Monday, September 17, 2007

Hillary's "American Health Choice Plan"

I haven't had time to read or digest Hillary Clinton's "American Health Choices Plan" so I'm going to link to Ezra Klein for some background information. [emphasis mine]
It [the plan] does open the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program to everybody, ensuring that anyone can access the same menu of regulated private options that federal employees get. FEHBP is the program that already insures millions of current government employees, including the members of Congress, by offering a variety of regulated private options to choose from. Throwing the doors to that program wide open is the most basic and ubiquitous of coverage solutions.

More importantly, the plan also creates a new public insurance option, modeled off, but distinct from, Medicare. That's a big deal: The public insurer offers full coverage and is open to all Americans without restriction. [...]

And if you don't go through the newly expanded FEHBP or the public option, preferring to keep your current insurance, you'll still be dealing with a heavily-regulated and reformed insurance industry, which can no longer price discriminate based on preexisting conditions or demographic characteristics, refuse you coverage, or deny renewal of your policy -- including if you change your job. So if you like your current insurance but quit your cubicled existence at MegaCorp, your insurer can't drop you. All this matters because it keeps the private programs from having too much capacity to undercut the risk pools of the other options. It also destroys the elements of the insurance industry's business model that rely too explicitly on screwing you over.
Klein says Hillary's plan is very, very good, and similar to Edwards. Here are some key points:
1. Offer New Coverage Choices for the Insured and Uninsured:

The Same Choice of Health Plan Options that Members of Congress Receive: Americans can keep their existing coverage or access the same menu of quality private insurance options that their Members of Congress receive through a new Health Choices Menu, established without any new bureaucracy as part of the Federal Employee Health Benefit Program (FEHBP). In addition to the broad array of private options that Americans can choose from, they will be offered the choice of a public plan option similar to Medicare. [...]

2. Lower Premiums and Increase Security: Americans who are satisfied with the coverage they have today can keep it, while benefiting from lower premiums and higher quality. [...]

Strengthening Security: The plan ensures that job loss or family illnesses will never lead to a loss of coverage or exorbitant costs.

End to Unfair Health Insurance Discrimination: By creating a level-playing field of insurance rules across states and markets, the plan ensures that no American is denied coverage, refused renewal, unfairly priced out of the market, or forced to pay excessive insurance company premiums.

3. Promote Shared Responsibility: Relying on consumers or the government alone to fix the system has unintended consequences, like scaled-back coverage or limited choices. This plan ensures that all who benefit from the system share in the responsibility to fix its shortcomings. [This shared responsibility includes insurance and drug companies, individuals, providers, employers and the government.]

4. Ensure Affordable Health Coverage for All: Senator Clinton's plan will:

Provide Tax Relief to Ensure Affordability; Limit Premium Payments to a Percentage of Income; Create a New Small Business Tax Credit; Strengthen Medicaid and SCHIP; Launch a Retiree Health Legacy Initiative.

5. A Fiscally Responsible Plan that Honors our Priorities:

Most Savings Come Through Lowering Spending Due to Quality and Modernization; A Net Tax Cut for American Taxpayers; and Making the Employer Tax Exclusion for Healthcare Fairer: The plan protects the current exclusion from taxes of employer-provided health premiums, but limits the exclusion for the high-end portion of very generous plans for those making over $250,000.
I'm reserving my opinion until I have time to read more and compare it with other plans, but I already know one thing about it without picking up a paper - the GOP will hate it. I can hear the sound bites now...socialized medicine, government run program, blah, blah, blah...


Larry said...

Maybe I'm wrong but I think Hillary's plan doesn't really help the poor, as they can't even afford lower premiums.

Larry said...

Check out this blog who is trying to arrange a nationwide action over what is happening to our country.

Shut it Down

abi said...

Some of it sounds good, and some of it doesn't. I'll also reserve judgment until I read the details. But if it preserves for-profit, multi-payer coverage, and requires out-of-pocket premiums, I doubt I can support it.

Kathy said...

Larry, thanks for the link. I think it's a great idea and I hope it succeeds and sends a message. I've always maintained that without "worker bees" our corporations would be nothing.

Abi, what I like about the plan is that it in theory will cover all 47 million uninsured people, but you're right about the for profit, multi-payer coverage. I can't support that either. Look at what happened when they started the Medicare Advantage program and opened it up to private insurance. It was supposed to improve competition and drive down prices, instead it costs us more. Nope, the market had their chance and they blew it.