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Posts Tagged ‘Health Care for America Now’

So, What's In the Reconciliation Bill?

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

The President signed the Senate health care bill into law at noon today.

This year, over 4 million small businesses will get tax credits worth up to 35% of their health care costs. This year, seniors will get $250 towards closing their coverage donut hole. This year, young Americans will be able to stay on their parent’s insurance plan until they are 26. This year, lifetime caps on benefits will be a thing of the past. And this year, the people with pre-existing conditions who can’t get health care now at any price will be able to buy into high-risk pools until the exchanges are set up in 2014.

But we are not done. Right after the House passed the health care bill on Sunday, they passed a package of improvements that now head to the Senate for an up-or-down vote.

The fixes heading to the Senate are mostly focused on making health care affordable to middle class families.

First, the package vastly improves the excise tax on “Cadillac” insurance plans, raising the threshold at which a plan will be affected to $10,200 for individual plans and $27,500 for family coverage. It also delays the implementation of the tax until 2018. As a result, the burden on middle tax families will be dramatically reduced.

To make up for the loss in revenue, the fixes broaden the Medicare payroll tax on on rich investors, taxing net investment income for those who make more than $250,000 per year.

And second, the package increases the subsidies available in the exchanges for middle class families and lowers their cost sharing. With the package, a lower percentage of a family’s income will be spent on health care costs – both premiums and out of pocket.

And there are more provisions in the package that would help broad swaths of the American public:

  • The package fully closes the donut hole for seniors over time
  • It freezes Medicare Advantage overpayments to private insurers and requires private insurers to pay 85% of money in to benefits in Medicare Advantage, to match the levels for all insurance plans in the health care bill
  • It strikes the deals Senators like Ben Nelson received and replaces them with increased Medicaid funding to all states
  • And it funds student loans for millions of young Americans

The Senate, after a string of favorable parliamentary rulings, is expected to take up the improvements under budget reconciliation rules today, with the goal of a final vote at the end of this week before the Easter recess.

*This post originally appeared in Health Care For America Now on March 23, 2010. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Jason Rosenbaum is a writer and musician currently residing in Washington D.C. He is interested in the intersection of politics and culture, media consolidation issues, and making sense out of our foreign policy disasters. He currently works for Health Care for America Now and he is also the webmaster for The Seminal.

What Health Reform Will Do for America - Two Examples

Friday, March 19th, 2010

Two headlines today highlight glaring problems in our health care system that would be fixed if health reform passes.

First, from Pennsylvania, the New York Times headlines “Big Insurance Rate Increase for Pennsylvania Poor”:

Facing a sharp rise in costs, Pennsylvania has almost doubled the monthly bill for a state health insurance program for poor people who do not qualify for Medicaid and are on a waiting list for a less costly option.

On March 1, the cost of the plan rose to about $600 a month, up from $313 a month, for the roughly 2,400 state residents on the waiting list.

Established in 2002, Pennsylvania’s state insurance program, called AdultBasic, covers adults ages 19 to 65 with incomes lower than twice the federal poverty level, or about $21,672 for a single person, at a cost to participants of about $36 per month. About 39,000 people are enrolled in AdultBasic.

About 390,000 other people are on a waiting list to join the AdultBasic program. While they wait, the state gives them the option to pay for the same insurance at a higher rate. It is the cost for members of the waiting list that rose on March 1 to about $600 a month.

Health reform solves this problem.

For families who make 133% of the Federal Poverty Level or less – about $24,000 per year – health reform would allow them to get on Medicaid. Those families who make more than that – up to 400% of the FPL or about $73,000 per year – will be able to purchase heavily subsidized insurance in the Exchanges.

For families making between 133% FPL and 200% FPL ($24,000 – $36,000 per year) – the people affected by Pennsylvania’s rate increase above – their average cost for insurance, both premiums and out of pocket, will be [pdf] around $63 per month for families at 133% up to $244 per month for families at 200%.

The next headline is from Kaiser Health News, “Drug Prices Rise For Seniors Who Reach Medicare Part D Coverage Gap”:

Seniors who hit the coverage gap in their Medicare prescription drug plans and must use their own money to buy drugs are facing price increases that are far outpacing inflation, a new study finds.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, prices paid by enrollees in standalone Part D plans who enter the coverage gap increased 5 percent or more since January 2009 for half of 10 brand-name drugs most commonly used by seniors. That’s almost twice the rate of inflation over the same period.

