In a word, the general mood at the opening plenary was "optimistic." Senator Al Franken remarked, "this isn't a funeral," and HHS Secretary Kathleen Seblius said, "We're at the one-yard line. We've received a penalty but the game is still on!" According to the advocates around the room, the game is, indeed, still on.
With the possibility of an expanded Medicaid population imminent, how will newly-eligible people receive care? Will there be enough health care providers and facilities to treat them?
Deborah Kilstein from the Association for Community Affiliated Plans, Claudine Swartz from the National Association of Public Hospitals, and Phil Villers from Families USA, along with over 40 advocates from across the country, tackled this tough subject, and explored innovative strategies to increase access to care.
In the holiday classic Home Alone, Kevin McCallister is petrified of his next door neighbor, "Old Man" Marley. That is, until the end of the movie, when he actually takes the time to get to know him. "Old Man" Marley turns out to be a kind man with a good heart. We've all learned lessons like this, where we've found out the hard way that our fears or judgments are false. The same is actually true for health reform.
Whether it is an obsession with town halls, vote counting, or negotiations, much of the focus during this health reform debate has not been on the actual human reasons why reform is so important.
Let's get us back to reality, at least for a quick second.
MLR: Those three letters seem like an acronym for an obscure tropical disease, but we promise this won't hurt a bit. MLR stands for Medial Loss Ratio. The technical term may be a snooze-inducer, but stick with us for a moment longer.
Imagine you went to a change machine, put a dollar in, and only got back 75 cents. Well, a medical loss ratio can be similar.
Health reform has never been easy. That lesson has come up throughout this year's legislative process - as if decades of failed reforms had not yet made that clear.
Health reform, however, is an imperative for our nation's families. Without reform, health costs will continue to grow much faster than wages. Without reform, many millions of hard-working people and their families will join the ranks of the uninsured and underinsured.
Although the economy is slowly recovering, American businesses are still under financial stress. The tight times are causing many firms to let go of workers to cut operating costs-and the nation's unemployment remains at 10%.
Health care costs are the main driver of financial stress for business, but thankfully, health reform can help ease these burdens.
A new year has begun-but our economy is still acting like it's 2009. With the latest unemployment rate unchanged at 10%, all Americans are still feeling the effects of the lack of job growth. President Obama has made this a top priority, and it is clear that many are thirsty for new economic opportunities.
You might wonder: What does this have to do with health reform?
The health reform debate is rounding the corner and barreling towards the finish line-signing the bill into law. However, before we reach this momentous end, there are a few more procedural hurdles to overcome. The most daunting of them will be merging the House and Senate bills into a single piece of legislation that will be able to receive a majority vote in both chambers and to be signed into law by President Obama.
The Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (CHIPRA) has taken a backseat to broader national health care reform over the past few months. However, as the health care debate proceeds in Washington, several states are taking advantage of the additional funding and new options available under CHIPRA to make significant improvements to their CHIP programs.