For the first time in generations, the US Congress has passed a bill reforming our nations health care system.
This lofty goal has eluded reformers ever since Teddy Roosevelt attempted it during his 1912 run for president. A national health insurance program was proposed by FDR as part of Social Security, and the effort was continued by his successor Harry Truman in the 1940s, but stiff opposition by conservatives derailed the effort. Lyndon Johnson managed to get limited reforms enacted with the passage of Medicare in 1965, although this national health insurance program is only available to those over 65 years old (and a few others in certain circumstances). Despite nearly universal support today, conservatives vehemently opposed Medicare at the time, claiming it would be the start of government takeover of the health care system. In fact, Sarah Palin almost quoted verbatim the fear mongering speech by Ronald Reagan to the AMA in 1961 that opposed the creation of Medicare.
Rep. John B. Larson (D-CT), the Chairman of the Democratic Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives writes that the top 10 immediate benefits of the bill will be:
Prohibit pre-existing condition exclusions for children in all new plans;
Provide immediate access to insurance for uninsured Americans who are uninsured because of a pre-existing condition through a temporary high-risk pool;
Prohibit dropping people from coverage when they get sick in all individual plans;
Lower seniors prescription drug prices by beginning to close the donut hole;
Offer tax credits to small businesses to purchase coverage;
Eliminate lifetime limits and restrictive annual limits on benefits in all plans;
Require plans to cover an enrollee’s dependent children until age 26;
Require new plans to cover preventive services and immunizations without cost-sharing;
Ensure consumers have access to an effective internal and external appeals process to appeal new insurance plan decisions;
Require premium rebates to enrollees from insurers with high administrative expenditures and require public disclosure of the percent of premiums applied to overhead costs.
The health care reform expert Karoli adds:
1.Adult children may remain as dependents on their parents’ policy until age 26
2.Children under age 19 may not be excluded for pre-existing conditions
3.No more lifetime or annual caps on coverage
4.Free preventative care for all
5.Adults with pre-existing conditions may buy into a national high-risk pool until the exchanges come online. While these will not be cheap, they’re still better than total exclusion and get some benefit from a wider pool of insureds.
6.Small businesses will be entitled to a tax credit for 2009 and 2010, which could be as much as 50% of what they pay for employees’ health insurance.
7.The “donut hole” closes for Medicare patients, making prescription medications more affordable for seniors.
8.Requirement that all insurers must post their balance sheets on the Internet and fully disclose administrative costs, executive compensation packages, and benefit payments.
9.Authorizes early funding of community health centers in all 50 states (Bernie Sanders’ amendment)