Hospitals across the country could find themselves in a financial squeeze next year thanks to federal health care reform.
The 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, is cutting hospitals' reimbursements from Medicare - the federal program that provides health care to the elderly - by $155 billion. When the law was passed, hospital officials agreed to the cut believing that patients covered by the new law who previously had been uninsured would more than make up the difference.
But hospital officials are growing increasingly worried as it becomes apparent the law will not expand health care to as many people as they had hoped.
The law required states to expand Medicaid - the federal and state program that provides health coverage to those with low incomes - to individuals earning up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level. That alone was expected to provide coverage to 17 million Americans who didn’t have coverage.
But last year the U.S. Supreme Court, while upholding most of Obamacare, also said Congress could not require states to expand Medicaid. Now roughly half the states, including Georgia, do not plan to expand Medicaid coverage, with leaders in most citing concerns about long-term costs.
Obamacare also set up exchanges for those who don’t have coverage through work or government programs to buy insurance. To encourage people to use the exchanges, the law created carrots - subsidies for those under certain income levels - as well as sticks - a $95 fine on tax refunds for not having coverage.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that next year 6 million uninsured people will chance a fine on their tax refunds rather than buy health coverage.
So as hospitals face the certainty of lower Medicare reimbursements and more regulation, it’s looking less likely that the number of uninsured patients they treat will change. That has the potential to hit them hard.
And it’s what happens when Congress passes a sweeping law aimed at fundamentally changing one of the largest sectors of the economy. The law counted on all parts working exactly as supporters had hoped. Government rarely works that way, however, and those who voted for the law should have known it. Their hubris blinded them.
Although technology has advanced at an amazing speed, humans have yet to land on another planet. Unmanned craft have long explored the outer reaches of space, with the Mars Rover collecting incredible data on the red planet. It's only a matter of time before people will follow.
Earth’s fascination with Mars began in science fiction. Novels and movies often depicted Martians as little green men coming to Earth to enslave or destroy its inhabitants. Rovers haven’t found any sign of life on Mars - yet. No Martians have landed on Earth - at least that we know of.
But now there’s a chance that some Earthlings themselves will soon become Martians.
More than 100,000 people have signed up for a chance to die on Mars, reports CNN. Technology is advanced enough to get them there - hopefully - but there's little-to-no hope at this point of bringing them back.
A number of entrepreneurs are selling the opportunity to be among the first to colonize Mars, perhaps as soon as 2022. The Mars One project plans to be the first; others are in the design stages. And of course, the entire journey and colonization will be broadcast worldwide.
Naysayers claim humans cannot survive the journey, let alone harsh conditions on the planet, which might make the number of people willing to pay to die trying a little surprising. But, of course, those age 45 and younger have never known a world where space exploration and landing on the moon were considered impossible. Perhaps living on Mars isn’t so unbelievable after all.