Another step closer. Full release from Congressman Lewis’ office below the fold.
There are several hurdles the bill still must go through before it reaches the House floor and is signed into law.¬† The bill must still pass out of the Energy and Commerce and Education and Labor Committees.¬† Then the three committees will have to reconcile their versions of the bill. The final version will pass to the Rules Committee, amendments will be proposed and voted on and then the same kind of process is also taking place in the Senate.¬† The Democratic leadership is projecting that both the House and Senate will bring their bills to the floor this summer for a vote.¬†
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
CONTACT: Brenda Jones
July 17, 2009
HEALTHCARE REFORM BILL PASSES OUT OF WAYS & MEANS
PRESS BACKGROUNDER ON THE HOUSE BILL
In the wee hours of the morning, America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, H.R. 3200 was passed out of the Ways and Means Committee by a vote of 23-18.
Rep. John Lewis, a senior member of the committee said this about the bill, “The rising cost of healthcare is one of the greatest strains on the family budget. Because no one can predict when he or she will get sick, there is no way to really prepare if major illness suddenly strikes. Even people with health insurance and a savings account, can still end up bankrupt simply because of the high cost of medical care. The poor have no chance, under the current system, to get the kind of care and follow-up they need. This House bill will begin to change this picture. It is a historic step toward a new approach to health care in America that can quiet the fear associated with healthcare costs. It can relieve the significant financial stress on families, especially during this period where money is very tight, and provide coverage for millions of Americans who are currently uninsured or may have lost their jobs.”
According to the National Coalition on Health Care, in 2008 Americans spent $2.4 trillion on health care–four times the amount this nation spends on defense. The Kaiser Family Foundation says that premiums for employer-sponsored health care are rising four times faster than workers’ salaries since 1999. And a Harvard University study shows that the average medical debt for people who have ended up in bankruptcy is $12,000. In fact, every 30 seconds someone files for bankruptcy after experiencing a serious medical problem. Health care reform is a vital part of economic recovery for the 46 million people without any health insurance at all, as well as for those who are already covered.
America’s Affordable Health Choices Act will help tackle many of these problems. The Congressional Budget Office estimates 97 percent of Americans will be covered by the bill, and it will cost $1 trillion over ten years. These reforms will be fully paid for through changes in the Medicare and Medicaid payment and delivery system reform that will result in substantial cost savings, as well as a surcharge that will affect only the wealthiest one percent of households, and only four percent of small businesses. These are the key principles of the Ways & Means bill:
It will increase patient choice and use competition to drive down prices.
* If people like their current plan, they can keep it.
* People who have no health insurance now or want to find a new plan will be able to participate in a health care exchange. There they can choose from a menu of affordable, quality health care options: either a new public health insurance option or a plan offered by private insurers.
* This new variety will reduce costs through competition that leads to better care for every American. Patients and doctors will have control over health care decisions, instead of insurance companies.
It will restore peace of mind.
* This legislation makes health care plans portable and secure- so people can keep the same plans and the same doctors even, if they lose their jobs or their employers decide to drop their plans.
* Every American who receives coverage through the exchange will have a plan that includes standardized, comprehensive health care benefits.
* It will end increases in premiums and no one can be denied care based on pre-existing conditions, race, gender, or age rating.
* It will eliminate co-pays for preventive care, put a cap on out-of-pocket expenses, and guarantee catastrophic coverage that protects every American from bankruptcy.
It will improve quality of care for every American.
* The legislation will ensure that Americans of all ages, from young children to retirees, have access to a higher quality of care by focusing on prevention, wellness, and strengthening programs that work.
* It guarantees that every child in America will have health care coverage that includes dental and vision benefits.
* Every health care plan offered through the exchange will cover preventative care.
* By growing the health care workforce, the proposal will ensure that more doctors and nurses are available to provide quality care as more Americans get coverage.
* The proposal strengthens Medicare and Medicaid so that seniors, people with disabilities and low-income Americans receive better quality of care and see lower prescription drug costs and out-of-pocket expenses.
Patients, employersand the federal government all share responsibility for a good, affordable health care system.
¬∑ Employers who currently offer coverage will be able to continue offering coverage to workers. Employers who don’t currently offer coverage would choose to cover their workers or pay a penalty.
¬∑ Everyone will be required to get coverage, either through their employer or the exchange, or pay a penalty.
¬∑ The federal government will provide affordability credits, available on a sliding scale for low- and middle-income individuals and families to make premiums affordable and reduce cost-sharing.
It will put the interests of consumers first and reduce waste, fraud, and abuse.
¬∑ The proposal provides complete transparency within the health exchange plans so that patients have all the information they need to select the plan that suits them best.
¬∑ It establishes Consumer Advocacy Offices as part of the exchange to protect patients, answer questions, and assist with any problems related to their plans.
¬∑ The proposal will identify and eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse by simplifying paperwork and other administrative burdens. Patients, doctors, nurses, insurance companies, providers, and employers will all encounter a streamlined, less confusing, more consumer friendly system.
There has been some misinformation disseminated about the impact of this legislation. One of the major misconceptions is that health reform will cost families more than they are already paying to cover the uninsured. What most people do not realize is that they already pay nearly $1100 per year to help pay for the costs of uninsured and underinsured patients who need to use the health care system. One major reason insurance premiums and hospital costs have risen is the need to cover the cost of caring for people who have little or no coverage. Those costs are shifted to those who have insurance through premium hikes so that hospitals can make ends meet. Containing these kinds of costs is vital to the economic stability of American families. The Ways & Means bill has been crafted to take care of some of these concerns.
There are several hurdles the bill still must go through before it reaches the House floor and is signed into law. The bill must still pass out of the Energy and Commerce and Education and Labor Committees. Then the three committees will have to reconcile their versions of the bill. The final version will pass to the Rules Committee, amendments will be proposed and voted on and then the same kind of process is also taking place in the Senate. The Democratic leadership is projecting that both the House and Senate will bring their bills to the floor this summer for a vote. (more)
Then reconciliation of the House and Senate bills will occur in the fall. Both houses of Congress will vote again on the reconciled bill and once that bill passes, it will be signed into law by the President. As the bill progresses, Rep. Lewis will be fighting for provisions to protect public hospitals, community health centers, and to deal with issues related to health care disparities.
Health Care For America Now (HCAN) which released a report today on health care disparities in Georgia. says this about the bill, “In Georgia 1,660,156 people were uninsured in 2007 and that number has only increased,” said Charity Woods, state coordinator. ” Additionally, a recent report estimated that 62 percent of bank¬≠ruptcies were directly related to medical bills. We also know that our broken health care system has not addressed the countless disparities that minorities, women and rural communities face. It is imperative that we support the public plan put forth by Congress as we believe, among other improvements, it would guarantee affordable, quality medical care for all; provide subsidies to help people in need pay for insurance coverage; and cap out-of-pocket costs. We should support this bill as well as those who are fighting diligently for the people of Georgia.”
This bill is also supported by the American Medical Association, the Consumers Union, YMCA, the National Women’s Law Center, the Service Employees Industry Union, and many others.
Click on this link for more comprehensive information about the bill–text, summary, and related materials: http://waysandmeans.house.gov/MoreInfo.asp?section=52
The Honorable John Lewis
343 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
wk – 202.226.4673
fx - 202.225.0351
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