Background Memorandum:New House Health Insurance Reform Bill

For Immediate Release:

October 29, 2009

Contact:Katie Grant
Stephanie Lundberg
(202) 225 - 3130

 
To:       Democratic/Progressive Talkers

From:  House Health Care Tri-Committee and Leadership Communicators

Date:   Thursday, October 29, 2009

Re:       New House Health Insurance Reform Bill
 
Since first introducing their draft proposal for health insurance reform four months ago, House Democrats have been working together in an unprecedented way to bring legislation to the House floor that will fix our broken system and ensure that every American has access to quality, affordable health care – and the stability and security that comes with it. Since August alone, House Democrats have held close to 2,000 public health care events in their districts to hear directly from their constituents and bring the voices of the American people to the process in Washington.
 
Today, the three Chairmen of the House committees overseeing health care and Democratic leaders will present the blended House health insurance reform bill. The new legislation, the Affordable Health Care for America Act, reflects the work of the three committees, extensive input from the Democratic Caucus, and the feedback they heard from people in their districts. Click here for bill summary and more information on the Affordable Health Care for America Act.
 
The bill embodies President Obama’s key elements of reform and the changes the American people want. It will cover 96 percent of Americans, is entirely paid for, and will strengthen Medicare’s solvency so seniors can continue to benefit for years to come.  It also reduces the deficit over the long term.
 
For the first time in history, the promise of access to quality, affordable, stable health insurance will be real for every American.
 
This memo lays out the key points you need to publicly discuss:
  • What reform will mean for families, small businesses and employers;
  • How this bill meets the President’s cost targets and will reduce the deficit; and
  • How the Democrats’ historic, transparent approach to producing a bill was a key factor in getting to this stage.
Core tenets of the Affordable Health Care for America Act:
  • Affordability for the middle class. 
  • Security for our Seniors. 
  • Fiscal responsibility – not a dime is added to the deficit.
The bill will reduce over time out-of-control health care costs that are crushing American families and businesses, cutting the deficit over the long term.  It will protect seniors’ and consumers’ choices of doctors and health plans – nothing in this bill will require anyone or any employer to change the coverage or doctor they have. But it will also expand their access to a new menu of quality, affordable health insurance options that include strong consumer protections. These affordable options will be achieved by introducing competition into the health insurance marketplace with a public health insurance option to compete alongside private insurers in the new Health Insurance Exchange marketplace, premiums will be kept low, insurers will be kept honest, and consumers will be able to truly comparison shop for the health insurance plan that best meets their needs.
 
WHAT HEALTH INSURANCE REFORM MEANS FOR ALL AMERICANS:
  • Ending discrimination in coverage and pricing for pre-existing medical conditions;
  • No dropped coverage if you become sick;
  • No co-pays for preventative care;
  • Yearly caps on what you pay;
  • No lifetime caps on what insurance companies pay; 
  • Reining in health costs for families, businesses and government;
  • Fiscal Responsibility, reducing the deficit;
  • Taking steps toward eliminating waste, fraud and abuse;
  • Major emphasis on innovation, wellness and prevention.
IF YOU HAVE HEALTH INSURANCE:
  • You can keep your doctor and your plan;
  • For seniors, we strengthen Medicare and improve benefits, including closing the ‘donut hole’ over time.
IF YOU DON’T HAVE – OR YOU LOSE – YOUR INSURANCE:
  • A new Health Insurance Exchange marketplace – a one-stop comparison shopping marketplace, including a public health insurance option for consumers, lower administrative costs, competition for better prices and coverage. The public health insurance option will play on a level playing field with private insurance companies, spurring additional competition in the Exchange;
  • Affordability credits to help Americans and small businesses buy coverage;
  • The extension of COBRA until the Health Insurance Exchange marketplace is up and running.
WITHOUT REFORM, THE STATUS QUO – CONGRESSIONAL REPUBLICANS’ PLAN:
  • Skyrocketing health care costs will increase $1,800 each year for the average family;
  • Care and medication – already postponed by more than half of all Americans – will grow more unaffordable;
  • Americans face a 50-50 chance of losing their insurance in the next 10 years; 
  • The “Hidden Tax” of paying for the uninsured will continue to burden taxpayers.
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THE BILL IS DEFICIT NEUTRAL, MEETS PRESIDENT OBAMA’S TARGETS
  • Deficit neutral. The bill meets all of the key benchmarks set by President Obama, in terms of both the reforms it offers and deficit reduction. Preliminary CBO estimates of the blended bill project a cost of coverage of $894 billion over 10 years – consistent with the $900 billion mark laid out by President Obama. President Obama also said that he would not sign a bill that raises deficits, and preliminary estimates from CBO estimates that the bill will reduce deficits by at least $30 billion over 10 years. Estimates also show that the bill will slow the rate of growth of the Medicare program from 6.6 percent annually to 5.3 percent.
  • Entirely paid for. Every penny of the bill will be paid for through a combination of savings achieved by making Medicare and Medicaid more efficient and fiscally solvent, while strengthening seniors’ access to quality, coordinated care, and revenue generated by a surcharge on the wealthiest 0.3 percent of Americans (married couples with over $1 million; individuals with over $500,000 in adjusted gross income).
  • What Americans get in return. When talking about the cost of the bill, it is critical to remind people that the bill is entirely paid for and what Americans will get in return. The House bill will cover significantly more Americans than other health reform bills moving in the Senate and will offer more affordable coverage for low-income and middle-class families.  It will cover six million more Americans than the bill passed by the Senate Finance Committee, for example, and provides more generous subsidies to ensure that every American can afford quality health care.
THE HOUSE’S HISTORIC APPROACH – A KEY TO SUCCESS
 
It’s also important to talk about two of the strategic elements of House Democrats’ approach to reform that have been instrumental in successfully getting a strong bill to the floor.
 
Unprecedented coordination. Tri-Committee and Caucus have been unified in working together on a single bill.  Unlike 1994, when turf battles between the committees of jurisdiction killed reform, this time the three committees have been united, in an unprecedented way, to bring one bill to the House floor. This unique effort by the Committee Chairmen and House leaders has helped ensure that all the voices of members in our diverse Caucus were heard. This historic approach is one of the untold stories in this debate. We believe this is one of the key factors that makes this year the year Congress will finally reform health care.
 
Unprecedented scrutiny and transparency. Contrary to hypocritical claims by Republicans, Democrats have engaged the public in one of the most open and transparent debates of federal legislation in history.
 
The entire House process, from draft bill release to House floor vote will span over four months. By contrast, when Republicans were in control, the entire introduction to House floor vote on the 2003 Medicare Drug law only spanned 11 days.
 
Over 130 days after they first promised to introduce their own legislation, Republican leaders still haven’t produced an official bill. 
 
A few facts to consider:
  • It has been 80 days from when the House bill was first introduced. The public has been able to view the bill and extensive information about it online the entire time. 
  • It has been 126 days since the House discussion draft was first made available online. 
  • There have been 100 hearings on health reform in the past two years, including 8 since the discussion draft was released. 
  • There have been over 81 hours of Committee markups on the bill, over 86 hours of hearings, and over 203 hours of Democratic Caucuses.
  • Republicans have had ample opportunity to debate the bill and offer amendments – and they have. During the markups, 129 amendments were offered by Republicans and 23 were passed. 
  • Democrats have promised that the reintroduced bill will be publicly available for 72 hours before the House votes. 
  • Democrats have held roughly 3,000 public events on health reform this year, including almost 2,000 between August and now.



Click here to view bill text: Affordable Health Care for America Act of 2009 (H.R. 3962)

Click here for more information on the Affordable Health Care for America Act 

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