For example, the price of Actonel, a treatment for osteoporosis, increased 8 percent, from $91 per month in 2009 to $98 per month in 2010. Meanwhile, the prices for both Aricept, an Alzheimer’s medication, and Plavix, a drug used to prevent blood clots, both increased by 7 percent during the same period. Aricept’s prices rose from $184 to $198 while Plavix’s rose from $142 to $152. Lipitor, a cholesterol medication, was the only drug surveyed that decreased in price, from slightly more than $86 to just under $86 per month.

The rising prices are part of a longer is sufficient longer-term trend. Between January 2006 and January 2010, the analysis showed, prices of drugs bought by seniors who hit the coverage gap increased 20 to 25 percent for Lipitor, Plavix, Nexium, a drug for acid-reflux, and Lexapro, a medication for depression and anxiety; 39 percent for Actonel, and 41 percent for Aricept. Over the same period, inflation has increased 9.2 percent while prices for medical care have surged 16.1 percent.

Health reform solves this problem, too. Immediately after passage of the bill, seniors will get immediate relief that starts closing that coverage gap. The gap will be completely closed as health reform is implemented.

There are a few more noteworthy immediate affects of reform as well:

  • Prohibit pre-existing condition exclusions for children in all new plans;
  • Provide immediate access to insurance for uninsured Americans who are uninsured because of a pre-existing condition through a temporary high-risk pool; (this will help with the Pennsylvania situation as well)
  • Prohibit dropping people from coverage when they get sick in all individual plans;
  • Offer tax credits to small businesses to purchase coverage;
  • Eliminate lifetime limits and restrictive annual limits on benefits in all plans;
  • Require plans to cover an enrollee’s dependent children until age 26;
  • Require new plans to cover preventive services and immunizations without cost-sharing;
  • Ensure consumers have access to an effective internal and external appeals process to appeal new insurance plan decisions;
  • Require premium rebates to enrollees from insurers with high administrative expenditures and require public disclosure of the percent of premiums applied to overhead costs.

Reform will also help people like 11-year-old Marcelas Owens, who’s mother died because she didn’t have insurance:

And Matt Masterson’s son, who’s pre-existing condition makes him virtually uninsurable, a near death sentence as soon as he’s kicked of his father’s insurance plan in a few years:

Finally, today, the House Energy and Commerce Committee came out with numbers on how reform will help people in every Congressional district.

The vote is coming in the House. It’s likely to take place this weekend. Without reform, none of these problems get solved, and the insurance companies will get to continue their business practices of denying care and carving out coverage while making record profits.

It’s time to for the House to decide, and you should pick up the phone and help them.

*This post originally appeared in Health Care For America Now on March 17, 2010. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Jason Rosenbaum is a writer and musician currently residing in Washington D.C. He is interested in the intersection of politics and culture, media consolidation issues, and making sense out of our foreign policy disasters. He currently works for Health Care for America Now and he is also the webmaster for The Seminal.

Health Insurance Premiums Soar as New Polls Show Americans Want Reform

Friday, March 12th, 2010

Image: James ParksRecent polls show a majority of Americans want Congress to pass comprehensive health care reform now. And for good reason: There’s more news out this week about the enormous increases in health insurance premiums, according to a new report.

A survey from Economist/YouGov released this week shows 53 percent of respondents support changes proposed by the Obama administration. A second poll by Ipsos/McClutchey shows that 53 percent of Americans either support the current reform option or hope for an even stronger reform package. More than a third of those who oppose current reform proposals actually favor stronger reforms.

Meanwhile, a study by Health Care for America Now (HCAN) shows jaw-dropping insurance premium hikes—up 97 percent for families and 90 percent for individuals between 2000 and 2008. Premiums rose two times faster than medical costs and more than three times faster than wages. Companies like WellPoint are raising premiums by as much as 39 percent in California and by double digits in at least 11 states.

An analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that people who bought insurance on their own between 2004 and 2007 on average paid more of their health expenses themselves—52 percent—than insurance companies. Yet those who had employer-sponsored coverage only paid 30 percent out of pocket.

The industry front group, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), heard plenty this week as thousands gathered in Washington, D.C., outside AHIP’s meeting to stage a citizens’ arrest for its crime in blocking health care reform.

