Where To Read Health Care Reform Bills Backed By House, Senate Democratic Leaders

As the health care reform policy debate continues, Americans increasingly are asking where to read the text of the health care reform legislation that members of Congress are debating.  While numerous alternatives presently are pending before Congress, much of recent discussion and debate has focused around one of the following bills:

  • H.R. 3200: America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 introduced in the House by Rep Dingell, John D. on July 14, 2009, the text of which as originally introduced may be reviewed  here;
  • S. __, the Affordable Health Choices Act approved by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, the text of which as approved may be reviewed here.

We also encourage you and others to join the discussion about these and other health care reform proposals and concerns by joining the Coalition for Responsible Health Care Reform Group on Linkedin, registering to receive these updates here The author of this article, Curran Tomko and Tarski LLP Health Care Practice Chair Cynthia Marcotte Stamer has extensive experience advising and assisting health industry clients and others about a diverse range of health care policy, regulatory, compliance, risk management and operational concerns.  You can get more information about her health industry experience here.  

Interested persons can find information about Co-Sponsors, key legislative actions and other information about this and other health care reform legislation here

The Coaltion for Patient Empowerment (COPE) will host a Dallas/Fort Worth town hall meeting featuring Congressman Pete Sessions (R-TX) and Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (invited) on August 17, 2009 at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas beginning at 8:30 a.m.  For more information about the town hall meeting, how your organization can partner in co-hosting this town hall meeting or in organizing other town hall meetings or activities, or how you or your organization can participate in these and other COPE activities, e-mail the COPE Event Chair, Cynthia Stamer, at cstamer@solutionslawyer.net.

 

The Real Opportunities To Improve Health Care- A 10 Step Program

The ongoing health care reform debate in Washington requires that all Americans including those in Congress to seize the opportunity to show true leadership on health care reform by dong their part to making health care work.

To really make a difference, Congress and Americans need to stop pretending that they can waive a magic wand and “fix” health care.  There are no easy fixes.  There are just a series of tough realities and steps that all Americans have to embrace to improve health care in the United States.   If you agree with the health care truths discussed in this Article, let all members of Congress know your feelings and join the Coalition For Responsible Health Care Reform group on linkedin to discuss and plan specific steps that you can take to improve health care for your family and others in your community.

10 Health Care Truths

The following are 10 key realities: 

