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Healthcare Q&a

Readers ask about Medicare, more

September 20, 2009|Kim Geiger and James Oliphant

WASHINGTON — Here are some readers' questions on the national healthcare debate:

People have been telling me that payment for President Obama's healthcare plan will come from the Medicare Advantage funds. Is this true?

Medicare Advantage, a private insurance plan that covers a quarter of Medicare recipients, is a target of Democratic budget-cutters. Obama has characterized the program, which costs the government $17 billion annually, as a wasteful bonanza for private insurers. The White House maintains that enrollees of Medicare Advantage would see no changes in services as a result of any cuts.

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My husband was in the Navy for 32 years and is primarily covered by Medicare. Anything not covered by Medicare is covered by Tricare, the military health insurance program. This includes all medications. We pay nothing for doctors or prescriptions. Will the military healthcare be done away with should Obama's plan succeed?

No. The White House and congressional Democrats maintain that Tricare will not be affected by any changes to the healthcare system. It's also likely that the final bill will contain a provision that says Tricare will satisfy the requirement that individuals buy health insurance.

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Why are health insurance companies not allowed to sell policies across state lines?

Insurance companies historically have operated as state-regulated entities, and many states have different requirements. The insurance industry would like to see the process streamlined, or even federalized. The healthcare overhaul offered by Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) last week would allow for the creation of "compacts" so insurers could sell policies across state lines. There also is a provision that could allow companies to offer benefit packages nationwide. Advocates of such national plans argue that they would make insurance more affordable because of lower administrative costs. Critics say exempting companies from state regulation would result in inadequate coverage.

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How will the new healthcare plan affect mental illness coverage?

The bills in Congress would insure as many as 30 million people. More than 1 in 4 people without insurance today have a mental disorder, addiction, or both, according to the Campaign for Mental Health Reform, meaning the bills would significantly increase coverage for this population.

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kgeiger@latimes.com

joliphant@latimes.com

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