Health care reform legislation is in the news every day now and it seems clear that the White House and many in Congress haven’t learned much about what the people want.
California Congressman Dan Lungren spent the month of August back home in California, listening to the stories and concerns of his constituents. There is nothing like hearing a personal experience first hand to show where a system excels or fails.
Lungren says he has “benefitted greatly from our ongoing dialogue. I’ve heard about your personal experiences regarding when our system worked and when it failed tragically. I’ve heard about your fears of maintaining the status quo and fears of rushing into changes that will cause irreparable damage.”
Back in Washington, Lungren cosponsored two pieces of legislation that address some problems in the existing health care system without undermining those elements that Americans are satisfied with – and without adding to the already massive federal deficit. That legislation is the Patients’ Choice Act (H.R. 2520) and the Health Care Choice Act (H.R. 3217).
The main thrust of the two bills is access and affordability.
The Patients’ Choice Act would create statewide health insurance exchanges – “one stop” markets where private health plans compete for enrollees based on price and quality of care. These would differ from the House leadership’s health care reform proposal (H.R. 3200), under which the federal government would administer a national health care exchange as well as a vast public insurance option.
As the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has reported, the presence of a federally-subsidized option on the exchange would crowd out other insurers and result in a less competitive marketplace with fewer coverage choices for Americans.
In addition, creating another level of federal bureaucracy in the healthcare system to manage a national exchange would increase governmental interference in personal health care decisions.
The aim of the Patients’ Choice Act, is to foster a robust, transparent marketplace – a level playing field where Americans can get the type of coverage that is right for them at a price they can afford.
This bill also provides portable, quality health care coverage for those who do not have access to employer-based insurance. All plans on the exchanges would be required to provide, at a minimum, the same level of care as is currently available to federal employees.
This additional regulation may cause problems
A key issue in any discussion on health care reform is how to ensure access to coverage for all Americans, regardless of age, disability or pre-existing condition. There are a number of ways to accomplish this goal, including the creation of subscriber pools to allocate risk among a large number of individuals.
The Patients’ Choice Act incorporates provisions that offer incentives for maintaining high-risk subscriber pools to increase access without making coverage prohibitively expensive for patients with pre-existing health conditions.
One major problem with existing insurance is that insurance companies cannot compete across state lines, a situation that stifles competition and makes it easier for some companies to enjoy a virtual monopoly in their state.
The Patients’ Choice Act includes a refundable tax credit that allows individuals and families to buy health care insurance coverage through the exchanges. This market-based approach is designed to lower the cost of health care. Low-income families may need additional help and the bill provides for direct assistance in addition to the tax credit. To further reduce costs, the legislation gives states an incentive to enact alternatives to medical malpractice litigation.
This Act also allows coverage to be provided across state lines, thereby increasing competition and reducing prices.
Congressman Lungren wil be at a town hall in Galt, California, south of Elk Grove, this Saturday and set up an online survey to get feedback on his proposed legislation.
Results for the previous survey on the Public Option (PDF) are available.