Raising Women’s Voices

Health Reform Legislation Needed Now

Posted in DC Reform by raisingwomensvoices on March 25, 2009

On March 19, Senate Finance Committee ranking minority member Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said that Congress must pass health reform legislation this year, or it will not be done during Obama’s first term. Grassley also said that he does not see a compromise in sight between Democrats and Republicans regarding a public plan option. Democrats say that a public plan would spur competition and cut costs, while Republicans and those in the health insurance industry say it would be difficult for private companies to compete and would lead to more government sponsored healthcare.

But Grassley says that Congress could set minimum benefit standards that private health plans must meet and/or allow health insurance companies to sell policies across state lines. Sources have said that America’s Health Insurance Plans, which represents private insurers, might be willing to embrace a Community Rating, which spreads risk evenly and charges the same  regardless of age, health status, and claim history.

Health reform legislation should be fully paid for, Grassley said, with necessary “upfront” spending. Savings would be possible via Medicare stressing quality, not quantity of care. The reform legislation will not help the economy in the short-term, he emphasized, but will relieve some federal budget concerns in the long-term. The reforms will not cancel the need for Medicaid and Medicare reforms.

Grassley has said that reform should be considered via so-called regular order, using committee hearings and markups, rather than budget reconciliation. The former takes 60 votes to be approved by the Senate, the latter 51. Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) wants to mark up health reform legislation in June, and House Democrats plan to clear a bill by the August Congressional recess. Grassley maintains that if a reform bill is not completed by late fall, Congress will have to pass legislation preventing a 20% cut in physicians’ Medicare reimbursement from being enacted in 2010.

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