Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Baucus Unveils America's Healthy Future Act

The Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Max Baucus (D-Montana), today released his "marked up" version of proposed health care reform legislation. The legislation, entitled "America's Healthy Future Act", will likely spend the next couple of weeks running the political gauntlet prior to being voted on by the Senate Finance Committee. Below are selected highlights from the 223 page document; don't get too comfortable though, as the content is exceedingly subject to change.
  • Places a restriction upon which factors can be used by an insurance company to determine the price of your premium; additionally, relative weights are assigned to each of the permissible factors insofar as the extent to which they may affect premium price. Factors are: Tobacco Use (1.5:1) , Age (5:1) , Single (1:1), Adult w/child (1.8:1), Two adults (2:1), Family (3:1)
  • Allows any individual who has been denied health care coverage because of a pre-existing condition to enroll in a "high risk pool". Premiums within the high risk pool are subject to the restrictions outlined in my previous bullet point.
  • States have 24 months from the time of enactment to establish the much vaunted health insurance exchanges; if they don't HHS will contract with a non-governmental entity to see the creation of the exchange through. (If I were a State, I'd probably just purposefully neglect to set up the exchange, just to save the cost of planning such a thing. I also wonder whether some States - Texas comes to mind - will refuse to follow this mandate on purely ideological grounds)
  • Those with an existing policy will be permitted to renew that policy.
  • By the year 2015, and through a framework which will be developed by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), States may establish "health care choice compacts" which will essentially allow for the sale of health insurance policies across state lines. (A clever work-around the Commerce Clause issue?)
  • Establishes a classification system for health insurance policies that's strangely similar to the various plateau's one may reach by donating to a University's athletic program. The levels are Bronze,Silver,Gold and Platinum. I won't get into the specifics of the categories; it should be fairly obvious which plans offer the more comprehensive set of benefits.
  • Provides refundable tax credit for individuals and families who purchase health insurance through the state exchange systems.
  • Provides a tax credit for small businesses who make the correct moral, ethical, and talent retention strategy choice of providing employees with health insurance.
I think I've covered the major points here. Noticeably absent is the explicit establishment of a public insurance option. This was the politically smart thing to do; it leaves Republicans grasping for straws with which to criticize the nature of the reform package, and it doesn't alarm older voters by attempting to make a huge change to anything. Slow and incrementally wins the race. Sphere: Related Content

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