  1. Being old or being sick (or having a loved one who is) stinks. Not everyone was born with a BMW for a body and even some BMW’s are lemons.  Wellness can delay this reality for some people but not everyone.  I don’t live an unhealthy life.  I don’t smoke, don’t do drugs, exercise, etc., yet I’ve had cancer twice.  A good friend who lives a totally healthy life is awaiting a heart transplant at 47.   Even for a car, there isn’t always a clear “evidence based” answer to the questions what’s wrong, how to fix it, when the expense is worth it and how do I find the money and other resources? Sometimes you just have to just keep pouring in more oil and let it leak. The government can’t change this anymore than anyone else. 
  2. Money only can do so much to fix item 1 and there isn’t enough money to fix what can be fixed for everyone (assuming there is a fix).   We can put more money into the system if Americans support taking money from somewhere else to provide more money for health care.  Individual families currently make these choices by deciding whether to buy and how much coverage they can afford without giving up other things that their family views as more necessary than health care coverage.  Congressional proposals would take this choice away from American families by dictating both how much and the price of coverage a family must buy as well as how much that American family also must pay to buy health coverage for other Americans. 
  3. The aging population means that the gap between 1 and 2 will continue to grow unless we adopt a rationing plan that decides to let people die by denying care. Many old and sick people are extraordinary functional, valuable and important to someone.   If the government chooses to replace private insurers in running the health care system, grieving families of ill and individuals will be mad at the government when their family members die or suffer because they can’t access or afford health care that the doctors say would help.
  4. Just because the most health care dollars are spent in the last months of life doesn’t mean that these dollars are necessarily wasted. Likewise, pouring dollars into “prevention” doesn’t mean that a large number of people won’t still get older or sick.  People that live healthy lives get sick, have accidents, and get old.  The body wears out.  The ability and practice of the US health care system in saving hands of minimum wage workers, providing diagnosis that extends the range of treatment options and gives people with terminal illness 6 months to 5 years of life, providing treatments that minimize disability and maximize functionality are all good things. The U.S. willingness to invest in our aging and disabled is part of the reason our disabled and aging people tend to be more productive than in other countries less willing to invest in these treatments.  The question should be what quality of life and value was realized for the dollars spent.   
  5. The most overlooked opportunities for quality and cost improvements rest with the people in health care. Studies show that physicians and the RNs working with them agree in less than 70 percent of the times about the care ordered and how to administer it. Communication elsewhere among health care providers further erodes cost effectiveness and quality. Government regulation and the tension that results from regulation and practices that break up health care teams makes this worse contributes to this problem.   Congress’ over regulation of health care and efforts to manipulate health care by manipulation of the Medicare rules already has done tremendous damage by forcing providers to run rabbit trails to try to deliver care.  More Federal involvement will just make this worse. 
  6. Americans want to be good health care consumers.  They just need training and tools to do it better.  We need a national health care consumer education campaign that teaches Americans to better participate in our health care system.  Patients and their families will better manage their own health care when they have better health care information and health care skills training.  Skills training can reduce waste and suffering that happens when patients don’t comply with health care advice and make misinformed decisions.  When families and patients get good information that indicates that the $20,000 spent for a procedure will only cause a lot of suffering and expense to extend a life already suffering for another 48 hours, they usually chose quality of life over length of life.  Families that learn that the less expensive drug works as well as the more expensive one usually will opt for the less expensive one to realize the smaller co-pay. Patients and their families need to be taught to be good and responsible health care patients and to help others in their families and the community to do the same.  The government, health care providers, insurers and community organizations can help by providing education and resources to share this education.  make this easier. Let’s give American’s a health care loaf and turn them loose.  
  7. Americans dont want someone else to manage their health care;  they want more power to manage it themselves.  Current proposals that would give government more control over health care is the last things Americans want.  Instead of taking more control away from individual Americans, Congress should work to empower patients by creating real jobs, funding public, charity, and private indigent care health clinics, hospitals and other venues that service the poor, reducing taxes and other actions that will free uo dollars for businesses and individuals to invest more in wellness and health care coverage.
  8. Change creates additional costs and disruptions that will drive up costs and reduce quality.  The constant changing of the system and the resulting confusion that patients, payers and providers experience accounts for much of the lost quality, high cost and dissatisfaction in the system. 
  9. You can’t change patient conduct by fiat.  Overcoming obesity and other lifestyle diseases is tough even when micromanaged.  Lack of money isn’t the only reason people don’t have health insurance coverage or obtain care with the rationality of a mad scientist accountant. 
  10. Government is the last entity that should have the right to determine – directly or through a politically appointed board – the value of a life and the quality of life members of my family and yours are allowed to access. Government action is always political – even when made by private politically appointed boards. Letting the government “manage” care instead of insurers just lets a bigger, more insulated fox in the hen house. This fox is bigger, more powerful, less accessible, harder to talk to, impossible to be heard by and doesn’t give a darn individually about you, me, or your family.  Anyone who has relied on home health benefits from Medicare or benefits from the VA knows you can’t trust Congress to deliver on its promises.  Whatever the government allocates for health care funding today, informed American voters know that they can’t count on government providing the funds to keep its promises.  These American’s and the millions who know they know this reality:   When the government says “trust me,” run!

What Congress Should Do  To Improve Health Care

Let’s stop pretending there is an easy fix and get onto the business of working item by item on what we can do with these and the hundreds of other little things that together actually will make a massive difference in the real life of patients and their families AND produce meaningful improvements in heath care cost, quality and access.

  • Tell every member of Congress to say “no” to proposals to spend $1 trillion dollars to give the federal government the ability to “manage” health care
  • Tell Congress you want to manage and coordinate your own health care, not delegate that to government to handle
  • Tell Congress to adopt legislation that would make it easier for churches and other community and business associations to pool together and offer coverage along side the existing employer-provided systems
  • Tell Congress to support and fund public and private efforts to develop and communicate tools and education to empower patients to better manage their own health, wellness and their family’s health care needs
  • Tell Congress not to tax employer provided health care coverage and to provide tax-credits to businesses and individuals to make maintaining private health care coverage more affordable
  • Get involved in your family and community in building your own, your family’s and your community’s health care plan.  Build and use your health care consumer and management skills to manage your family’s health and health care.