Says Kaiser Family Foundation President Drew Altman:

The recent premium increases in the individual market probably have done more to illustrate the cost of doing nothing in health reform in simple, graphic terms people can understand than anything so far in the health reform debate.

*This article originally appeared in AFL-CIO blog on March 11, 2010. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: James Parks had his first encounter with unions at Gannett’s newspaper in Cincinnati when his colleagues in the newsroom tried to organize a unit of The Newspaper Guild. He saw firsthand how companies pull out all the stops to prevent workers from forming a union. He is a journalist by trade, and worked for newspapers in five different states before joining the AFL-CIO staff in 1990. He has also been a seminary student, drug counselor, community organizer, event planner, adjunct college professor and county bureaucrat. His proudest career moment, though, was when he served, along with other union members and staff, as an official observer for South Africa’s first multiracial elections. Author photo by Joe Kekeris

Republicans Aren't Bringing a Health Reform Plan to the Summit Because They Don't Want to Reform Health Care

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Yesterday, Republican leaders finally confirmed that they weren’t going to bring a health care bill to the President’s summit tomorrow. Why? Because they don’t actually want to reform health care (emphasis added):

The Senate GOP leadership is brushing off Dan Pfeiffer’s demand this morning that Republicans clarify whether they’ll produce a bill in advance of the summit, and won’t put forth a “comprehensive proposal,” aides say.

This morning on the White House blog, Pfeiffer challenged GOP leaders to say whether they’d be bringing a bill to the summit. “The Senate Republicans have yet to post any kind of plan,” Pfeiffer wrote, adding that “we continue to await word from them.”

Asked for comment, a senior Senate GOP aide emailed:

We fundamentally disagree with a comprehensive proposal to reform health care. We think a step by step approach on areas where we agree is the best path forward. We will not be posting a comprehensive alternative to commence a staring contest.

Of course, health care advocates have known this all along. Republicans have no solutions to the crisis in our health care system because they don’t view it as a system in crisis.

However, the position that health care in this country doesn’t need fundamental reform is a dangerous position to take. Never mind that every day we go without reform, 6,821 more people lose their health insurance [pdf], 2,548 more people file for bankruptcy because they got sick, and 60 more people die [pdf] because they don’t have the coverage they need. Declaring that as a party Republicans “fundamentally disagree with a comprehensive proposal to reform health care” is radically out of step with the American people.

The latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll is only the latest in a series showing the elements of health reform are popular:

Other parts of reform are really popular too, like the public option.

And majorities want comprehensive health reform passed:

And even more will be disappointed or angry if reform doesn’t pass:

If Republicans think going with nothing is going to win them broad support, they haven’t been reading their polling.

Democrats need to work to make sure the reform that passes works for everyone in America and has the popular elements in it – they must pass health care that works for us and pass it now. Today, we’re helping to put in 1 million messages to Congress to send them that message, and Melanie’s March is arriving in DC to a huge rally with Senators attending the summit, so we’ll get to tell that message to these Senators in person.

Getting health reform done right is more than good policy for the country, it’s popular, too. And it will show America that Democrats won’t accept the party of NO’s strategy.

*This post originally appeared in Health Care For America Now on February 24, 2010. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Jason Rosenbaum is a writer and musician currently residing in Washington D.C. He is interested in the intersection of politics and culture, media consolidation issues, and making sense out of our foreign policy disasters. He currently works for Health Care for America Now and he is also the webmaster for The Seminal.

Enough Hand Wringing. Get the Job Done!

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

Image: Richard KirschAs Washington grapples with the outcome of the election in Massachusetts this week, it’s important to remember one key thing: Congress can still pass historic legislation that will make health care a right, not a privilege, in the United States. While the procedural route may be different, Congress still can do what it intended to do before Tuesday. It can enact a comprehensive bill that will make good health care affordable to tens of millions of people who are uninsured or underinsured and end the practice of denying people coverage or charging people more for pre-existing conditions. It can end the specter of medical bankruptcy, provide free access to preventive care, and more. None of these historic achievements can be done through “incremental” reform, and failing to accomplish these goals would put the Democratic Party in profound political peril.

