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President Obama - healthcare and housing policies

Niall Mckibbin

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More than 30 million Americans are likely to benefit from the new health care coverage bill signed into law recently. The bill was cleared with a 219-212 vote by the senate a few days back after an extended period of discussions and debate.

Coming on the heels of other health care reforms, the $940 billion plan brings new hope to many Americans who have not been able to claim any aid from the government for their health care expenses. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will modify the insurance coverage for children and senior citizens too. One significant change here is that young people will still be covered by parental insurance policies up to the age of 26. This eliminates the pressure on them if they are unable to find jobs before this but require expensive medical treatment.

The aim of the government is to control the cost of health insurance and keep it within affordable limits so that more Americans can take advantage of them. In addition, fairer and more equitable insurance will be encouraged by ensuring that differential charges for certain sicknesses are done away with. Insurers will also no longer find it as easy as before to withdraw plans from policyholders when they fall sick. From 2014, insurers will also be prohibited from denying coverage based on existing conditions.

Medic aid provisions extended

Several Medicaid provisions have been extended to enhance the reach of the health insurance system to more Americans. Guaranteed insurance coverage has also been given to patients who are participating in clinical trials. This is expected to boost research, as more patients will now be willing to enroll for trial programs without affecting their insurance coverage. Several lesser known ailments may find a remedy if research improves.

Lifetime caps have been lifted on insurance coverage. This will allow patients who require repeated courses of expensive treatment to undertake a complete cycle of treatment without prohibitively high costs deterring them.

Restrictions have been imposed on the purchase of health insurance directly from the exchange, especially for immigrants who are not legally residing in the country. Subsidies have also been announced for specified income earners if they wish to purchase insurance from exchanges.

According to sources within the government, the bill hopes to bring down health care costs and to keep more Americans within the government backed health care network. In criticism of the bill’s provisions, the Republican stand is that health care premiums will shoot up leading to higher costs in the long run and that the system is against capitalism.

Obama and the housing market

Despite President Obama’s housing and mortgage programs to help the distressed, the activity in the sector continues to witness a slowdown in recent weeks. The first time homebuyer credit program launched earlier in the year to help the housing sector out of the recession was expected to increase the investment activity. Significant tax advantages were offered under this program to home buyers. However, the program has not delivered results as per the expectations.

Housing stats witnessed a decline over the previous two months of the year. While February figures were worse than those recorded in January, analysts believed that it was the bad weather, which was undermining the impetus provided by the program incentives . However, as March figures has also shown no marked improvement, the weather can no longer be blamed for the sluggish housing activity across the US.

Building permits have also recorded a fall over the same period. As permits are less influenced by bad weather, the decline here shows a definite slowdown in activity. The slowdown comes even as the first time homebuyer credit program is being widely publicized on media to maximize coverage and reach.

The Government attempts to shore up market

The government is making desperate efforts to shore up the markets with modifications to existing housing programs and launch of new incentives to include repeat home buyers but these are yet to show concrete results reflected as improvement in the housing market. June is the deadline for deal closures to qualify for the first time buyer benefits and this was a major reason why experts expected a massive surge in activity in March, April and May. The government has also come up with modifications to the Making Homes Affordable program in a bid to help owners avoid foreclosures and retain ownership of their homes. But all these efforts are yet to bear fruit.

As a strong housing segment sets the stage for a sound economy, the government is still keen on boosting the performance of this key area. With interest rates falling to attractive lows on mortgages, refinance options are being promoted as a means to reduce recurring mortgage payment burdens.

A recent housing market report from Fannie Mae confirmed that in spite of consistent efforts by the administration, there does not appear to be adequate improvement in this sector. The report states that the first time home buyer credit program is not meeting expectations because of the severely restricted number of persons qualifying for its benefits.


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