Archive for February 18th, 2008

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Why Obama, Part VII: Health Care

February 18, 2008

For the seventh installment of the Chamber’s Why Obama series, I’ve picked the health care issue.  The same format applies; this is right from the Obama website.  However, in the interest of brevity, I’m going to highlight the first portion of the plan and allow the rest to be followed up in the comment section. 

Health care (pdf)

Quality, Affordable and Portable Coverage for All

  • Obama’s Plan to Cover Uninsured Americans: Obama will make available a new national health plan to all Americans, including the self-employed and small businesses, to buy affordable health coverage that is similar to the plan available to members of Congress. The Obama plan will have the following features:
    1. Guaranteed eligibility. No American will be turned away from any insurance plan because of illness or pre-existing conditions.
    2. Comprehensive benefits. The benefit package will be similar to that offered through Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), the plan members of Congress have. The plan will cover all essential medical services, including preventive, maternity and mental health care.
    3. Affordable premiums, co-pays and deductibles.
    4. Subsidies. Individuals and families who do not qualify for Medicaid or SCHIP but still need financial assistance will receive an income-related federal subsidy to buy into the new public plan or purchase a private health care plan.
    5. Simplified paperwork and reined in health costs.
    6. Easy enrollment. The new public plan will be simple to enroll in and provide ready access to coverage.
    7. Portability and choice. Participants in the new public plan and the National Health Insurance Exchange (see below) will be able to move from job to job without changing or jeopardizing their health care coverage.
    8. Quality and efficiency. Participating insurance companies in the new public program will be required to report data to ensure that standards for quality, health information technology and administration are being met. obama08_thumblogo100.gif
  • National Health Insurance Exchange: The Obama plan will create a National Health Insurance Exchange to help individuals who wish to purchase a private insurance plan. The Exchange will act as a watchdog group and help reform the private insurance market by creating rules and standards for participating insurance plans to ensure fairness and to make individual coverage more affordable and accessible. Insurers would have to issue every applicant a policy, and charge fair and stable premiums that will not depend upon health status. The Exchange will require that all the plans offered are at least as generous as the new public plan and have the same standards for quality and efficiency. The Exchange would evaluate plans and make the differences among the plans, including cost of services, public.
  • Employer Contribution: Employers that do not offer or make a meaningful contribution to the cost of quality health coverage for their employees will be required to contribute a percentage of payroll toward the costs of the national plan. Small employers that meet certain revenue thresholds will be exempt.
  • Mandatory Coverage of Children: Obama will require that all children have health care coverage. Obama will expand the number of options for young adults to get coverage, including allowing young people up to age 25 to continue coverage through their parents’ plans.
  • Expansion Of Medicaid and SCHIP: Obama will expand eligibility for the Medicaid and SCHIP programs and ensure that these programs continue to serve their critical safety net function.
  • Flexibility for State Plans: Due to federal inaction, some states have taken the lead in health care reform. The Obama plan builds on these efforts and does not replace what states are doing. States can continue to experiment, provided they meet the minimum standards of the national plan.

I’ve long wondered why a country that is considered to be the world’s last remaining superpower would have such a hard time figuring out how to provide its citizens with affordable health care.  Do the powerful drug and health insurance companies have to much influence over those who are in a position to improve the system?   Perhaps.  I’ll admit that this issue is probably a little over my head, but while researching it I realized that I’m certainly not alone.  I do know that the members of congress have been sitting on this way too long while the system remains dysfunctional and costs keep skyrocketing.   There is no shortage of disagreement even among the various “experts” that are called in when the news media decides to run a story about the candidates and their various positions.  Though one thing seems certain, which is -if the goal is to provide health insurance to all Americans- the plans that the Democrats are offering up come a lot closer than anything that the Republicans have proposed.  

One thing I did find appealing in Obama’s plan was #7 (above), since I recently endured the difficulty and risk involved with changing health care providers while I was making a career move.  Also, considering the relative success that maverick states like Massachusetts and Vermont have had with their bipartisan decisions to enact dramatic health care reform legislation, I’m glad that Obama recognised the need to build on it and expand it to the country as a whole while allowing other states the flexibility to improve on it.

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