While it may seem appealing to carve up the many facets of reform into smaller bites, that won’t get the job done. Take, for example, the promise that has most resonated with the public: stopping insurance companies from denying coverage for preexisting conditions. You can’t do that without requiring everyone be covered because many people would wait to get covered until they needed treatment and that would drive premiums too high. But you can’t require people to get coverage without providing income-based subsidies to make coverage affordable. And you can’t raise the money for subsidies without finding savings in the system, like the proposed changes in Medicare, or raising new revenue. All that adds up to comprehensive reform.

The same logic applies to the other basic items Americans most want from reform, like relief from medical bankruptcy or stopping insurers from charging more to women or making the health insurance market work for small business.

At its heart, comprehensive reform is a simple guarantee that you will have access to good, affordable coverage whether you work for someone else, are self-employed, or are unemployed. The bills that have passed both houses of Congress achieve that goal through the same basic mechanisms: expanding Medicaid, establishing new health insurance marketplaces, providing income-based subsidies for buying regulated insurance within those marketplaces, extending tax credits to at least small businesses, and establishing some requirements for most businesses to offer coverage or pay for it. Both bills raise the money through changes in Medicare and new revenues. Taken together, that will mean that for the first time every American will have access to affordable health care coverage.

If we look at history, we see that once we have built such a foundation, Congress will improve on it. When Social Security was enacted, it left out major categories of workers and didn’t provide for surviving spouses or dependents. Those omissions got fixed later.

If we fail to pass reform or pass minor reforms that don’t really change anything, it will be at least 15 years before the nation tries again. If we enact the agreed upon reforms, Congress will continue to debate how to improve upon what’s in place. And it will defend the new right to health care against those who would tear it down – just like Republicans have been trying and failing to privatize Social Security since it was first passed.

This isn’t just a policy question; it’s a political one. Republicans are counting on stopping the Democratic agenda so that Democrats will fail and voters will give the Republicans another chance. The Massachusetts election demonstrated that Democrats need to deliver on the promise of change. After a year of getting within sight of the finish line on comprehensive health care reform, the only choice from a policy and political perspective is to get the job done.

As the national campaign manager of the nation’s biggest progressive health care campaign – one that has organized hundreds of thousands of people in all 50 states and spent $45 million fighting for reforms that go well beyond what now seems possible – I understand as well as anyone how frustrating progressives find this situation. But we should never lose sight of what Dr. King said about health care in this nation: “Of all the forms of injustice, inequality in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” Congress is on the brink of dramatically reducing this inequality even though the legislation has many imperfections.

So on behalf of the army of activists who have fought with us for more than a year, our message to Democrats in the House and Senate is simple: pick yourselves up, dust yourselves off, and enact the compromise plan you were set to pass before the Massachusetts election. You still have big majorities in both houses. Because of Republican obstructionism, you’ll need to use different procedures to get the job done. But just do it! And know that each and every year you will have saved tens of thousands of lives, rescued hundreds of thousands of families from medical bankruptcy, and proved to America you are up to the challenge of building a new and better future for our children and the generations that follow.

*This article originally appeared in The Huffington Post on January 22, 2010. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Richard Kirsch is the National Campaign Manager for Health Care for America Now.

The Senate Has a Health Care Bill. What's in It?

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

Last night, the Senate unveiled their health care bill. You can read the full bill here [pdf], or the summery documents here.

On the whole, the Senate bill looks very much like the House health care bill. It ends insurance company abuses like denying care for those with pre-existing conditions and it sets benefit standards to make sure the coverage people receive – both on their own and through their employer – actually covers the care they need. It gives people the choice of a public health insurance option like the one in the HELP bill, though states would be able to opt-out of the public option if they passed a law saying so. And it sets up a health insurance “Exchange” that would provide tax credits (subsidies) to make health care affordable, as well as helping business afford health care for their employees.

On the budgetary front, the Senate bill would cost $849 billion over 10 years, and reduce the deficit by $127 billion over the same period. You can read the CBO’s projections on the bill here [pdf].

