Posted: 10:00 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012

Health care key issue in Ohio’s U.S. Senate race



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Health care to be key issue in Ohio’s U.S. Senate race photo
State Treasurer Josh Mandel on Tuesday attended a lunch gathering of Ta-Wa-Si members, a Dayton community and civic leader organization, to discuss improving Ohio’s current economic standing and the importance of civic leadership in our communities. Staff Photo by Jim Witmer
Health care to be key issue in Ohio’s U.S. Senate race photo
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown chaired a field hearing before the committee on veterans’ affairs at VA Medical Center in Dayton, Ohio, Tuesday, April 26, 2011. Staff photo by Kareem Elgazzar

By Jack Torry

Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON —

The debate over the health care law passed in 2010 remains as contentious as ever, producing a deep split between liberals and conservatives and emerging as a major issue in Ohio’s U.S. Senate race between Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Republican challenger state Treasurer Josh Mandel.

It comes down to this simple fact: Brown likes the law and Mandel wants to repeal it.

Brown, who voted to move the bill through the Senate, argues that the new law would dramatically shrink the pool of uninsured people in Ohio while simultaneously allowing millions of women and seniors to have access to mammograms or prostate screenings without co-pays or deductibles.

“They want to take all these benefits away,’’ Brown said of the Republicans. “And that’s what they would do if this is repealed. I’ll have that debate any day.’’

Mandel contends the law imposes high costs on state government and small businesses and says that it features new taxes that can damage the Ohio economy.

“I agree with the majority of Ohioans that we need to repeal it and work together to replace it with something better,’’ Mandel said.

Rarely in American history has a law remained so divisive after being signed. But unlike the Social Security Act of 1935 and the Clean Air Act of 1970, which both swept through Congress with strong bipartisan majorities, the 2010 health law squeaked by as Democrats barely overcame adamant Republican opposition.

“The health care issue is very important among some voters, particularly among voters who are going to vote Republican anyway,’’ said Paul Beck, a professor of political science at Ohio State University. “Is it going to make a difference for voters who are genuinely on the fence? Maybe not as much as it would have six months ago.’’

Brown, in an interview in his Senate office, said “there a number of people who hate anything associated with Obama. Don’t be dismissive of that, but that’s a part of it.’’ But Brown asserted that opponents have “absolutely lied’’ about what is in the law, citing false claims that the Internal Revenue Service can come in and remove money from private bank accounts.

Barry Bennett, a Republican consultant in Washington and a supporter of Mandel, said “Sherrod has got some explaining to do. There is no doubt that there are people in Ohio who like it, but there are a lot more who don’t.’’

The law expands health coverage to about half of the 46 million uninsured Americans primarily in two ways. The first would provide financial assistance to middle income families earning between $32,000 and $93,000 annually to buy private policies through a series of exchanges set up either by the federal or state government.

Take a 40-year-old woman who works for a small company that does not offer insurance to its workers. She heads up a family of four, earns $40,000 a year and would have to pay $12,000 a year for an insurance policy.

But under the law, she would qualify for $10,148 in federal subsidies through a new tax credit. She could then buy the same policy at a personal cost of $1,982 a year.

The law also allows a family of four earning as much as $32,000 a year to qualify for Medicaid, the joint federal and state program that pays health costs for low-income people. The federal government through 2016 would pay 100 percent of the costs of the new enrollees. After 2016, states would have to pay some of the costs, with the state share eventually rising to about 10 percent.

The Supreme Court in June struck down the law’s requirement that the federal government could punish states for not expanding their Medicaid programs. Gov. John Kasich has yet to decide whether Ohio will agree to the expansion. But health care advocates argue that the combination of Medicaid and federal subsidies for middle class families will dramatically improve health care of tens of thousands of Ohioans.

“It would mean far less emergency room visits,’’ said Gayle Channing Tenenbaum, co-chair of Advocates for Ohio’s Future. “It would mean having preventative services. It would mean getting on top of chronic diseases like diabetes much earlier. It would mean early treatment for diseases like mental illness and addiction.’’

Those gains, however, come with a price. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office acknowledged last month “there are significant disincentives for states to expand Medicaid eligibility.’’ The report pointed out that “health care costs tend to rise faster’’ than the rest of the economy, and even the 10 percent share “would nevertheless represent a large extra cost for some states.’’

“This is the worst time in the world for Washington to be imposing new costs on our state,’’ Mandel said.

The law also levies more than $500 billion in new taxes on businesses and individuals during the next decade. The government will collect more than $2.8 billion annually from pharmaceutical companies and $14.3 billion a year by 2018 on health insurance companies.

There is a new excise tax on manufacturers of medical devices, a $695 a year tax on individuals who do not buy insurance, and a heavy tax by 2018 on family insurance plans that cost more than $27,500 a year.

“I believe we need to eliminate the medical device tax as soon as possible,’’ Mandel said.

In addition, critics complain that the law will do little to control the escalating price tag of both insurance and health care. Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for the Health Insurance Association of America, said the new taxes combined with federal mandates of insurance policies must offer will “make it very hard for individuals, families and employers to afford health coverage.’’

Defenders of the law, such as Kenneth Thorpe, a professor of health policy at Emory University in Atlanta, acknowledge it remains “a work in progress,’’ adding that “we need to do a lot more in containing the growth (of costs) in our health care system.’’

“We’ve got to figure out a successful strategy to slow the growth in health care spending,’’ Thorpe said. “We need to be more effective in preventing the rise in chronic health care conditions. We need to be more effective in managing people with chronic diseases.’’


First of 4 parts

The U.S. Senate race in Ohio is one of the most expensive in the nation and may play a key factor in which part controls the U.S. Senate. To help you be a more informed voter, today we’re launching a four-part issues series focusing on the key issues in the race between U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown and Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel. Here’s a look at the series:

Today: Health care.

Aug. 12: Budget and debt.

Aug. 19: Economy and trade.

Aug. 26: Energy.

Get the latest election news online at DaytonDailyNews.com/go/election and follow our election team on Twitter at @Ohio_Politics.

Federal aid with premiums

The health-care reform law offers subsidies to low- and moderate-income families for insurance. Here’s an example of who the system would work for a family of four:

* 2014 income: $40,000

* Age of policy holder: 40

* Cost of annual premium: $12,130

* Maximum cost to family: $1,982

* Government cost: $10,148

To calculate your hown subsidy, go to http://healthreform.kff.org/SubsidyCalculator.aspx

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation

By the numbers

In June, the Supreme Court upheld most of President Barack Obama’s health-care law. here are some predicted effects:

Now through 2012

Increased federal spending:

* Medicaid and CHIP*: $642 billion.

* Exchange subsidies: $1.02 trillion.

* Employer tax credits: $23 billion

Increased federal revenues:

* Penalty payments for having no insurance (paid by people and employers): $172 billion

* Tax on high-premium insurance plans: $111 billion

* Other: $231 billion

Net decrease in deficit:

$109 billion, chiefly via other savings, such as cuts in Medicare payments to doctors and hospitals.

Number of uninsured Americans

* Today: 53 million

* In 2022: 30 million

* Children’s Health Insurance Program

Source: Congressional Budget Office

Next Sunday

On Aug. 12, we’re going to take a look at the keys to winning the presidency and how the race is shaping up in Ohio and nationally. Who’s winning the ground game? Where’s the money going? What about the debates? What issues are on voters’ minds? Also on Aug. 12, we’ll run a calendar letting you know about debates, conventions and other key election dates. We’ll also inform you about other loca races and issues that will be on the ballot. If you have any election questions, email us at electioneditor@coxinc.com