Saturday, December 26, 2009

Health Care Kerfuffle III: The Senate Bill

The health-care bill provides:

1) Extension of COBRA benefits, allowing people who lose their jobs to remain on their health insurance for up to a year.
2) New regulations preventing people from losing their insurance due to "pre-existing conditions."
3) New regulations requiring insurers to cover dependents until the age of 27, regardless of work or educational status.
4) The creation of state-by-state insurance exchanges. This is the only part of the bill that's complicated, but it's also the most important part. It turns out that this sort of exchange is the mechanism we currently use to provide affordable car insurance throughout the country. The way it works:
  • People are required to sign up for car insurance, but the insurance companies don't want to carry them because they're high risk and can't afford good plans.
  • The state organizes the people, and divides them between the insurance companies, who are required to accept them.
  • The state dictates the terms of these insurance policies to protect the people from being shafted by the insurance companies.
That's what the health insurance exchanges will do. In this case, the insurance exchange policies will be regulated by the Office of Personnel Management. Why them? To ensure that premiums will be no higher than those enjoyed by federal employees, and that they will offer similar coverage with no annual limits. This, by the way, is also the way health care is handled in the country I was born in, Israel. (Don't worry, this system is not the UK monstrosity that we've been warned about).
5) Subsidies to help those with low incomes afford those health insurance exchange plans.

The health care reform might or might not include the public option (probably not, seeing as the Senate is where the reconciled bill has to pass), but if nothing more than the four points above are passed, millions of people are going to have better access to coverage, and better coverage. That's why I think this health care bill is mostly a good thing.

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