Senator Ted Kennedy’s health care committee has circulated a draft of their health care reform bill. It’s lengthy and all-encompassing, with details on everything from how health insurance premiums could be determined, to nutritional labels on vending machine food. The version I’m working my way through has 615 pages. The font is very large, but that’s still a lot of mouse-scrolling. So far, I’ve made it through about the first 150 pages. My first reaction is that the bill encompasses too much stuff. I’t’s hard to imagine all of our elected officials reading through the bill in its entirety, much less the average American.
Over the last couple years, as health care reform has become an ever-pressing issue in this country, one consistent theme I’ve noticed is that most people are considerably unaware of what is actually on the table, and how the various reform proposals would impact our healthcare and our wallets. People tend to throw around terms like “singe payer”, “universal health care”, and “socialized medicine” without really understanding the key issues. There’s plenty of fear-mongering going on, and there are plenty of sad stories that reflect on the failures of our current health care system.
Very few people have time to sit down and read through 615 pages of legislation – even if it does have large font. In my reading so far, I’m seeing lots of things that would be very beneficial to the clients we serve in Colorado who are purchasing individual health insurance: no underwriting, premiums that are not based on gender or health history, and no lifetime maximum on benefits. I haven’t yet found any wording about how these changes would be financed though, and that could become a sticking point. A lot of the changes would essentially eliminate the major differences between individual and group health insurance… and it follows that the lower premiums on individual health insurance would likely disappear too. Everyone is anticipating government subsidies to be a major part of health care reform, but there is quite a bit of debate going on right now as to where we’re going to get the money for the subsidies.
My initial thoughts are that I wish that politicians would focus on just the most important aspects of health care reform, and write a simple, short bill, aimed at expanding health insurance coverage to the nearly 50 million Americans who are currently uninsured. Make it simple to understand, so that the average person can read through it and form an opinion, without needing to rely on an interpretation drafted by their media outlet of choice. I’m sure this is too much to ask, since brevity doesn’t seem to come standard on any government bills. But I’ll throw it out there as my two cents. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a lot more pages to read.