House Health Reform Bill Provides Quality, Affordable Health Care for All
July 15, 2009 - 11:25am ET
On July 14, 2009 the House of Representatives introduced a bill that crystallizes President Barack Obama's vision for health care reform. "America's Affordable Health Choice Act" is designed to control costs, improve quality and deliver affordable health care to all. It does so by:
- Strengthening employer-based insurance to allow people to keep what they have if they are happy with it. Employers would be required to help make health insurance available for their employees. Businesses that do not offer health coverage to their workers would pay between a 2 and 8 percent payroll tax —depending on the business' size—to help subsidize coverage in the Exchange, where their employees could purchase coverage. Small business—those with less than $250,000 in annual payroll—would be exempt from the requirement.
- Creating a public health insurance plan option to compete on a level playing field with private insurers, driving better value and quality. The new public health insurance plan would be national and would initially use Medicare payment rates but would have greater flexibility to vary those rates as needed. Medicare providers would be presumed to participate in the new public health insurance plan unless they opt out, giving people broad access to providers nationwide.
- Creating a national Health Insurance Exchange with both private and public plan options to give everyone access to affordable, reliable and comprehensive health care coverage. The new Exchange would provide health insurance plans with standardized, comprehensive benefit packages so that those who need coverage can comparison-shop and make informed choices based on cost and quality. All plans in the Exchange would include a cap on premiums and out-of-pocket spending so that, regardless of income, everyone would be protected and no one would face bankruptcy due to medical expenses. To participate in the Exchange, plans would have to meet new standards of transparency and explain their coverage in plain language.
- Helping people with low incomes afford health insurance. People with low incomes—below 400% of the Federal Poverty Level ($43,329 for an individual in 2009)—would be eligible for assistance buying health insurance. The assistance would be provided in the form of sliding scale premium credits, starting at 133% of poverty and phasing out at 400% of poverty. The affordability credits would also subsidize cost sharing, ensuring that covered benefits are accessible. In addition, Medicaid income eligibility limit would be raised to 133% of poverty ($14,400 for an individual in 2009).
- Lowering health care costs. The growth in health care spending would be reduced in a numerous ways, including investing in stronger prevention and wellness measures, increasing access to primary care, health care delivery system reform, and improvements in payment accuracy. In addition, the creation of the Health Insurance Exchange and the inclusion of a public health insurance option will make health insurance more affordable by increasing competition in health insurance markets that are currently monopolized by one or two mega insurance companies.
All these elements are vital to finally making access to quality, affordable health care a reality for all in the United States of America. It is important to remember, however, that while the introduction of this bill is a great victory, it only marks a new phase in the struggle. Now we must strengthen our resolve and commitment by not allowing these essential provisions be watered down as the legislative process continues.
Health Care for America Now is calling for us to oppose amendments that would:
- weaken the affordability protections for low and middle income families;
- narrow the breadth of persons or services covered;
- limit affordable health insurance choices, such as amendments to eliminate or weaken the public health insurance option; or
- scale back efforts to address disparities in access to health care services and achieve equity in health outcomes.
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Views expressed on this page are those of the authors and not necessarily those of Campaign for America's Future or Institute for America's Future