People are angry about the high cost of healthcare and health insurance. Many voters told pollsters healthcare was the top of their concerns when they voted in November’s congressional elections. Voters worried about cost, availability, and access to healthcare for themselves and their families. People are understandably upset. In the next month, Republicans have an opportunity to reduce some of the damage done by Obamacare. After the Democrats take control of the House, that opportunity disappears for two years. They can do this by passing legislation that repeals or delays Obamacare’s health insurance and medical device taxes and expands Health Savings Accounts. In the past few months, healthcare premiums have begun to stabilize due in in part to the policies of the Trump administration that have returned some powers to the states and empowered patient-centered healthcare. 16 billion a year tax on health insurance premiums (cleverly delayed until Obama left office) will soon take effect.
More than 141 million consumers will be damaged by this new tax: consumers in the individual market, large and small group plans, Medicare Advantage, and Medicare Part D plans. Furthermore, 1.7 million small businesses would be harmed. 6,000 over the next decade for a typical family of four with small or large group insurance. This tax is also highly regressive. 50,000 a year pay about half of the tax. Although the tax does not take effect until 2020, insurers plan their prices months in advance, so Congress must act soon. Congressional action is also overwhelmingly popular: 77 percent of registered voters support delay or full repeal of Obamacare’s health insurance tax. Ideally, this tax should be outright repealed to spare taxpayers from an onslaught of higher premiums and financial hardship. However, if Congress can’t repeal this harmful tax in full, it is imperative that the health insurance tax is delayed so that families and small businesses are protected from tax increases.
- What is your style of travel
- Eat at your table and cuddle on the couch
- Raspberries: excellent source of vitamin C, provides antioxidants
- Limit alcohol intake
The health insurance tax is not the only looming tax hike. The Obamacare medical device tax is also set to go into effect in 2020. This 2.3 percent excise tax is imposed directly on manufacturers and thousands of small businesses. Ultimately, this tax suppresses investment and costs jobs. While all Obamacare taxes should be repealed over the long term, it is crucial that Congress uses this opportunity to ensure that the health insurance tax and medical device tax do not go into effect. In addition to preventing tax increases on the healthcare system, lawmakers should also proactively implement new reforms for families. Today, 25 million families and individuals (and counting) utilize tax-advantaged Health Savings Accounts to save and spend their own money tax-free on a variety of healthcare expenses. 13,300 for a family. This reform will expand the viability of HSAs for millions of families. HSAs have a proven record in promoting consumer driven healthcare that lowers healthcare costs, increases savings, and strengthens retirement security. These simple reforms will update HSAs for the benefit of millions of families. Preventing the health insurance tax and medical device tax from going into effect and expanding HSAs will strengthen access to care, lower costs, and restrain the federal government. Grover Norquist (@GroverNorquist) is president of Americans for Tax Reform. Alex Hendrie is the organization’s Director of Tax Policy.
A small prick of a thumb for a drop of blood had heavy results — at just 18 years old, Kanahele’s hemoglobin levels indicated she was pre-diabetic. She was shocked. But then she remembered her grandfather’s experience with diabetes and how difficult it was when he had to have surgery to remove some of his toes. “I really didn’t want that,” she said. Khrystyna Kanahele, an 18-year-old intern at MA’O Organic Farms, changed her diet and behavior after discovering that she was pre-diabetic during a UH health study. Kanahele began to make more of an effort to arrive on time at the farm, starting her days at dawn rather than sleeping in until noon. She also took more salad greens home to eat. When she measured her average blood sugar level once more in April, she found that it had dropped back in the healthy range. The positive health shifts among the interns occurred significantly swifter than “a typical medical intervention would be achieving,” said Ruben Juarez, the study’s co-investigator and a mathematical economist at the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization.
Preliminary findings of the UH Mauli Ola study indicate that 60% of interns who were found to be pre-diabetic or diabetic saw an improvement in their blood sugar control. Juarez’s partner in the project is Alika Maunakea, a biomedical researcher at the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine who was raised in Waianae and has family ties to MA’O Organic Farms. In 2017, they began to analyze the influence of the MA’O program on the health of the participants. Equally encouraging was the finding that some family and friends of interns began to exhibit the same healthy behaviors as the interns, who range from 16 to 23 years old. This trend, Maunakea and Juarez believe, is showing that a non-health program like MA’O might have a significant influence on the health of participants and, perhaps more surprisingly, a ripple effect on the Waianae community. Sponsored by the HMSA Foundation and Kamehameha Schools, the study’s first round included approximately 400 individuals from around Oahu, about two-thirds of whom have Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander ancestry. A farm-to-college program headed by MA’O Organic Farms in Lualualei Valley is yielding physical health benefits, researchers are finding.
The study has not yet been published or peer-reviewed. But the researchers believe it could illustrate a link between gut microbiome composition, risk for diabetes, and the influence of social networks on healthy behavior among Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders. The researchers are actively sharing data and findings with participants so they can use the preliminary results in their daily lives. “It can help us see how organizations can help address the health needs of a community, even if those organizations aren’t part of the traditional health care system,” said Maunakea. In the shade of the MA’O production center, music and mist fill the air as interns spray-wash fresh kalo, radishes, ulu and colorful salad greens. In an organized shuffle, the team prepares 3,000 pounds of produce each week to distribute to grocery stores, restaurants and farmer’s markets. These high school and college students also tend to more than 40 varieties of organic fruits and vegetables.
Interns help at the farm’s production center, where vegetables are washed, packaged and readied for groceries, restaurants and farmers markets the next day. MA’O is an acronym for Mala Ai Opio, which translates to youth food garden. It’s a healthy oasis, tucked along Oahu’s west side, where there are often more unhealthy food choices available than healthy ones. MA’O Organic Farms was founded in 2001 to combat that trend. The farm is an initiative of the Waianae Community Redevelopment Corp., a nonprofit with the mission of addressing socioeconomic inequities through agricultural and educational programming rooted in Hawaiian culture. Kukui Maunakea-Forth, executive director of MA’O Farms, senses improvements in the eating habits of interns carried over to family members. Executive Director Kukui Maunakea-Forth is also the aunt of Alika Maunakea, the researcher. The study was an opportunity to measure the farm’s impact, she said. “We wanted evidence that there were quantifiable health impacts to what we were doing, though that’s not necessarily what we’re doing — we’re a production farm,” Maunakea-Forth said. She had an inkling healthy habits were being adopted by the interns’ family members, too, since they are encouraged to take fresh produce home.