Of course, there are major differences. Igor Volsky at the Wonk Room has a handy comparison chart:

Senate Bill ($849 billion/10 years) House Bill ($894 billion/10 years)
Individual Mandate Yes, penalty of $750 by 2016 for those don’t purchase coverage. ($95 penalty in first year) Yes, penalty of 2.5% of income for those who remain uninsured
Employer Mandate Free rider provision. Employers would have to pay whichever is lower: $3,000 per every employee who receives a subsidy in the Exchange, or $750 for every employee (not just the subsidized worker). Yes, employers who don’t’ offer coverage would pay a fee equal to 8% of their payroll
Medicaid Expansion Up to 133% FPL. 100% federal funding for the first 3 years, then revert to Senate Finance language. Up to 150% FPL
Subsidies Between 133 – 400% FPL on sliding scale; spend 2%-9.8% of income on premiums Between 133 – 400% FPL on sliding scale; spend 2%-12% of income on premiums
Public Option National public plan, states can opt-out by 2014. Co-ops are also available. Yes, HHS secretary negotiates rates
Financing Excise tax on policies above $8,500 (individuals) and $23,000 (families), increases the payroll tax by .5% (increases to 1.95%) on individuals who earn more than $200,000 and families earning more than $250,000 a year, tax on insurers, pharmaceuticals, and medicare devices; Medicare savings 5.4% surtax on individuals earning > $500,000, couples earning more than $1 million; Medicare savings

The New York Times also has a great comparison.

Overall, the fact that Majority Leader Harry Reid did the right thing and listened to the American people by including things like a public health insurance option and a tax credit level that goes a long way towards making health care affordable means that this bill deserves a debate and a fair, majority up-or-down vote.

Republicans and the insurance companies will try to block this bill any way they can, even going so far as to recommend the Senate not even talk about this bill, let alone vote on it. These tactics only preserve the status quo. The American people deserve health care reform – reform that delivers affordable coverage, a choice of a public health insurance option, and fair financing – and this bill deserves a fair vote by the full Senate so it can meet the House bill in conference.

*This post originally appeared in Health Care for America Now on November 19, 2009. Reprinted with permission from the author.

About the Author: Jason Rosenbaum is a writer and musician currently residing in Washington D.C. He is interested in the intersection of politics and culture, media consolidation issues, and making sense out of our foreign policy disasters. He currently works for Health Care for America Now and he is also the webmaster for The Seminal.

Speaker Pelosi Announces House Health Care Bill

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

Pelosi.jpg“Today, we are about to deliver on the promise of making affordable, quality health care available for all americans,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in her statement, announcing the House health care bill. The bill is based on the ideas of opportunity, choice and innovation.

Check out her speech live here. You can read the full text of the bill here, which will be available online for 72 hours prior to voting. Stay tuned to our blog to learn what the House bill means for American workers and their families.

This post originally appeared in SEIU Blog on October 29, 2009. Reprinted with permission by the author.

About the Author: Maria Tchijov is an online organizer & new media specialist in healthcare on SEIU’s New Media team. SEIU is the nation’s largest union of health care workers, with over half of the union’s 2.1 million members working in the field, including 110,000 nurses and 40,000 doctors.

Reid: Public Option Will Be in Health Care Bill

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced in a Capitol Hill press conference today that he will send a health care reform bill to the Senate floor that includes a public option. States will have until 2014 to decide if they want to participate in the public plan.

Reid said he was optimistic that health care reform will pass:

“I feel good about progress we have made within our caucus and with the White House, and we are all optimistic about reform because of the unprecedented momentum that exists.

“I believe that a public option can achieve the goal of bringing meaningful reform to our broken system. It will protect consumers, keep insurers honest and ensure competition. And that’s why we intend to include it on the bill that will be submitted to the Senate for consideration.”

In a telephone press conference this morning, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said any real health care reform bill must include a robust public option that helps lower premiums and keeps insurance companies honest by guaranteeing competition.

Real reform also must require employers to pay their fair share by providing health coverage or contributing to help pay for subsidies, Trumka said. Real reform should ensure that working families who already are struggling to pay for health care insurance are not asked to pay even more in the form of a new  excise tax on their coverage, he added.

There are still things that still need to be fixed in the Senate bill, according to the Health Care for America Now (HCAN) coalition, but Reid deserves thanks for including a public option. Click here to add your name to an HCAN the petition thanking Reid for fighting for America.

This post originally appeared in AFL-CIO blog on October 26, 2009. Reprinted with permission from the author.

About the Author: James Parks had his first encounter with unions at Gannett’s newspaper in Cincinnati when his colleagues in the newsroom tried to organize a unit of The Newspaper Guild. He saw firsthand how companies pull out all the stops to prevent workers from forming a union. He is a journalist by trade, and worked for newspapers in five different states before joining the AFL-CIO staff in 1990. He has also been a seminary student, drug counselor, community organizer, event planner, adjunct college professor and county bureaucrat. His proudest career moment, though, was when he served, along with other union members and staff, as an official observer for South Africa’s first multiracial elections.

