Monday, August 10, 2009

Timeline of Financial Bailout of 2008

Q3-Q4: 2007
Subprime mortgage meltdown begins
JP Morgan completes acquisition of Bear Stearns
U.S. Treasury seizes control of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, government-sponsored mortgage guarantors
Bank of America agrees to buy Merrill Lynch under terms set by the US Fed
Lehman Brothers files for bankruptcy
Treasury agrees to loan $85 billion to A.I.G.; takes control
Treasury/Fed worry about runs on money markets and investment banks
Paulson and Bernanke present 3-page plan to Congressional leaders
Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs become regulated bank holding companies, ending era of Investment Banking
Economists submit letter in opposition to the original Paulson Plan, claiming it is unfair, ambiguous and short-sighted
Regulators seize Washington Mutual Saving and Loan and arrange sale to JP Morgan Chase
First draft of Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (HR 3997)
HR 3997 fails to pass the U.S. House
Senate passes HR 1424, a modified version of the bill
Congress passes HR 1424 and President G.W. Bush signs it into law
Week ending 10/10
Dow Jones loses 18% of value in one week. Iceland seizes its banks. Britain proposes direct investment in banks
G7 finance ministers, then Group of 20 meet at White House to coordinate policy
Paulson and Bernanke meet with leaders of 9 largest banks. Get agreement on direct infusion of cash
AIG bailout restructured to include $60 billion loan from US Federal Reserve, $40 billion in securities purchased by US Treasury, and credit lines of up to $30 billion backed by Credit Default Swaps and $22.5 billion against mortgage-backed securities

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Monday, August 3, 2009

Health Care Reform Takes Shape

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With the final markups of the Affordable Health Choices Act now clearing committees in the U.S. House of Representatives, the potential scope of the legislation is becoming clear. And, while the American Medical Association is on board with H.R. 3200, the House version of the bill, the insurance industry is coming out swinging.

Doctors have to appreciate several aspects of the bill. First, the bill would extend insurance coverage to tens of millions of Americans who currently are denied coverage by insurance companies or who simply can not afford it. (See An Explanation of the Health Care Bill.) Second, the bill enhances the role of the primary care physician in determining the effective course of treatment and offers economic incentives for doctors and medical students to take on this role. The bill also addresses flaws in the Medicare reimbursement mechanism and includes measures to promote wellness and disease prevention.

Insurance companies seem most concerned about the introduction of a government-operated insurance plan, which they view as unfair competition. Health care economists argue that a government plan is required in order to:

  • Ensure access to affordable care
  • Provide market leadership in setting standards and negotiating prices for medical services, which currently vary widely by market
  • Develop (and share) processes and information systems for accurately assessing and paying claims
The legislative history of the bill, a work in process, demonstrates considerable cooperation between and within the Congressional chambers. The Senate had split the bill into two components. Sections of the bill relating to reform of insurance and other mechanisms for funding health care were drafted by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (H.E.L.P.). That Committee completed its work on the bill on July 15, 2009 and submitted it to the full Senate for consideration after the August recess. The Senate Finance Committee, which took responsibility for drafting legislation governing the cost of health care, has not completed its work.

In the meantime, the U.S. House divided its work among three committees, all of which have completed markup of H.R. 3200. That version of the bill closely mirrors provisions of the bill passed by the Senate H.E.L.P. Committee, but also covers areas still under debate in the Senate Finance Committee. Having effectively taken the lead in the legislation, the House of Representatives is expected to pass H.R. 3200 following the August recess, perhaps with amendments taken from the floor of the House, and submit it to the Senate. At that point the Senate may choose to accept it as it stands (which is unlikely) or continue work on its own version of the legislation. If the Senate passes a bill that differs from H.R. 3200, the House and Senate leadership would then create a Conference Committee made up of representatives from each chamber to negotiate a bill that would be acceptable to both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Important provisions of H.R.3200 that have not been cleared by a Senate Committee would empower the government plan to aggressively negotiate prices, delivery methods and standards of service with providers. The debate about the government's role in determining what kind of care is most efficient and effective is bound to be most contentious.

Expecting a fight in the Senate, the Administration has already begun to telegraph its fallback position by referring to the bill as "insurance reform." In other words, having gotten similar insurance reform provisions through committees in both the Senate and the House, the Administration is confident that at least those aspects of the bill will become law. And, while they would like to adopt stronger measures to accelerate cost containment, those more controversial measures could be sacrificed in the interests of getting insurance industry restructuring underway.

Businesses large and small should be prepared to reevaluate their health care policies, providers and pension plans in light of this new legislation. Economic effects are likely to be profound.

The American College of Physicians has published three white papers: A Public Plan Option in a Health Insurance Connector; Reforming the Tax Insurance Exclusion; and Individual Mandates in Health Insurance Reform.

A collection of posts about the US Economy is maintained here.

To learn more about our work in consulting, please see our Profile, download a brochure about our Practice, or check out our Case Studies.

Contact JP Farrell & Associates, Inc.