Admin, Dems Face Challenge In Showing Voters What Reform Means For Them
As health reform proposals emerge from congressional committees, partisan fighting boils and the president wades into the debate with a series of televised addresses, news reports turn to an unanswered question. "What's in it for me?" asks David Leonhardt, the New York Times business columnist. "On the subject of health care reform, most Americans probably don't have a good answer to the question. And that, obviously, is a problem for the White House and for Democratic leaders in Congress," he writes.
A disproportionate share of voters carry insurance, and while Congress has said the reform would cut costs to consumers, experts remain skeptical. "The immediate task facing Mr. Obama - in his news conference on Wednesday night and beyond - is to explain that the health care system doesn't really work the way it seems to," Leonhardt writes. "[H]e will need to explain how a typical household, one that has insurance and thinks it always will, is being harmed."
According to a series of news reports that orbit around this topic, here are some ways the effort could affect "you":
Leonhardt: "Over the last 20 years, health costs have soared, and incomes have grown painfully slowly. The two trends are directly connected: employers had to spend more money on benefits, leaving less for raises." If you get insurance from your job, you are likely paying a "stealth $6,500 health care tax" the difference between U.S. health spending per household and the average of the industrialized world that earners could hope to see reduced by effective reforms (Leonhardt, 7/21).
CNN Money: A new surtax on the rich in a House proposal "would run as high as 5.4% on income over $1 million," and people who already have insurance, especially through their job, would likely see little change. Those who buy their own insurance stand to save money because of a new "insurance exchange," requirements for insurers to provide coverage regardless of health conditions and the possible added competition of a public plan, based on a reading of the House proposal (Sahadi, 7/21).
Washington Post: "For the first time ever, every American would be required to carry health insurance." For insured Americans, the requirement would "mean little more than submitting a form with their tax returns proving that the plan they carry meets certain minimum standards." For others, it would mean buying a policy or paying penalties (Connolly, 7/22).
Reuters/Boston Globe: "Some of the ideas proposed for U.S. healthcare reform could cost patients thousands of dollars a year out of their own pockets, and premiums could end up being too high, according to two reports." A health plan offered to federal employees is a likely candidate for setting the baseline requirements for all plans under the overhaul, but recent reports show the plans' policyholders may spend up to $7,000 a year out-of-pocket (Fox, 7/22).
National Public Radio: "Insurers would be forbidden from rejecting clients with pre-existing health conditions. Premiums couldn't be based on past health claims, age or health habits." New taxes are also a likely part of the picture, including a proposed tax on employer-sponsored health benefits that cost, perhaps, $17,000 or more a year (Neel, 7/21).