Senator Kennedy - A Health Care Champion

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

Senator Kennedy’s legacy cannot be defined within one issue, no matter how important. But it would not be an understatement to say that his life’s work revolved around health care for all. He said so himself, calling it “the cause of [his] life” in a passionate Newsweek op-ed published just last month.

True to form, Kennedy turned his passion into real results. The list of health care legislative accomplishments he was part of is stunning. From the website set up by his family dedicated in his honor:

  • In 1966, Kennedy helped establish the community health center model in the United States. Community health centers are now serving 20 million low-income Americans around the country.
  • In 1985, Kennedy led the fight to enact COBRA, giving workers the ability to purchase health care through their employer after they have been let go from their job.
  • In 1996, Kennedy co-sponsored HIPPAA, which now ensures access to health care coverage for an estimated 25 million Americans who move from one job to another, are self-employed or have pre-existing medical conditions.
  • In 1997, Kennedy was instrumental in passing the CHIP program that gives health care to millions of children.
  • In 2006, Kennedy passed the Family Opportunity Act, which provides states with the opportunity to expand Medicaid coverage to children with special needs, giving low- and middle-income families with disabled children the opportunity to purchase health coverage under Medicaid.
  • From 1997-2008, Kennedy helped grant Massachusetts the Medicaid waivers it needed to pass its state health care reform plan.
  • In 2008, Kennedy enacted legislation to reform the inequities in the way mental health and substance use disorders are treated by the insurance industry, a 10 year battle.
  • And finally, in 2009 under his leadership and the leadership of his close friend, Senator Chris Dodd, Kennedy passed the Affordable Health Choices Act – which would give everyone in America a guarantee of quality, affordable health care – through the Senate committee he chaired, the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. The bill awaits a vote by the Senate as the health reform process moves forward.

Senator Kennedy’s towering vision for health care was built on his numerous accomplishments. While there is sadness in knowing Senator Kennedy won’t be with us to see his life’s work completed, we will keep him in our thoughts as our fight continues and we finally achieve quality, affordable health care for all this year.

About the Author: Jason Rosenbaum is a writer and musician currently residing in Washington D.C. He is interested in the intersection of politics and culture, media consolidation issues, and making sense out of our foreign policy disasters. He currently works for Health Care for America Now and he is also the webmaster for The Seminal.

This article originally appeared on the Health Care for America NOW! Blog on August 27, 2009 and is reprinted here with permission from the author.

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What Health Reform Will do for You (and Why)

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

The central question on the American people’s minds right now about health reform seems to be, “What’s in it for me?” Though the cost of doing nothing, as the conservatives propose, is staggering, with the average family paying $10,000 more in premiums by 2019, people still need to understand what reform will do. And while many people have answered or attempted to answer that question, I thought it might be worth another shot. So here it is – a concise and explanatory answer to the question, “What will health reform do for me?”

The below is based on the House version of health care reform, HR 3200 – America’s Affordable Health Choices Act, which is the strongest bill being discussed to date. In short, it will provide a guarantee of quality, affordable health care to everyone.

 

If you receive health insurance from your employer (or your spouse’s or parent’s employer):

The big things will not change – you will keep your current health insurance, keep your current doctor, and keep your current benefits. All the health reform plans being proposed allow people to keep their health insurance if they want to, and that means keeping their current benefits and choice of doctor. So if you get your coverage through work, or if your spouse or parent covers you on their health insurance through work, these big pieces will not change unless you want them to.

Your health insurance will get better and more stable. Health reform gives your employer a strong incentive to retain your health insurance or make it better. They will have to offer you at least standard, comprehensive package of benefits and your employer will not be able to continue shifting additional costs of insurance to you – they will have to pay at least about 70% of the cost of your coverage.

Your health insurance will get cheaper. As the public health insurance option forces insurance companies to compete, prices of private health insurance will fall. Your costs, even if you keep your current health insurance plan, will go down.

If you lose your job, you will always be able to get affordable insurance. If for any reason you lose your job and your employer based coverage, you will be eligible for affordable health insurance that meets your needs, as described below, with the government helping you pick up the tab until you get back to work, and expenses will be capped to make sure you can’t go bankrupt due to medical costs. You will always have a guaranteed, affordable backup to rely on if you need it.