Blue Dog Democrats Hold Key Voice On House Democrats Proposed Health Care Reform Plan; Contact Numbers Here

Individuals concerned about the  “American’s Affordable Health Care Choices Act of 2009” health care reform proposal introduced by the House Democratic Leadership earlier this week should target their input on the Democrats in Congress most likely to listen to those concerns. In the House of Representatives, these members likely are the “Blue Dog Democrats” in the House.  Read about Blue Dog Democrats here.    

The fiscal conservatism of Blue Dog Democrats makes them more likely to listen to concerns about the cost and other concerns relating to the health care reform bills touted by the Democrat Leadership in the House and Senate.  In fact, many Blue Dog Democrats already are speaking out about their concerns about the cost and other aspects of the Bill. 

Contact from voters and contributors in their districts and others could make a major difference in the ability that the House Democrat Leadership needs to pass their Bill.  Immediately contacting these members and getting others – particularly voters and contributors in the districts that elect these members – is one of the most important steps that concerned Americans can do to position their concerns to be heard.   

For most concerned voters, telephone or fax contact is the best means to convey these messages.  To minimize spam, most members only accept e-mail submitted through their website links.  Security concerns can delay receipt of written correspondence for weeks.

For persons interested in making their voices heard and sharing information with others who wish to do the same, the following contact information may be of interest:

The number of the Capital Switchboard is 202-224-3121.

The Blue Dog Leadership Team and there telephone and fax numbers are:

Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (SD), Blue Dog Co-Chair for Administration, Telephone: 202.225.2801 , Fax: 202.225.5823

Rep. Baron Hill (IN-09), Blue Dog Co-Chair for Policy,Telephone: 202-225-4031, Fax: (202) 226-6866

Rep. Charlie Melancon (LA-03), Blue Dog Co-Chair for Communications, Telephone: 202-225-4031, Fax: (202) 226-3944

Rep. Heath Shuler (NC-11), Blue Dog Whip, Telephone:  202-225-6401, Fax: (202) 226-6422

The Blue Dog Members and their telephone numbers are :

