After more than a year of deliberation and debate, hundreds of hours of hearings and town hall meetings across the country, it’s time for Congress to finally move forward with final passage of the first major overhaul of our nation’s broken health insurance system.
The proposal currently under consideration incorporates ideas from both sides of the aisle and puts the well being of our citizens and the future of our economy front and center. While this legislative package is not as revolutionary as some had hoped, it possesses what’s necessary to bring relief to those who need it most – the uninsured and underinsured – and works to bring down health costs for everyone over the long run.
The plan the House is mobilizing to pass this week will put individuals and families back in the driver’s seat when it comes to health decisions. It will extend coverage to over 30 million people, slow exploding premium increases and provide Americans more, better options for coverage.
While some aspects of the bill will take time to put into place, many changes happen almost immediately. Insurers will no longer be allowed to drop people when they get sick. People with pre-existing conditions will no longer be denied coverage. Lifetime limits and restrictive annual limits on coverage will be eliminated. New private plans will be compelled to cover preventative services and immunizations with no co-payments and ensure that consumers have access to an effective internal and external process to appeal new insurance plan decisions.
As soon as our bill is enacted, small businesses that provide coverage to their employees will be eligible for a tax credit of up to 35% of premium costs. Coverage for young people under their parents’ plans would be extended, allowing them to remain covered until their 26th birthday. Funding for new training programs to train a greater number of primary care doctors, nurses, and public health professionals will also be increased. Our community health centers will be given the resources allowing them to almost double the amount of patients they treat over the next five years.
Once our bill goes into effect, seniors will start to see immediate relief from high prescription prices with a $250 rebate for Medicare beneficiaries who hit the “donut hole.” The legislation also makes preventative services and immunizations free under Medicare right away – eliminating co-payments for preventative services and exempting preventative services from deductibles.
Congress has been struggling to deliver meaningful health care reform for more than six decades. We cannot delay any longer. Enacting this legislation, and improving it over time, will lead to lower costs to the system and our economy as a whole, while empowering every American and small business when making their health care decisions.
Rep. James Moran (D) is Virginia’s 8th Congressional District Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.