Sign health care law, move to other issues

Published 7:23 am Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The window for health care reform is short. With the election of another Republican in the Senate, the Senate would now most likely be tied up by a Republican filibuster of a reconciled bill between the House and Senate bills. Republicans are set to gain more seats in the 2010 election, as usually happens to the opposite party of a sitting president. Thus, the House should pass the Senate version of the health care plan now. President Obama should sign it into law and move on to other pressing problems, like joblessness. It is not an ideal bill, but it would be a necessary improvement.

Here are 10 positive features of the Senate bill:

1. It prohibits individual and group health plans from placing lifetime limits on the dollar value of coverage.

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2. It bans insurers from revoking a patient’s coverage except in cases of fraud.

3. It standardizes financial and administrative transactions to simplify paperwork and reduce administrative costs.

4. It encourages the establishment of nonprofit, member-run health insurance companies in all 50 states, in which any profits must be used to reduce premiums, increase benefits or improve the quality of health care delivered to their members.

5. For all new policies, people will be able to choose among benefit plans that cover 60, 70, 80, or 90 percent of the costs of medical care. A separate catastrophic plan will be available to those under 30 years of age on an individual basis. Existing policies can keep their current benefit standards. In other words, if you like your insurance as it is, you can keep it.

6. It awards five-year demonstration grants to states to design and test alternatives to medical malpractice lawsuits, with the goal of reducing medical errors and the cost of liability insurance.

7. It offers grants for up to five years for small businesses that establish wellness programs for their employees.

8. It allows employers to reward employees — through premium discounts, waivers of cost-sharing requirements, and other benefits — with up to 30 percent of the cost of coverage for participating in a wellness program and meeting certain health-related requirements. This may increase to 50 percent if it proves to be effective.

9. It publicizes standardized information on all long-term care facilities on a website so Medicare recipients can compare them and make more informed choices.

10. It expands access to care by increasing funding for existing community health centers and establishing new school-based health centers and nurse-managed health clinics.

(Information in the items above are from the Kaiser Foundation

It would be nice if Republicans and Democrats would get together and pass this legislation. When President Eisenhower, a Republican, backed a large expansion in Social Security in the 1950s he said, “It is a proper function of government to help build a sturdy floor over the pit of personal disaster, and to this objective we are all committed.” It is not radical to consider health care as a basic right that the government should help provide.

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

Albert Lea