The House version of health care reform legislation, H.R. 3962, was unveiled today.
While the details of the 1,900-page document may take some time to digest, the broad stokes of the legislation are clear. Dubbed the “Affordable Health Care for America Act,” the bill would require nearly all Americans to sign up for health coverage either through an employer or through a government program by 2013.
“Not only will the legislation cover 96% of our citizens, but it will reduce the deficit and help our businesses get equal footing with international competitors,” Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), chairman emeritus of the Energy and Commerce Committee and lead sponsor of the legislation, said in a statement. “The bill offers the chance to dramatically improve the quality of life in our nation.”
Like the Senate version of reform, the H.R. 3962 calls for the creation of a public option to cover uninsured Americans. However, to mollify moderate Democrats, the bill stipulates that the government plan should negotiate rates directly with providers, instead of using Medicare reimbursement rates.
The legislation also carries a bevy of new restrictions for insurers, including banning insurer from dropping customers based on preexisting conditions. Employers also face new rules under the plan, such as a mandate that companies with than 50 employees offer insurance to their workers or face penalties.
Insurers reacted swiftly, charging that any new government-run plan is unnecessary to achieve reform and would have devastating consequences.
“While we are still reviewing the legislation, we are very disappointed that many of the provisions in the “Affordable Health Care for America Act” unveiled today would undermine the very policy objectives we collectively hope to achieve,” the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) said in a statement. “The proposed creation of a new government-run health plan, which could be open to everyone through the new federal exchange beginning 2015, would jeopardize affordability and access to coverage for the 160 million people who receive their benefits through their employers today.”
BCBSA was also skeptical of the compromise that forces the government plan to negotiate rates. “Although House Leadership is now proposing to use “negotiated” rates to pay providers, the government does not negotiate. It would quickly resort to price-setting based on Medicare or use existing government programs as leverage for negotiations, creating similar effects.”
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