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Health Care Reform's Early Effects Raise Few Alarms

Jenny Chen |
January 12, 2011 | 5:15 p.m. PST

Associate News Editor

Creative Commons
Creative Commons

Republicans previously warned that the health care reform law would hurt indoor tanning salon businesses and result in rationing health care, but such concerns have yet to materialize. 

Worries about a 10 percent tax on indoor tanning (to help fund the health care bill) and the development of a comparative effectiveness research institute are two of the controversial provisions.

The House of Representatives was scheduled to vote Wednesday to repeal the health care bill. The vote was delayed after the Arizona shooting that left Rep. Gabrielle Giffords severely wounded.

While the Republican majority in the House seems determined to repeal the law they call the “Job-Killing Health Care Law,” Democrats view their efforts as futile. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he will block the repeal vote should it reach the Senate. 

Yet despite concerns that a tax on indoor tanning would negatively affect businesses, most tanning salons have not seen much change. Tiffany Sierra of SunLounge Tanning Studio & Spa in Los Angeles called the tax unfair, but said she had not seen a “complete falloff of customers” as anticipated.  

One employee at Sunset Tan in West Hollywood, CA concurred, saying customers will continue to pay for any service they like.

“There are taxes on everything nowadays,” he said. 

Still, smaller companies like Bronz Body Tan in L.A. are feeling the pressure. The salon said they could not afford to raise prices, estimating that customers paid about $65 per month for tanning services. By refusing to tack on higher prices, the salon has been forced to cut back on supplies and has lost two employees. 

A second concern about rationing health care was derived from the stimulus law that authorized $1.1 billion for research on medical treatments. 

In September 2009, the Health and Human Services Department announced $17 million would be used to create PCOR or “patient-centered outcomes research” centers. The health care law later established a Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) that will oversee and conduct comparative effectiveness research. 

John W. Hay, a USC Professor of Pharmaceutical Economics and Policy and an expert in comparative effectiveness research said PCORI is controversial because the institute is “trying to determine which medical interventions are better than others.” 

While Hay called concerns of rationing valid, he said the ability for the institute to compare effectiveness was not the issue. 

“My problem with [PCORI] is the extent to which recommendations become mandatory for health care,” Hay said. “How is this information going to be used?” 

The USC professor said that the health care plan, commonly dubbed “Obamacare,” has locked people into a government program, leaving them with no options to opt out. 

Though the House repeal vote is seen as ceremonial, it has been rescheduled for sometime next week. 

Reach reporter Jenny Chen here.

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