Altmire, Jason (PA-04),(202)225-2565

Arcuri, Mike (NY-24), (202)225-3665

Baca, Joe (CA-43),(202)225-6161

Barrow, John (GA-12), (202) 225-2823

Berry, Marion (AR-01), (202) 225-4076

Bishop, Sanford (GA-02), (202) 225-3631

Boren, Dan (OK-02), (202) 225-2701

Boswell, Leonard (IA-03), (202) 225-3806

Boyd, Allen (FL-02), (202) 225-5235

Bright, Bobby (AL-02), (202) 225-2901

Cardoza, Dennis (CA-18), (202) 225-6131

Carney, Christopher (PA-10), (202) 225-3731

Chandler, Ben (KY-06), (202) 225-4706

Childers, Travis (MS-01), (202) 225-4306

Cooper, Jim  (TN 5th), (202) 225-4311

Costa, Jim  (CA 20th), (202) 225-3341

Cuellar, Henry  (TX 28th), (202)  225-1640

Dahlkemper, Kathleen A. (PA 3rd), (202) 225-5406

Davis, Lincoln (TN 4th),(202) 225-6831

Donnelly, Joe  (IN 2nd), (202) 225-3915

Ellsworth, Brad  (IN 8th), (202) 225-4636

Giffords, Gabrielle  (AZ 8th), (202) 225-2542

Gordon, Bart  (TN 6th), (202) 225-4231

Griffith, Parker  (AL 5th), (202) 225-4801

Harman, Jane  (CA 36th), (202) 225-8220

Herseth Sandlin, Stephanie  (SD At Large), (202) 225-2801

Hill, Baron P.  (IN 9th), (202) 225-5315

Holden, Tim  (PA 17th), (202) 225-5546

Kratovil, Frank Jr. (MD 1st), (202) 225-5311

McIntyre, Mike  (NC 7th), (202) 225-2731

Marshall, Jim  (GA 8th), (202) 225-6531

Matheson, Jim  (UT 2nd), (202) 225-3011

Melancon, Charlie  (LA 3rd), (202) 225-4031

Michaud, Michael H. (ME 2nd), (202) 225-6306

Minnick, Walt  (ID 1st), (202) 225-6611

Mitchell, Harry E.  (AZ 5th), (202) 225-2190

Moore, Dennis  (KS 3rd), (202) 225-2865

Murphy, Patrick J.  (PA 8th), (202) 225-4276

Nye, Glenn C.  (VA 2nd), (202) 225-4215

Peterson, Collin C.  (MN 7th), (202) 225-2165

Pomeroy, Earl  (ND At Large), (202) 225-2611

Ross, Mike  (AR 4th), (202)  225-3772

Salazar, John T.  (CO 3rd), (202) 225-4761
Sanchez, Loretta  (CA 47th), (202) 225-2965

Schiff, Adam B.  (CA 29th), (202) 225-4176
Scott, David  (GA 13th), (202) 225-2939

Shuler, Heath  (NC 11th), (202) 225-6401

Space, Zachary T. (OH 18th), (202) 225-6265

Tanner, John S.  (TN 8th), (202) 225-4714

Taylor, Gene  (MS 4th), (202) 225-5772

Thompson, Mike  (CA 1st), (202) 225-3311

Wilson, Charles (OH-06), (202) 225-5705

We also encourage you and others to join the discussion about these and other health care reform proposals and concerns by joining the Coalition for Responsible Health Care Reform Group on Linkedin, registering to receive these updates here The author of this article, Curran Tomko and Tarski LLP Health Care Practice Chair Cynthia Marcotte Stamer has extensive experience advising and assisting health industry clients and others about a diverse range of health care policy, regulatory, compliance, risk management and operational concerns.  You can get more information about her health industry experience here.  

If you need assistance evaluating or formulating comments on the proposed reforms contained in the House Bill or on other health industry matters please contact Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, CTT Health Care Practice Group Chair, at cstamer@cttlegal.com, 214.270.2402 or your other favorite Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorney. 

Other Helpful Resources & Other Information

We hope that this information is useful to you.   If you found these updates of interest, you also be interested in one or more of the following other recent articles published on our electronic Solutions Law Press Health Care Update publication available here. If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please register to receive this Solutions Law Press Health Care Update here and be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail- by creating or updating your profile at here. You can access other recent updates and other informative publications and resources provided by Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorneys and get information about its attorneys’ experience, briefings, speeches and other credentials here.

For important information concerning this communication click here.  If you do not wish to receive these updates in the future, send an e-mail with the word “Remove” in the Subject to support@SolutionsLawyer.net.

©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  All rights reserved.

Contact Blue Dog Democrats With Concerns About House Democrat Leadership’s American’s Affordable Health Care Choices Act of 2009

Individuals concerned about the  “American’s Affordable Health Care Choices Act of 2009” health care reform proposal introduced by the House Democratic Leadership earlier this week should target their input on the Democrats in Congress most likely to listen to those concerns. In the House of Representatives, these members likely are the “Blue Dog Democrats” in the House.  Read about Blue Dog Democrats here.    

The fiscal conservatism of Blue Dog Democrats makes them more likely to listen to concerns about the cost and other concerns relating to the health care reform bills touted by the Democrat Leadership in the House and Senate.  In fact, many Blue Dog Democrats already are speaking out about their concerns about the cost and other aspects of the Bill. 

Contact from voters and contributors in their districts and others could make a major difference in the ability that the House Democrat Leadership needs to pass their Bill.  Immediately contacting these members and getting others – particularly voters and contributors in the districts that elect these members – is one of the most important steps that concerned Americans can do to position their concerns to be heard.   

For most concerned voters, telephone or fax contact is the best means to convey these messages.  To minimize spam, most members only accept e-mail submitted through their website links.  Security concerns can delay receipt of written correspondence for weeks.

For persons interested in making their voices heard and sharing information with others who wish to do the same, the following contact information may be of interest:

The number of the Capital Switchboard is 202-224-3121.

