Washington, D.C.—(ENEWSPF)—October 13, 2009. The Senate Finance Committee today approved Chairman Max Baucus’ (D-Mont.) landmark health reform bill, the America’s Healthy Future Act. The legislation would lower costs and provide quality, affordable health care coverage. It would make it easier for families and small businesses to buy health insurance, ensure Americans can choose to keep the health care coverage they have if they like it and slow the growth of health care costs over time. The America’s Healthy Future Act would bar insurance companies from discriminating against people based on health status, denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions or imposing annual caps or lifetime limits on coverage. And it would improve the way the health care system delivers care by improving efficiency, quality and coordination. The Congressional Budget Office has said the bill is fully paid for, estimated to cost $829 billion dollars and will reduce the federal deficit by $81 billion within the first ten years.
“The bill we passed today puts patients and doctors – not insurance companies – in the driver’s seat,” said Baucus. “It includes strong provisions to end insurance company practices that discriminate against those who are sick or have pre-existing conditions. It modernizes our health care system to reduce waste and inefficiency and slows health care costs that stretch families, businesses and or economy to a breaking point. This balanced, common-sense bill begins to shave the federal deficits. The American people deserve a health care system that works for them and this vote is a critical step toward that goal.”
Provisions in the legislation to ensure Americans have quality, affordable health care coverage would:
- Allow people who like the coverage they have today the choice to keep it;
- Reform the insurance market so no one can be denied coverage or charged more because of a pre-existing health condition;
- Prohibit insurance companies from charging women or people who have been sick more for their coverage;
- Eliminate yearly and lifetime limits on the amount of coverage plans provide and make it illegal for insurance companies to drop coverage;
- Protect seniors by ensuring absolutely none of their Medicare benefits are cut;
- Give consumers the choice of non-profit health care co-ops;
- Limit tax deductions for insurance companies that give their executives excessive salaries;
- Create web-based insurance exchanges that would standardize health plan premiums and coverage information to make purchasing insurance easier; and
- Require Members of Congress to buy their health insurance through those same exchanges that people in their states use, rather than a separate Congressional plan.
Provisions included in the legislation to lower health care costs, improve the quality of care, and increase efficiency within the health care system would:
- Create Health Care Affordability Tax credits to help low and middle-income families purchase insurance in the private market;
- Provide tax credits for small businesses to help them offer insurance to their employees;
- Provide a 50 percent discount on prescription drugs to seniors with gaps in their Medicare prescription drug benefit coverage;
- Aggressively fight fraud, waste, and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid;
- Save money by shifting incentives in Medicare toward care that results in better patient outcomes and away from care that doesn’t;
- Encourage all of a patient’s doctors to coordinate care and reduce duplication and waste;
- Increase the number of primary care doctors in the system;
- Create incentives for health care providers to use safer, more cost effective health technology like electronic medical records;
- Increase health care research so doctors know what care works best for which patient’s; and
- Prohibit illegal immigrants from receiving any benefits under reform.
Provisions included in the legislation to promote preventative health care and wellness would:
- Provide annual “wellness visits” for Medicare participants and their doctors to focus on prevention;
- Eliminate out-of-pocket costs for screening and prevention services in Medicare;
- Create incentives in Medicare and Medicaid for participating in and completing healthy lifestyle programs;
- Increase federal Medicaid funding for states that cover recommended preventive services and immunizations for enrollees at no extra cost; and
- Provide free tobacco cessation services for pregnant women in Medicaid.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates the Chairman’s Mark would make an $819 billion investment in the health care system over ten years and during that time would reduce the deficit by $81 billion. In the second ten years, the Congressional Budget Office estimates the Mark would continue to reduce the deficit by a quarter to a half a percent of GDP, which equates to from $450 to nearly $900 billion in deficit reduction. That investment would be fully paid for mostly through increased focus on quality, efficiency, prevention and adjustments in federal health program payments, without adding to the federal deficit. A summary of the America’s Health Future Act can be found at: http://finance.senate.gov/press/Bpress/2009press/prb101309b.pdf. The full text of the bill as amended by the Committee is available on the Finance Committee website at: www.finance.senate.gov.