More than 70 years ago, Consumers Union, the independent, nonprofit organization that publishes Consumer Reports, called for affordable, reliable health care for all Americans.
Today, after decades of failed proposals, broken promises, and political rancor, our nation is the closest it has ever been to answering that call.
Reform proposals have passed both chambers of Congress by a majority vote; now they effectively await final passage. Reform will make sure you can get reliable, affordable health coverage if you're sick, lose your job, or hit a rough financial patch. It will provide much-needed oversight of the insurance industry, spur competition, and change the way insurance companies do business.
A lot of people, especially those who already have good insurance, are unsure how the agreed-upon proposals in Congress would benefit them. The package of reform proposals isn't perfect. It won't solve all the problems in our nation's broken health care system. But the reforms under consideration would go a long way toward achieving the goal of affordable, reliable health care for all Americans. So let me identify the key benefits consumers would get from health-reform legislation passed to date:
- No company could deny you health insurance for a pre-existing condition, or drop your coverage if you get sick.
Seniors in Medicare will get all their preventive care covered at 100 percent; proposals would cover more prescription drug costs by shrinking the infamous ''doughnut hole'' and shore up the financial stability of the program.
It's also vital that we get control of spiraling health costs. Over the past 10 years, most families' health insurance bills have more than doubled -- and if nothing is done to rein in costs, your premiums will double again in another 10 years. To address this there are a host of new efforts designed to improve health care quality, improve care coordination, and provide incentives for hospitals to reduce health care associated infections. There are new incentives for hospitals and doctors to come together to form organizations that can offer "soup to nuts" integrated care. In time, these efforts to improve health-care quality should also lower the underlying cost of health care.
We have to make sure that we can control what we pay, how we pay it, and what we get for it. Reform would hold insurance companies accountable when it comes to what they charge consumers for coverage, and how they do business:
- Insurers would have to spend 85 percent of your premium dollar on your health care (80 percent if you buy your policy on your own or are in a small group) or they would have to refund you the difference. That means more of what you pay would actually go for medical care, not to CEO salaries and overhead.
Consumers simply can't wait another 70 years.
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