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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The President's proposal

Kate Blocher

Staff Writer

The beltway has been abuzz ever since President Obama announced he plans to hold a Health Care Summit between key Congressional leaders. Will Republicans attend? Will President Obama provide a health reform proposal? Will the Republicans provide their own proposal? If they do provide a proposal, will meet the criteria of meaningful health reform?

Today, at least one of those questions was answered when the White House released, The President's Proposal, which incorporates the work that the House and the Senate have done and adds additional ideas from Republican members of Congress.

President Obama adhered to his key priorities when mapping out his proposal, which include ensuring affordable, accessible coverage; security; and reducing the deficit. The proposal made targeted changes to the Senate-passed health reform bill, pulled key elements from the House-passed health reform bill, and included new provisions to crack down on waste, fraud, and abuse.

Some of the key changes include:

  • Strengthening "rate review," which ensures that if rate increases is unreasonable or unjustified, health insurers must lower premiums, provide rebates, or take other actions to make premiums more affordable. A new Health Insurance Rate Authority will be created to provide oversight at the Federal level and hopefully prevent any more absurd rate hikes like we saw recently in California and other states.

  • Improving affordability of health care by increasing the premium subsidies as well as the cost-sharing subsidies for families low- and middle-income families and by strengthening protections from high out-of-pocket costs under insurance plans.

  • Creating a nationwide Medicaid income eligibility standard of 133 percent of the federal poverty level (individuals and families above 133 percent will be eligible for premium subsidies for private plans sold in state exchanges).

  • Strengthening provisions to fight waste, fraud, and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid;

  • Increasing the threshold for the excise tax on the most expensive health plans from $23,000 for a family plan to $27,500, starting in 2018 for all plans.

  • Eliminating the Nebraska FMAP provision and providing uniform Federal financing to all states for the expansion of Medicaid. Starting in 2014 and going through 2017, states will receive 100% Federal support for newly eligible individuals. In 2018 and 2019, states will receive 95% support, and in 2020 and subsequent years, 90 percent.

  • Closing the Medicare prescription drug "donut hole" coverage gap.

With this proposal, President Obama has bridged a gap between the House and Senate bills. He has made key changes to both bills, taken strengths from each bill and created new elements to reduce waste and protect consumers. Early reactions show that key Congressional leaders are pleased with President Obama's actions. This morning House Speaker Nancy Pelosi released a statement in response to the President's Proposal. She said:

"The President today made available to all Americans the Administration's health insurance reform proposal, which contains positive elements from the House and Senate-passed bills, I look forward to reviewing it with House Members and then joining the President and the Republican leadership at the Blair House meeting on Thursday."

She finished her statement with,

"We must pass comprehensive, affordable health insurance reform, and I am hopeful that Thursday's meeting will help us achieve this goal."

Let's hope everyone goes into the Blair House with such a positive attitude-the American people deserve it.