Wednesday, July 15, 2009

House Dems reveal Health Care Plan

Much to the chagrin of Blue Dogs like myself, the House leadership released their preliminary proposal titled "America's Affordable Health Choices Act,":
a proposal that includes a government-funded health insurance option, requires both individuals and employers to participate, and taxes the wealthy to help cover costs.

Democratic House leaders said the measure, titled "America's Affordable Health Choices Act," met the requirements set by President Obama for health care reform by lowering costs to consumers and businesses, letting people keep their current plan if desired, and preventing denial of coverage due to pre-existing medical conditions.

"The House proposal will begin the process of fixing what's broken about our health care system, reducing costs for all, building on what works, and covering an estimated 97 percent of all Americans," Obama said in a written statement. "And by emphasizing prevention and wellness, it will also help improve the quality of health care for every American."
The proposal does not include the Republican's desire to tax everyones' employer funded health care, an idea that still has some life in the Senate.

The Right is running without offering solutions of their own. Although Rep. Blount did hint at an amendment he would like to proffer:
Blunt said he will offer an amendment requiring all elected federal officials, including Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, to enroll in the new public insurance option.
I would support his amendment as, like the toon below shows, would give them a dog in the fight.

Other items in the proposal:
Specific provisions of the bill include:

-- A Health Insurance Exchange providing individuals and small business with choices for coverage, including a government-funded public option.

-- No more coverage exclusion for pre-existing conditions.

-- Affordability credits for low- and moderate-income individuals and families, available to those with incomes up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, or $43,000 for individuals and $88,000 for a family of four.

-- Limits on annual out-of-pocket spending.

-- Expanded Medicaid coverage to individuals and families with incomes at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty level.

-- Required participation by individuals, with a penalty of 2.5 percent of adjusted gross income for non-compliance.

-- Requirement that businesses with payrolls exceeding $250,000 provide their employees with health coverage or contribute up to 8 percent of their payroll on their behalf.

-- A series of measures intended to reduce costs of Medicaid, Medicare and other existing systems.
I have been following the development of this, and the Senate bill very closely. I have concerns, especially as they relate to the impact on the pocket books of true middle class Americans. The GOP proposal to tax everyone's employer provided health care benefits, regardless of income, was a non starter for me. The one group I am paying particular attention to is the Blue Dog (read moderate) Democrats. They have same or similar concerns that I have, and have made it clear to the House leadership they aren't ready to sign on to the bill in its current form, specifically related to the public option:
Ross said conservative Democrats have major reservations about how a public option would work. In the letter and in the meeting, the conservative Democrats stressed they did not want a "Medicare-like" structure for a public option.

"What we are saying is if there is a public option, it can't be based on Medicare rates unless the regional disparity in Medicare rates is fixed," said Ross, who also planned to press for more controls on government spending on healthcare and more savings from changes to Medicare.
A Forbes article touches on the other key issues:
Blue Dogs won't vote for the bill if it's not deficit-neutral, if it doesn't adequately protect small businesses and if the public option is structured like Medicare, with below-market reimbursement rates.
However, the one thing I have observed as this debate has evolved, is the frustration of the Right, and especially the chest thumping of those within the industry, that leads me to believe that this proposal has a lot more good in it, then not. See, the greatest fear of the Right is that the Obama administration, and legislative majorities actually succeed. So when they get all uptight it could lead one to believe that is what they are afraid of more than anything else.

So listen as much to the dissenters, and what they have to offer as far as specific solutions, for if all they have is 'no' votes and blind dissension, they are showing their hand more as blind obstructionists and not the reformers they claim to be.


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