The Blue Dog Leadership Team and there telephone and fax numbers are:

Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (SD), Blue Dog Co-Chair for Administration, Telephone: 202.225.2801 , Fax: 202.225.5823

Rep. Baron Hill (IN-09), Blue Dog Co-Chair for Policy,Telephone: 202-225-4031, Fax: (202) 226-6866

Rep. Charlie Melancon (LA-03), Blue Dog Co-Chair for Communications, Telephone: 202-225-4031, Fax: (202) 226-3944

Rep. Heath Shuler (NC-11), Blue Dog Whip, Telephone:  202-225-6401, Fax: (202) 226-6422

The Blue Dog Members and their telephone numbers are :

Altmire, Jason (PA-04),(202)225-2565

Arcuri, Mike (NY-24), (202)225-3665

Baca, Joe (CA-43),(202)225-6161

Barrow, John (GA-12), (202) 225-2823

Berry, Marion (AR-01), (202) 225-4076

Bishop, Sanford (GA-02), (202) 225-3631

Boren, Dan (OK-02), (202) 225-2701

Boswell, Leonard (IA-03), (202) 225-3806

Boyd, Allen (FL-02), (202) 225-5235

Bright, Bobby (AL-02), (202) 225-2901

Cardoza, Dennis (CA-18), (202) 225-6131

Carney, Christopher (PA-10), (202) 225-3731

Chandler, Ben (KY-06), (202) 225-4706

Childers, Travis (MS-01), (202) 225-4306

Cooper, Jim  (TN 5th), (202) 225-4311

Costa, Jim  (CA 20th), (202) 225-3341

Cuellar, Henry  (TX 28th), (202)  225-1640

Dahlkemper, Kathleen A. (PA 3rd), (202) 225-5406

Davis, Lincoln (TN 4th),(202) 225-6831

Donnelly, Joe  (IN 2nd), (202) 225-3915

Ellsworth, Brad  (IN 8th), (202) 225-4636

Giffords, Gabrielle  (AZ 8th), (202) 225-2542

Gordon, Bart  (TN 6th), (202) 225-4231

Griffith, Parker  (AL 5th), (202) 225-4801

Harman, Jane  (CA 36th), (202) 225-8220

Herseth Sandlin, Stephanie  (SD At Large), (202) 225-2801

Hill, Baron P.  (IN 9th), (202) 225-5315

Holden, Tim  (PA 17th), (202) 225-5546

Kratovil, Frank Jr. (MD 1st), (202) 225-5311

McIntyre, Mike  (NC 7th), (202) 225-2731

Marshall, Jim  (GA 8th), (202) 225-6531

Matheson, Jim  (UT 2nd), (202) 225-3011

Melancon, Charlie  (LA 3rd), (202) 225-4031

Michaud, Michael H. (ME 2nd), (202) 225-6306

Minnick, Walt  (ID 1st), (202) 225-6611

Mitchell, Harry E.  (AZ 5th), (202) 225-2190

Moore, Dennis  (KS 3rd), (202) 225-2865

Murphy, Patrick J.  (PA 8th), (202) 225-4276

Nye, Glenn C.  (VA 2nd), (202) 225-4215

Peterson, Collin C.  (MN 7th), (202) 225-2165

Pomeroy, Earl  (ND At Large), (202) 225-2611

Ross, Mike  (AR 4th), (202)  225-3772

Salazar, John T.  (CO 3rd), (202) 225-4761
Sanchez, Loretta  (CA 47th), (202) 225-2965

Schiff, Adam B.  (CA 29th), (202) 225-4176
Scott, David  (GA 13th), (202) 225-2939

Shuler, Heath  (NC 11th), (202) 225-6401

Space, Zachary T. (OH 18th), (202) 225-6265

Tanner, John S.  (TN 8th), (202) 225-4714

Taylor, Gene  (MS 4th), (202) 225-5772

Thompson, Mike  (CA 1st), (202) 225-3311

Wilson, Charles (OH-06), (202) 225-5705

We also encourage you and others to join the discussion about these and other health care reform proposals and concerns by joining the Coalition for Responsible Health Care Reform Group on Linkedin, registering to receive these updates here. The author of this article, Curran Tomko and Tarski LLP Health Care Practice Chair Cynthia Marcotte Stamer has extensive experience advising and assisting health industry clients and others about a diverse range of health care policy, regulatory, compliance, risk management and operational concerns.  You can get more information about her health industry experience here.  

