Health Care Reform: Cocktail Chatter

Jeanne Sager
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Flickr photo by Seattle Municipal Archives
Every week in cocktail chatter, we tell you what you need to know to sound like an expert at this weekend's play date, dinner party or post office meeting.

This week's cheat sheet: the health care reform bill.

What it is: Legislation passed late Sunday by the House of Representatives, and signed into law on Tuesday by President Obama, that is meant to provide health insurance coverage for every American and put enhanced federal regulation over private health insurance companies. The legislation is still up for votes in both the House and the Senate to finalize.

Terms you need to know:

Individual Mandate: Come 2014, most Americans will be required to obtain a form of health insurance or they will pay a penalty of $95 (a figure which will increase each year). If affordable coverage is not available, the penalty won't apply. 

Donut Hole: A gap in coverage for seniors enrolled in the Medicare Part D program, it creates high costs for pharmaceuticals for many seniors. Per the health care reform bill, this "hole" will be closed over the course of the next 10 years. Seniors should receive an immediate $250 rebate. By next year, they'll get 50 percent off brand name drugs, and have the problem solved entirely by 2020. Seniors are concerned, however, that the bill will slow spending increases on Medicare costs in the coming years.

Pre-existing condition: You're applying for new insurance, but you already have multiples sclerosis or diabetes? Right now, insurance companies could deny you coverage. Come 2014, they won't be able to. 

Names to know:

Bart Stupak: Pro-life Democratic Congressman from Michigan, key player in the president's decision to sign an executive order that states no public funds will be used to pay for abortions in the health insurance exchanges to be set up by the government.

Randy Neugebauer: Pro-life Republican Congressman from Texas, shouted "baby killer" at Stupak for making a deal with the president.

Alan Frumin: The parliamentarian in the U.S. Senate, Frumin is employed (not elected) to advise the Senators on parliamentary procedure. This week, he told the Senators that their vote won't be the last on the health care bill. The House -- which approved the bill on Sunday -- will have to approve changes made by the Senate this week.

Phrases to drop:

"I know a lot of parents who were worried their kids would lose insurance after college are happy the reform means they can keep them on their plans until their 26th birthday."

"Some small business owners are worried about how they'll afford to cover their employees."

"Did you hear the vice president drop the f-bomb this week? He called the health care bill a big 'effing' deal."

"The attorneys general in 14 states say the individual mandate is unconstitutional."

The Washington Post has a handy calculator tool to help you determine the expected effect this bill will have on your wallet, and the Kaiser Family Foundation features a helpful health reform subsidy calculator.

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