The need for an occasional refresher

THE NEED FOR AN OCCASIONAL REFRESHER…. Reader C.G. emails over night: “Hooray! The House passed reform! Remind me: what’s in it?”

I suspect that’s not an uncommon question this morning.

It’s tough to summarize the entire policy, but the House bill does what reform has set out to do all year — if you have insurance, you’ll have better, more stable coverage with consumer protections. If you don’t have insurance, you’ll get subsidies to help you purchase coverage from an exchange.

The House is expensive, but it’s fully paid for, and would lower the federal budget deficit over the next couple of decades. It includes a public option for eligible consumers, an individual mandate, and an employer mandate. It would cover about 96% of the population, and does not raise taxes on the middle class.

I found Harold Meyerson’s recent description of the plan quite useful.

The health-care reform bills emerging from the House and Senate, when melded and enacted, will constitute an epochal achievement: the near-universal provision of medical care to the American people. But the House version is clearly the more epochal, as the health coverage it provides is more universal, chiefly because it’s more affordable.

For families who buy their insurance on the exchanges that both bills establish, for instance, the House bill includes more generous subsidies — on average, $1,000 more, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The House bill also offers a lot more assistance to Medicare recipients by reducing the cost of their prescriptions. While the bill that emerged from the Senate Finance Committee renews the Bush administration’s mega-bucks gift to the drug companies by continuing to prohibit Medicare from negotiating drug prices with them, the House bill authorizes those negotiations. The Senate bill reduces by half the payments that Medicare recipients must make for prescription drugs that fall into the “doughnut hole” (annual drug expenses are covered up to $2,700, and coverage kicks in again at $6,100, but for all purchases in between, Medicarians are on their own). The House bill would cover all prescription purchases by 2019.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities also had a helpful report on the strengths of the House bill, as did HCAN. Both are worth reading for additional analysis.

At its core, this is a reform bill that would extend quality, affordable care to the country, with a fiscally responsible plan. It’s long overdue, and it’s poised to become the landmark legislation of this generation.