HEALTH POLITICS: House Health Reform Bill Highlights
House Democrats released their version of a health care reform (draft) bill. We're still going through it, but here are some of its major elements, courtesy of the House Education and Labor Committee website and the Associated Press:
- A National Health Insurance exchange that would allow individuals and small businesses to shop around for quality, affordable coverage in a transparent, convenient way.
- A public health insurance plan that would be available to all Americans. The plan's payments to medical providers would be based on Medicare rates, but the bill also promises to expand Medicaid and "modernize and improve" Medicare.
- Insurance companies could no longer deny coverage because of pre-existing conditions. Everyone would be required to have health insurance, but those who could not afford it would be able to access a sliding scale of "affordability credits" to help cover the cost.
- Financing would come from a federal surtax on the upper income -- up to 5.4 percent on the income of taxpayers making more than $1 million a year -- as well as hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts in projected Medicare and Medicaid spending.
- A focus on prevention and wellness, including the expansion of community health centers and the implementation of community-based wellness programs.
- Employers who do not offer coverage would be required to pay 8 percent of each uninsured worker's salary, with exemptions for smaller firms built into the legislation.
President Obama has pledged his support to health reform, stating that it will bring down costs. The Ways and Means Committee has already scheduled debate and votes are due to begin later in the week. For more information, click here.