurred during the three days before a patient's inpatient admission to be included as part of the inpatient stay on the claim.
- A new law requiring the Secretary of Treasury to consider delinquent tax debt when taxpayers apply to enroll or reenroll as Medicare service providers or suppliers.
Both of these aspects had more of a direct effect on hospital and medical service providers under Medicare than it did on the middle class, but ultimately, the goal was to improve the level of service provided to the middle class while also maintaining the Federal budget.
The Final Word
While the implications of this bill were not as widely discussed as those of the more controversial Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, H.R. 3962 played an important role in the overall healthcare changes and is not challenged by the current Supreme Court case, which means it will remain law even if that bill is found unconstitutional. As a result, many more middle class Americans continue to have access to the healthcare providers they want to work with, and also the pension relief efforts will continue to be in place in order to provide relief for struggling companies.
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