Part of a draft of the HELP committee’s health reform legislation is currently circulating in Washington.
The New York Times: “All Americans would have access to “essential health care benefits,” with no annual or lifetime limits, employers would have to contribute to the cost of coverage and the government would create a new public insurance program under sweeping legislation drafted by Senator Edward M. Kennedy … As expected, the Kennedy bill, called the American Health Choices Act, is to the left of one being written by the Senate Finance Committee, headed by Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana. Senate Democratic leaders said the two bills would be merged before going to the Senate floor – in July, they hope.” (6/5, Pear)
The Associated Press: “All Americans would be guaranteed health insurance … The bill would provide subsidies to help poor people pay for care, guarantee patients the right to select any doctor they want and require everyone to purchase insurance, with exceptions for those who can’t afford to.
“Congressional and interest groups officials cautioned that the language in the document was not final.
‘It’s a draft of a draft. HELP Democrats are still actively talking amongst themselves and their Republican colleagues,’ said Anthony Coley, spokesman for the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee that’s chaired by Kennedy, D-Mass. (6/5, Werner)
Congressional Quarterly: “It is not clear what Kennedy’s legislation would cost, or how the government would pay for it. The 171-page bill does not contain any extensive sections related to revenue. The Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over both health care and taxation, is expected to develop legislation that includes more extensive revenue measures” (6/5).
Roll Call details more of the specifics, such as they are, in the draft:
“Among the mandates the bill would legislate, according to this draft:
Insurance companies would be prohibited from denying coverage based on a pre-existing medical condition.
Rates charged would be allowed to vary according to ‘family structure, community rating area, the actuarial value of the benefit and age.’
However, rates cannot vary based on ‘health-status related factors, gender, class of business, claims experience, or any other factor not described in the previous [sentence]'” (Drucker, 6/5).
The Hill: “To facilitate employers and individuals finding insurance, the measure would create state-based ‘Affordable Health Benefit Gateways’ akin to the ‘Commonwealth Connector’ in Kennedy’s home state or the national “exchange” promoted by Obama during his campaign.
“These state (or multi-state) Gateways would offer consumers a central location to shop for health insurance that met federal criteria for benefits and costs. A new federal advisory commission would establish those criteria, which Congress would either accept or reject in their entirety.
“The legislative language sets out basic criteria, however, such as requiring insurance plans in the Gateways to cover expenses such as doctor visits, hospitalizations, prescription drugs, mental health and substance abuse treatments, preventive services and manage of chronic diseases.” (Young, 6/5)
Meanwhile, in a separate story, The Hill reports that “Eighty liberal lawmakers, in a letter sent to House Democratic leaders Friday, forcefully demanded a “robust and affordable” new government-run health insurance plan be part of healthcare reform … ‘As you are aware, the overwhelming majority of CPC [Congressional Progressives Caucus] Members would prefer a single-payer approach. If a single-payer plan is not enacted, we agree with President Obama that there must be a robust public health insurance option like Medicare offered alongside the private plans,” the lawmakers, led by Reps. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.),’ wrote.” (Young, 6/5)