 

If you are employed but do not receive health care benefits from your employer:

Your employer will have to offer you good, affordable health insurance. Under the bill proposed by the House, employers will have to offer you health benefits. Those benefits need to meet a standard for coverage, so you can’t be offered sub-par insurance that doesn’t meet the needs of you and your family. And your employer will have to cover a large percentage of your health care costs (65% for families and 72% for individuals), ensuring insurance is affordable and your employer can’t shift more costs to you. Small businesses are exempt from this regulation.

If you work for a small business that is exempt from regulations asking employers to provide health benefits you will always be able to get affordable insurance. You will be eligible for affordable health insurance that meets your needs, as described below.

 

If you buy health insurance on your own, or if you or your family are uninsured:

You will be able to find coverage. You will have access to a new health insurance “exchange,” where both public and private health insurance will be offered. You will be able to compare these plans side-by-side and choose what’s right for you and your family. None of these plans will be able to reject your application for pre-existing conditions or for your gender. You will have guaranteed access to health insurance.

You will be able to afford coverage. Any health insurance plan in the exchange will be subsidized if you qualify. Subsidies will be available up to 400% of the federal poverty level, or $88,000 per year for a family of four. These subsidies will ensure that you will only pay a certain percentage of your income in health care costs (that percentage varies depending on how much you make). Bottom line: Health insurance through the exchange will be affordable to you.

You will save money. Even if you do not qualify for subsidies or choose the public health insurance option, competition from the public health insurance option will force prices for insurance to fall across the board.

Your coverage will be good coverage, stable and secure. All plans in the exchange will have to conform to federal regulations, making sure that the plan you purchase covers things that you and your family need – things like preventative medicine, regular checkups, and prescription drugs. And, under health reform, your health insurance company will no longer be able to deny you coverage or care for pre-existing conditions. Your insurance company will no longer be able to drop your coverage if you become sick, or charge you more if you’re a woman. There will be no more annual or lifetime caps on coverage, so you won’t be stuck with tens of thousands in uncovered medical bills. And if you pay your premiums, your insurance company won’t be able to reject a renewal of your insurance plan.

Your expenses will be capped. Deductibles, co-pays, premiums, and other expenses will be capped at a percentage of your income (between 1.5% and 11%, depending on how much you make), so you no longer face exorbitant health insurance costs.

 

If you are on Medicare or Medicaid:

Your health programs will not be touched. There will be no eligibility or benefit cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. Health reform will be financed partly by finding savings in these programs. These savings will come from eliminating portions of Medicare and Medicaid that are no longer needed once we’ve passed health care reform for everyone. For example, right now, Medicaid pays hospitals a reimbursement for people who come to the hospital without health insurance, and thus stick that hospital with the bill. Under health reform, most people will have health insurance, making these reimbursements unnecessary.

The Medicare “Donut Hole” will be closed. The “donut hole” in Medicare’s prescription drug program that leaves seniors with thousands of dollars in drug costs when their coverage runs out partway through the year will be gradually closed under health care reform.

 

Is this all paid for?

Yes. Health reform will be fully paid for, and will not increase the deficit. It will not increase your taxes, either. The House has proposed increasing taxes on those that make more than a quarter of a million dollars per year to pay for health reform. The middle class will not be affected.

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There is a short answer to the question of what health reform will do for you: Better coverage, lower costs, and the security of knowing you’re not at the mercy of private insurance anymore. This is what health care reform will do for you.

The cost of doing nothing – the conservative plan for health care – is staggering: The average family will pay $10,000 more in premiums by 2019 if nothing is done. We can not afford the conservative health care plan. We must reform health care now, for you and me and our families.

For a lot of you, this information is not news. However, you must know someone who needs to be educated. Copy and paste this post into an email and send it to someone who needs to know exactly how this bill works. Send around this link. Whatever you need to do, get that information out there. Fear can stop health care reform from happening, we need to fight back with the truth.

Jason Rosenbaum: Jason Rosenbaum is a writer and musician currently residing in Washington D.C. He is interested in the intersection of politics and culture, media consolidation issues, and making sense out of our foreign policy disasters. He currently works for Health Care for America Now and he is also the webmaster for The Seminal.

This article originally appeared on the Health Care for America NOW! Blog on August 4, 2009 and is reprinted here with permission from the author.

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