House Dems unveil ‘America’s Affordable Health Choices Act’

HOUSE DEMS UNVEIL ‘AMERICA’S AFFORDABLE HEALTH CHOICES ACT’…. House Democrats were poised to unveil their health care reform package last week, but ran into a little trouble. Leaders said it would be a brief delay, but there was talk of an “indefinite” postponement.

To their credit, the committee chairs and the leadership pulled everything together quickly, and this afternoon presented what appears to be a great piece of legislation.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters Tuesday the bill is both a starting point and a path to success. She was joined by committee chairmen and other House leaders. They stood before a banner reading “Quality affordable health care for the middle class.”

Pelosi and Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., said the House would pass the bill before the August recess.

There’s a lot to go through, but for industrious readers, the bill is online, as are a lot of related materials from the House Committees on Education and Labor, Ways and Means, and Energy and Commerce.

The bill has already drawn enthusiastic praise from the White House. In a statement, President Obama lauded the legislation: “This proposal controls the skyrocketing cost of health care by rooting out waste and fraud and promoting quality and accountability. Its savings of more than $500 billion over 10 years will strengthen Medicare and contribute to our goal of reforming health care in a fiscally responsible way. It will change the incentives in our health care system so that Americans can receive the best care, not the most expensive care. And it will offer families and businesses more choices and more affordable health care.”

As for what’s next, my sources indicate that House leaders are moving as quickly as possible on this, and the House Committee on Education and Labor will begin the mark-up of the bill tomorrow afternoon around 3 (eastern).

Update: CBO scores the bill: $1 trillion, just where House Dems were aiming.

Second Update: Jonathan Cohn seems encouraged by the bill, and though it wouldn’t be fully implemented for a few years, he found that it “will accomplish most of the goals on my mental checklist”:

* Generous subisides, available to people making up to 400 percent of the poverty line

* Expansion of Medicaid to cover people making less than 133 percent of the poverty line

* Guarantees of solid benefits for everybody, with limits on out-of-pocket spending

* Strong regulation of insurers, including requirements that insurers provide insurance to people with pre-existing conditions without higher rates

* An individual mandate, so that everybody (or what passes for everybody in these discussions) gets into the system and assumes some financial responsibility

* A public plan, one that appears to be strong, although I’ll reserve judgment on that until I hear from the experts

* Choice of public and private plan, at first just for individuals and small businesses, but later for larger businesses and–possibly–eventually for everybody

* Efforts at payment reform, if not necessarily as strong as they could be

* Investment in primary care and prevention, which is not sexy but potentially important for general health.