If you need assistance evaluating or formulating comments on the proposed reforms contained in the House Bill or on other health industry matters please contact Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, CTT Health Care Practice Group Chair, at cstamer@cttlegal.com, 214.270.2402 or your other favorite Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorney. 

Other Helpful Resources & Other Information

We hope that this information is useful to you.   If you found these updates of interest, you also be interested in one or more of the following other recent articles published on our electronic Solutions Law Press Health Care Update publication available here. If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please register to receive this Solutions Law Press Health Care Update here and be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail- by creating or updating your profile at here. You can access other recent updates and other informative publications and resources provided by Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorneys and get information about its attorneys’ experience, briefings, speeches and other credentials here.

For important information concerning this communication click here.  If you do not wish to receive these updates in the future, send an e-mail with the word “Remove” in the Subject to support@SolutionsLawyer.net.

©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  All rights reserved.

House Democrats Introduce “America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009″

House Democrats introduced their proposal for health care reform this afternoon (July 14, 2009), the “America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 (the “House Bill”).  Introduced under the sponsorship of three key House committees -Energy and Commerce, Ways and Means, and Education and Labor — the 1018 page House Bill details the sweeping and comprehensive health care reforms that Democrat Leaders in the House are touting.  A copy of the House Bill as introduced may be reviewed here.

The House Bill proposes sweeping reforms built around the establishment of a public plan option while technically continuing to permit private plans to operate but in a federally regulated form allowing for little meaningful plan design control to private payers, health care providers or the individuals choosing among the plan options.   The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the coverage side of the bill will cost $1 trillion and cover 97 percent of the legal population within 10 years.

The following is a brief overview of certain key provisions of the House Bill drawn mostly from a series of high level summaries released by House Democrats along with the House Bill.  Long on politically comforting phrasing and short on details, you can read these summaries here.

Public Plan Option.  The House Bill proposes the establishment of a public health insurance option that would compete with allowable private plans, both of which would be subject to sweeping federal controls.  Democrat House co-sponsors represent the House Bill:

  • Provides a public health insurance option that would compete with private insurers within the Health Insurance Exchange.
  • The public health insurance option would be made available in the new Health Insurance Exchange (Exchange) along with private health insurance plans that comply with the design dictates established in the House Bill.
  • The public health insurance option and private plan options meet the same benefit requirements and comply with the same insurance market reforms
  • The public option’s premiums would be established for the local market areas designated by the Exchange.
  • Individuals with affordability credits could choose among the private carriers and the public option.
  • Require that the public health plan and private health plan options and private options each must be financially self-sustaining
  • Promote primary care, encourage coordinated care and shared accountability, and improve quality.
  • Institute new payment structures and incentives to promote these critical reforms.
  • Specify health care provider participation in the plans will be voluntary; Medicare providers are presumed to be participating unless they opt out.
  • Provides for provider reimbursements for services from the plans initially will be established using “rates similar to those used in Medicare with greater flexibility to vary payments.
  • Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has announced plans to proceed immediately on mark up on the House Bill with the intention to of scheduling a vote on the House Bill by the end of July. Assuming that House leaders adhere to this schedule, the planned timetable leaves little opportunity for critical evaluation and input by members of Congress or the public who may have questions or concerns about the proposed legislation. Prompt and coordinated action is required for individuals with concerns about any of the proposed reforms.

Federal Mandates Health Plan Benefits.  In order to achieve affordable, quality health care for all, the House Bill would impose federal standards regulating the benefits that the public health plan and private health plans would be required and permitted to offer.  Under these provisions, the House Bill would:

  • Establish a standardized benefit package that covers essential health services.
  • Vest the power in the Secretary of Health & Human Services to decide the coverage that would be included in this mandated standardize benefit package.
  • Eliminate cost-sharing for preventive care (including well baby and well child care)
  • Impose caps annual out-of-pocket spending for individuals and families.
  • Create a new independent Benefits Advisory to recommend to the Secretary and update the core package of benefits.
  • Provide for the public health plan option to offer four tiers of benefit packages from which consumers can choose to best meet their health care needs. Each allowable plan would be required to provide the dictated core benefits.
    • The Basic Plan would include the federally mandated core set of covered benefits and cost sharing protections;
    • The Enhanced Plan would include the federally mandated core set of covered benefits with more generous cost sharing protections than the Basic plan;
    • The Premium Plan would include the federally mandated core set of covered benefits with more generous cost sharing protections than the Enhanced plan; and
    • The Premium Plus Plan would include the federally mandated core set of covered benefits, the more generous cost sharing protections of the Premium plan, and additional covered benefits (e.g., oral health coverage for adults, gym membership, etc.) that will vary per plan. In this category, insurers must disclose the separate cost of the additional benefits so consumers know what they’re paying for and can choose among plans accordingly.

