As we read and listen to various news sources about the health plan proposals, you might begin to believe that everything will change immediately. This is a complex process and the information below may provide some additional context.
According to Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Associated Press writer in Washington, D.C, a timeline of the 1,000-page health care bill recently released by the House shows that it may take the better part of a decade, from 2010-2018, to implement the components of the health plan proposals.
The timeline in the Associated Press report reflects the proposed expansion of government responsibilities. Here’s a look at the time line:
The government sets up a Health Benefits Advisory Committee led by the surgeon general to recommend a basic benefits package. Community health centers serving low-income people get a funding boost. Insurance companies are barred from engaging in "rescissions" – the cancellation of existing policies. A campaign is launched to reduce health care paperwork. Doctors serving Medicare patients are spared a 20 percent cut in fees.
The benefits committee unveils a recommended package for adoption by the Health and Human Services Department. HHS sets rules requiring insurance companies to spend a minimum percentage of premiums on medical costs. Medicare recipients get relief from the ‘doughnut hole’ coverage gap in their prescription benefits.
Tax hikes on upper-income earners take effect.
In the presidential election year, low-income seniors get additional financial assistance with their Medicare prescription plans.
The year of heavy lifting and major coverage changes. Insurance companies are barred from discriminating against people with health problems. The government opens the health insurance exchange – a new purchasing pool – to individuals and businesses with fewer than 10 workers. A government-sponsored plan is among the options available through the exchange, with premiums estimated 10 percent lower than private coverage. All plans in the exchange offer at least the basic benefits package. Individuals and families making up to four times the federal poverty level get subsidies to help pay for insurance. Individuals are required to get coverage – and employers to offer it – or face financial penalties. Businesses with payrolls under $250,000 are exempt from the mandate. Medicaid eligibility is expanded.
The health insurance exchange is expanded to include companies with up to 20 employees and people who can’t afford premiums under their employer’s plan.
The government decides whether to open the health insurance exchange – and the government-sponsored plan – to all employers.
Employers who continue to provide coverage outside the exchange must offer at least the same basic benefits available through the government-regulated purchasing pool."
As I have related in our previous blogs on Healthcare reform, this issue is bound by great complexities. While we all agree that the provision of quality health care is essential, processes should be improved to reduce costs and eliminate waste in the industry, there is no easy, quick fix to many of these issues. We must work toward solutions with a common goal of ensuring appropriate care for the people of our community.
We will continue to stay informed about the status of the government’s proposals for health care reform. I hope these communications are beneficial.