Congress Trying To Choose The Best Health Care Reform Proposal
By Leigh Ann Caldwell, NEWS JUNKIE POST Contributor
Numerous health reform proposals have been drafted by members of Congress, but their task is to eventually pick the one that will work to decrease the number of Americans that are uninsured.
A Senate panel proposes a “Health Insurance Gateway” to allow consumers one stop shopping for health insurance. People would be able to choose between a private insurer or a public option, likely to be administered by the Government. Some analysts, however, say that the public option, which is highly touted by President Obama and leading Democrats tasked with writing health reform, could cost moderate income earners high dollars for their health coverage.
There is also a draft proposal by the Senate Finance Committees which offers no assistance for health consumers making 300 percent of the poverty level. A single person making just over $32,000 per year might have to pay up to $3600 per year, or 12 percent of her income, to buy health insurance.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee has drafted a plan that is more liberal, providing some assistance for people making up to 400 percent of the poverty line, earning $43,000 per year.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the Senate HELP Committee proposal would allow 26 million more Americans to be insured. But many of the remaining uninsured would be low-income, earning too much to qualify for Medicaid and earning too little to afford insurance, even with a government subsidy.
To help low income Americans, the House Education and Labor Committee’s proposal would expand Medicaid eligibility to those earning 133 percent above the poverty line, or a family of four earning about $29,000 per year.
Although President Barack Obama says a public option would generate more competition among health insurance companies and result in lower cost for the consumer, some analysts doubt that scenario under the current proposals.
The Congressional Budget Office believes the Senate HELP committee’s proposal would offer similar reimbursement rates for doctors as private insurance plans, leveling the playing field for competition. Therefore, consumer premiums under a public option would be comparable to private insurance premiums.
Another effort to quash any unfair advantage of the public option is to make it more difficult for employees to opt out of their employer-provided insurance. An employee could buy a personal plan if their employer provided insurance is too expensive. But the legislation defines affordable – anything up to 12 percent of income.
With so many options and plans to choose from, health care advocates want to see their elected officials act quickly. Families USA, the SEIU and others organizations are planning a “call-in day,” which they hope will generate enough calls to the offices of members of Congress to demand health care reform.