NC HEALTH REPORT: Health Reform in Congress is Good for America

January 7, 2010
Editors: Adam Searing and Adam Linker

HEALTH ACCESS COALITION TV: Our Channel

VIDEO: Adam Searing's take on why the Senate health care bill is worth passing.

AT THE PROGRESSIVE PULSE:

Adam Linker notes NC conservative John Hood is actually criticizing Republicans on health care reform issues.

Why Congressman Bob Etheridge is a strong and effective supporter of health reform.

Alex O'Connor - my revolution for health care.

Putting the health care debate in historical perspective.

Whole Foods boycott over their CEO's health care reform opposition didn't work - was it an insatiable demand for fresh-baked whole grain and wheatnut bread?

Purple Bus Lady for health reform hits CNN.

Almost new NC Blue Cross CEO Brad Wilson speaks out - more of the same from Blue Cross.

How health reform puts us on the path to reducing the cost of health care.

Why NC Blue Cross doesn't like the Senate health reform bill.

YES, HEALTH REFORM LIKELY TO PASS CONGRESS IS GOOD FOR AMERICA: No, we aren't likely to see a public plan to challenge NC Blue Cross's hegemony in NC where they have 96.8% of the individual insurance market. And no, we may not get premium subsidies as affordable as they should be. However, this isn't any reason not to support reform.

We are working on more extensive reports about the effect health reform will have on expanding coverage and lowering costs in North Carolina, but it's worth noting the four main reasons health care reform is worth passing:

1. We will have an absolute safety net of health coverage for the first time. With the expansion of Medicaid (paid for largely by the federal government), individuals and families who become very poor in NC will always be able to obtain basic health coverage no matter how far down on their luck they become.

2. Insurance companies, including NC Blue Cross, will be subject to strict new rules. Blue Cross loves the insurance market the way it is - they price their premiums to attract only the youngest and healthiest people in the state, make gobs of money, and the board and executives enjoy the proceeds of the system. Blue and others will still make plenty of money with reform, but it’s going to be harder. They can't charge people more because of pre-existing health conditions, or because someone is a woman, or hugely more because they are older. In addition, 85 cents of every premium dollar collected will be required to go to actual health care instead of profits and administration.

3. Individual and small business insurance will be simpler and cheaper to buy and cover much more. People not getting coverage through their work will be able to compare and purchase a variety of health plans in an insurance exchange. "Swiss Cheese" plans that sound good but don't cover critical services will be eliminated and consumers can compare the same plan from different companies - something that is virtually impossible now. Most importantly, substantial premium subsidies to both individuals and certain small businesses will drastically lower health care insurance costs.

4. How to control health costs becomes a priority. Traditionally, the way to control health costs has been to push people out of the insurance pool or shift more and more costs to individuals. After reform is fully implemented, this strategy won't work anymore and we will have to use the mechanisms set up in the bill to really start to control health costs. Getting doctors more evidence about what works and what doesn't, paying hospitals and physicians for health outcomes and not just for every test and procedure, and continuing to make Medicare more efficient are just a few of the ways to be tested.

There are things not to like in the bill - the tax on tanning salons imposed to replace a fee on cosmetic surgeries comes to mind along with the lack of a public plan - but overall it's a change that is really going to improve the lives of every North Carolinian.

HOW TO REFORM THE STATE HEALTH PLAN: Adam Linker lays out some ideas

TENNESSEE FREEZES ITS CHILDREN'S HEALTH INSURANCE PROGRAM: Last month our neighbor closed its affordable child health program to new families and started turning children away. Just the thing to do in a recession when families need health coverage for their kids the most. Read all about it.

NEXT HAC MEETING IN WILMINGTON JANUARY 25. Contact Nicole Dozier (nicole@ncjustice.org 919-856-2146) for more information.

 

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