--2 Bingaman Says His Health Care Approach Strikes 'The Right Balance'
       
Sept. 18, 2014

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Bingaman Says His Health Care Approach Strikes 'The Right Balance'

July 15, 2009, 12:00 am
By Corey Pein
An update to my print-edition story this week on health care reform: A key committee including US Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-NM, passed a health reform bill today that includes a so-called "public option" health insurance plan.

"Americans who are happy with their current health insurance plans can keep what they have," Bingaman says.

A show of hands, please?

More details on the plan Bingaman's announcement (the rest of which comes after the cut):
Under the insurance reforms in The Affordable Health Choices Act, no American can be denied health coverage because of a preexisting medical condition, or have that coverage fail to help them when they need it most. In addition, health insurance companies will be prohibited from charging sicker patients more for coverage. No American will be subject to annual or lifetime limits on their coverage, or see it terminated arbitrarily to avoid paying claims.

Of course, unlike Sen. Bernie Sanders' plan, as I noted, no American will be born with a right to comprehensive health care—just the right to purchase slightly better insurance.

Update: Slate's Tim Noah has a nice little analysis of what Bingaman's committee just passed, and how it differed from the House of Representatives' plan. "Pretty Good Health Reform," he calls it:
The House bill won't allow you to buy a public-option health care policy (or to participate in the exchange at all) if your employer already offers you decent health care and your premiums don't exceed 11 percent of your income, which is quite a lot. The Senate is a bit stingier, disallowing employees paying up to 12.5 percent of their income in premiums.

Boy, the insurance companies must be quaking in their boots.



BINGAMAN: KEY COMMITTEE APPROVES LANDMARK HEALTH CARE REFORM BILL

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman today announced that a key Senate committee today approved a landmark health care reform bill that works to contain rising health care costs, demands much more of health insurance plans, and expands coverage to millions of Americans who are uninsured.

Bingaman is a senior member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee – the panel that approved its version of health care reform legislation today. He is also a member of the Senate Finance Committee, which will be writing its version of a bill as soon as next week.

“For millions of Americans, the health care system in place today is not working. In this landmark legislation we have a great framework for an improved system that reduces costs, requires more of health insurance plans, focuses on prevention, and ensures high quality and affordable heath care for all Americans,” Bingaman said of the HELP Committee bill.

Bingaman also emphasized that under this legislation Americans who are happy with their current health insurance plans can keep what they have.

But for those Americans who are uninsured and under-insured the bill represents a significant improvement.

Under the insurance reforms in The Affordable Health Choices Act, no American can be denied health coverage because of a preexisting medical condition, or have that coverage fail to help them when they need it most. In addition, health insurance companies will be prohibited from charging sicker patients more for coverage. No American will be subject to annual or lifetime limits on their coverage, or see it terminated arbitrarily to avoid paying claims.

Moreover, the bill reduces health care costs through stronger prevention, better quality of care and use of information technology. It also includes a national workforce Commission authored by Senator Bingaman that would provide comprehensive information about the nation's healthcare workforce needs and the recommendations on how to align federal resources to meet these needs. It also roots out fraud and abuse, reduces unnecessary procedures and creates a system that allows everyone to obtain insurance thereby gaining access to doctors, medication and procedures essential for prevention and disease management. By sharing in this responsibility, these nearly 50 million uninsured Americans will avoid eleventh-hour treatment in emergency rooms that drive up costs for everyone else.

Shared responsibility requires that everyone - government, insurance companies, medical providers, individuals and employers - has a part in solving America's health care crisis. The Affordable Health Choices Act requires those businesses which do not provide coverage for their workers to contribute to the cost of providing publicly sponsored coverage for those workers. It includes an exception for small businesses.

Here is a complete summary of the bill.

Bingaman said he is particularly pleased with the provision of the bill that contains a so-called public option -- a health care plan available to all Americans receiving coverage in newly formed health insurance “gateways” that focuses exclusively on providing care, not turning a profit. The public option as outlined in the HELP Committee-passed bill is as follows:

Health and Human Services-based plan: The Community Health Insurance Option would be run by the Department of Health and Human Services. The government would provide funding for the first three months of claims as a way to capitalize it; this would be a loan to be repaid over time. This would make the public health insurance option quickly available in all areas of the country.

Plays by the same rules: The public option would be one of the Gateway choices. It would follow the same rules as private plans for defining benefits, protecting consumers, and setting premiums that are fair and based on local costs.

Provider payments and participation:

o Negotiated rates within limits: The payment rates paid by the public option would be no more than the local average private rates – but could be less. The Secretary would negotiate these rates.

o Input from Advisory Councils: Each State would create a Council of provider and consumers to recommend strategies for quality improvement and affordability. States would share in the savings that result.

o Purely voluntary: Health care providers and the American public would have the choice of participating in the public option; there would be no obligation to do so.

“Overall, I think this bill – including its strong public option – strikes the right balance. It's a good bill for New Mexico,” Bingaman said. “I hope the legislation we ultimately send to the president this summer resembles this bill closely.”

 

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