Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) officially unveiled the House health care reform bill that is headed to the House floor. The ceremony, held on the West steps of the Capitol, marks the greatest progress toward the Democratic Party's top domestic priority goal in more than half a century.
The bill, the Affordable Health Care for America Act -- H.R. 3962 -- includes a public health insurance option that would be required to negotiate with providers -- the top choice of centrist and conservative Democrats.
Coming in at just under $900 billion over ten years, the plan would cover 36 million uninsured Americans.
The Congressional Progressive Caucus had pushed hard for a "robust" public option that would have reimbursed providers using Medicare rates. Blue Dog Democrats beat back that effort, costing taxpayers $85 billion over ten years -- money that will go to hospitals, doctors and drug makers, increasing the cost of health care.
The bill also prevents insurers from discriminating against people with preexisting conditions, caps the financial responsibility that insured individuals will face when medical emergencies strike, bans insurers for dropping folks because they get sick, and proposes a host of other insurance industry reforms.
Meanwhile, congressional Republicans are hoping that the historic push will give them an advantage in the 2010 midterm elections. "The lasting image coming out of today's press conference is one of dozens of House Democrats standing proudly behind an incredibly unpopular Nancy Pelosi as she prepares to lead them off a political cliff," said Ken Spain, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee.
If anything jumps out at you, let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org. The SEIU notes that the bill bans the practice of using domestic violence as a pre-existing condidtion.
SEC. 2754. PROHIBITION ON DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AS PRE-EXISTING CONDITION.
A health insurance issuer offering health insurance coverage in the individual market may not, on the basis of domestic violence, impose any preexisting condition exclusion (as defined in section 2701(b)(1)(A)) with respect to such coverage.
UPDATE: In what could be seen as a boost for the bill, the insurance industry says they don't like it. Karen Ignagni, President and CEO of America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), put out this statement:
"The promise of health care reform has been that if you like your current coverage, you can keep it. We are concerned that this proposal will break this promise by increasing health care costs for families and employers across the country and significantly disrupting the quality coverage on which millions of Americans rely today.
"The lack of system-wide cost containment is a missed opportunity. Without a greater focus on health care costs, families and employers will not be able to afford coverage and health care costs will rise at a rate much faster than the overall economy is able to sustain.
"We share the concerns that doctors, hospitals, employers, and patients have all raised about the significant disruption a new government-run plan would have on the current health care system. A new government-run plan would bankrupt hospitals, dismantle employer coverage, exacerbate cost-shifting from Medicare and Medicaid, and ultimately increase the federal deficit.
"Estimates show that a government-run plan would cause millions of people to lose their current coverage. Moreover, massive Medicare Advantage cuts would cause millions of seniors to lose their Medicare Advantage coverage altogether, while millions more would face benefit cuts and higher out-of-pocket costs.
"Health plans strongly support comprehensive, bipartisan health care reform and have proposed sweeping insurance market reforms and new consumer protections to ensure that every American has guaranteed access to affordable health care coverage. Experience in the states has shown that insurance market reforms must be paired with an effective personal coverage requirement for these reforms to work. While this legislation recognizes the key linkage of market reforms and a personal coverage requirement, more needs to be done to ensure coverage is affordable and our health care system is sustainable.
"As the process progresses, health plans will continue to work to advance bipartisan legislation this year that will cover all Americans, make coverage more affordable, and improve quality."
Democrats have created a side-by-side comparison of the bill as introduced initially and in its present form.