The House Bill empowers the Secretary of Health & Human Services to decide the federally dictated, required core set of benefits provides coverage with input from a newly created Benefits Advisory Commission.  These core benefits are intended to include inpatient hospital services, outpatient hospital services, physician services, equipment and supplies incident to physician services, preventive services, maternity services, prescription drugs, rehabilitative and habilitative services, well baby and well child visits and oral health, vision, and hearing services for children and mental health and substance abuse services.  However, the particular, terms and scope of these benefits is left to HHS to define.

Health Insurance Exchange.  The House Bill also calls for the establishment of a “Health Insurance Exchange” meeting federal mandates through which low income individuals initially, and certain small businesses would be offered the option to purchase health care coverage through federally mandated purchasing groups.  In the first year, the House Bill provides for the Health Insurance Exchange to accept those without health insurance, those who are buying health insurance on their own, and small businesses with fewer than 10 people. In the second year, the Health Insurance Exchange could accept small businesses with fewer than 20 people. After that, “larger employers as permitted by the Commissioner.” In other words, expansion is discretionary, not mandated.

Affordability & Subsidies.  The House Bill provides sliding-scale affordability credits for individuals and families with incomes above the Medicaid thresholds but below 400% of poverty and imposes a cap on total out-of-pocket spending for individuals and families covered under the plans regardless of income.  In addition, the House Bill would broaden Medicaid coverage to include individuals and families with incomes below 133% of poverty.

Effective 2013, sliding scale affordability credits would be provided provided to individuals and families between 133% to 400% of poverty. That means the credits phase out completely for an individual with $43,320 in income and a family of four with $88,200 in income (2009).

The sliding scale credits limit individual family spending on premiums for the essential benefit package to no more than 1.5% of income for those with the lowest income and phasing up to no more than 11% of income for those at 400% of poverty.

The affordability credits also subsidize cost sharing on a sliding scale basis, phasing out at 400% of poverty, ensuring that covered benefits are accessible.

The Health Insurance Exchange would administer the affordability credits in relationship with other federal and state entities, such as local Social Security offices and Medicaid agencies.

The essential benefit package, and all other benefit options, limit exposure to catastrophic costs with a cap on total out of pocket spending for covered benefits. Special provisions would apply to Medicaid. 

Effective 2013, individuals with family income at or below 133% of poverty ($14,400 for an individual in 2009) are eligible for Medicaid. State Medicaid programs would continue to cover those individuals with incomes above 133% of poverty, using the eligibility rules states now have in place.

Paying The Tab.  House Democrats propose to finance approximately half of the estimated $1 trillion bill for their proposed reforms through projected $500 billion or so in savings from Medicare and Medicaid achieved by a variety of reimbursement and benefit cutbacks and other reforms. The rest of the financing would come from a combination of revenue expections from employer and individual mandates (an estimated $200 billion over 10 years) and a surtax on the richest 1.5 percent of Americans. The surtax is 1 percent on income between $350,000 and $500,000; 1.5 percent on income between $500,000 and $1,000,000; and 5.4 percent in income above $1,000,000. The House Bill permits the amount of this surtax to vary if the bill is less or more expensive than initially anticipated.

The author of this article, Curran Tomko and Tarski LLP Health Care Practice Chair Cynthia Marcotte Stamer has extensive experience advising and assisting health industry clients and others about a diverse range of health care policy, regulatory, compliance, risk management and operational concerns.  You can get more information about her health industry experience here.  

If you need assistance evaluating or formulating comments on the proposed reforms contained in the House Bill or on other health industry matters please contact Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, CTT Health Care Practice Group Chair, at cstamer@cttlegal.com, 214.270.2402 or your other favorite Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorney. 

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