It looks like grassroots groups are going after Max Baucus (D-MT, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee). He is an important player in this process, and is getting pressure from liberal groups to come through on things like the public option. It’s starting to sound like everyone just wants this thing done soon.
Check out this round-up from Our Bodies, Our Blog.
Rachel Maddow goes into the politics of health care reform with Governor Ed Rendell (D-PA).
Last night there were amendments to the Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 proposed and subsequently shot down by the Energy and Commerce Committee in the House of Representatives. These amendments would have expanded abstinence only education programs among other things. From RH Reality Check:
“By promoting evidence-based teen pregnancy and STI prevention programs, the Committee, under the leadership of Representative Waxman, has taken an important step toward ensuring young people get the critical sexual health information they need to make responsible decisions about their lives.”
Two reports have come out of the Commonwealth Fund this week, both addressing important reasons we need health care reform now. One (Failure to Protect: Why the Individual Insurance Market is not a Viable Option for Most US Families) is about the failures of the individual market and the kind of reform that is needed to keep these families covered and provided for. This report describes the status of the 16 million Americans (6% of the under 65 population) who have individual-market health insurance coverage. The study found that 64% of those in the individual market spend $3,000 or more per year on premiums and out-of-pocket costs, as opposed to 20% of those with employer-sponsored health insurance. In addition, 51% of those in the individual market spend 10% or more of their yearly income on premiums and out-of-pocket costs compared to 29% of those with employer-provided insurance. Adults who have individual-market insurance have less comprehensive coverage (they are more likely to not have prescription coverage or dental insurance) and they have higher rates of benefit restrictions and problems with coverage. They are significantly less satisfied with their insurance in comparison to populations with other kinds of insurance.
This study is important because recently due to the economic slow-down more employers have been dropping coverage for employees or moving to lower cost plans for their employees. Since most states limit public insurance to children, pregnant women, those with low incomes, and the elderly, many individuals need to strike out on their own and find coverage in the individual insurance market. They then end up having to pay more out-of-pocket costs and higher premiums, in addition to higher deductibles. According to the Commonwealth Fund;
“These findings indivate that the individual insurance market in its current form does not provide a viable alternative to employer-based group coverage.”
The survey found that 47% of those that went into the individual market to find coverage said it was very difficult or impossible to find a plan that fit their needs. This was even higher for the group that had poor health (60%). Also, 57% of people found it very difficult or impossible to find a plan they could afford (again, higher in the population with poorer health – 70%). 73% of those surveyed in the study did not end up buying a plan due to the barriers.
The other report released recently (How Health Care Reform Can Lower the Costs of Insurance Administration) offers insight into the problem of private insurance costs, specifically administrative costs. The report states that $265 billion could be saved over ten years with the proposed national health care exchange and the increased utilization and availability of public plans. This money would be saved because there would be less marketing and underwriting, less claims administration, less time spent negotiating provider payment rates, and lower commissions to insurance brokers.
“The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that the US spends $91 billion more per year on health insurance administrative costs than it should, given its size and wealth.”
Most of this money is spent by private health insurance companies, where 12.4% of costs are administrative compared to 6.1% by public plans. In addition to reducing these administrative costs, the national health exchange would help lower this huge amount by increasing the transparencies of insurance products and streamlining the plan purchase/enrollment process.
This clip is from the State Senate last week – Tom Duane giving a voice to those who often don’t have one. We appreciate his passion and wanted to point out his committment to those struggling with HIV/AIDS and the importance of health care for everyone.
Check out Barack Obama’s weekly address – this one is dedicated to health care reform. “We know there are those who will oppose reform no matter what…[who] use the same scare tactics that have stopped reform before because they profit from this relentless escalation in health care costs.” He then goes on to answer some FAQs – cost questions about the deepening of deficits (“I will not sign on to any health plan that adds to our deficits over the next decade…the reforms we make will help bring our deficits under control in the long term.”), the rationing of care and the ability to choose doctors (he keeps with the “if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor” mantra). He ends by urging the House and the Senate to vote for reform and keep this process moving.
In other health reform news, Peter Orszag (the White House budget director) and Kathleen Sebelius (the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services) and other appointed and elected officials in the White House have been making firm statements about the timeline and the need for reform. The importance of the final being deficit neutral has been an important part of recent reform discussions; House legislation has been rated by the Congressional Budget Office at $239 billion over ten years.
Also, RH Reality Check outlines the amendments put forward by Steve Buyer (R-IN) proposing higher premiums for those who engage in unprotected sex. Wow. Check out this other article from the AFL-CIO website that cites our own Amy Allina from the National Women’s Health Network, and this article that makes the case for including immigrants in health care reform.
This article from the New York Times gives an updated look into what the White House is saying about abortion coverage in health care plans in reform. Even though federal funds are explicitly excluded from funding non-rape, non-incest abortions for recipients of Medicaid, Republicans are worried about federal funds going toward abortions. This could potentially be the case, if subsidies given by the government to women of low income are used for abortion care.
Some of the quotes from the article are painfully out of date, with quotes from Kathleen Sebelius from April that are actually just wrong. She is quoted in the article as saying that most health insurance plans don’t cover abortion services. This isn’t true, and the Guttmacher Institute has found that about 89% of private insurance plans cover abortion care. Tut, tut, New York Times – shotty reporting.
An article by Kim Custer from themorningcall.com addresses the issue of community health centers, specifically women’s health centers like Planned Parenthood. She says:
“Today, one in four women who receives contraceptive care does so at a women’s health center. One in six who obtains a Pap test or a pelvic exam does so at a women’s health center, as do one-third of women who receive counseling, testing or treatment for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. This basic health care is essential, particularly during difficult economic times, to give women the tools they need to protect and support their families. This is particularly true when you consider that women of childbearing age spend a remarkable 68 percent more in out-of-pocket health care costs than men, in part because of reproductive health-related needs.”
These numbers are too significant to ignore. Community health clinics are vital to the reproductive and sexual health of women.
The Ways and Means Committee, one of the three committees in the House of Representatives working toward a health reform bill, has passed their version of the legislation. This comes after a few days of mark-up that featured the successful defeat of abortion-restricting amendments. Representatives Sam Johnson (R-TX) and Eric Cantor (R-VA) among others made attempts at restricting abortion coverage in the essential benefits package, meaning that basic health care plans would not include abortion. Also, the House Education and Labor Committee has passed their version of the bill. That means that we are passed the point the Clinton administration was fifteen years ago – this very well may happen!! (Also check out this article by Nancy Keenan about the Senate HELP Committee and the success they had in passing their version.)
In other good news, Washington DC is now able to use money to subsidize/fund abortions for women. Though this doesn’t apply to federal funds, it does allow the District to use locally-collected revenue for women in need. Though this passed, it is scary to see some of the opposition and the claims that they make.
Health Care for All New York has done an amazing job this past legislative session. From a recent press release:
“Last night, the Senate passed three insurance reform bills strongly supported by HCFANY:
1. A.8400/S.5471, which extends COBRA coverage from 18 to 36 months for workers who are laid off or have a reduction in hours;
2. A.9036/S.6030, which allows young adults (ages 19-29) to obtain a COBRA-like coverage through his or her parent’s insurance, while still preserving New York’s pure community rating system; and
3. A.8402/S.5472, which strengthens and updates consumer and provider protections in managed care and similar products, including enhanced access to cutting edge treatments for people with rare diseases.
These bills have already passed the Assembly, and HCFANY urges the Governor to sign them as quickly as possible.”
Super exciting! Check out their website here.