Send to printer »

GEN News Highlights : Oct 14, 2009

Senate Finance Committee Approves Baucus’ Healthcare Reform Bill

Act approved by a 14 to 9 vote now heads to Senate floor.

The Senate Finance Committee approved Chairman Max Baucus’ (D-MT) health reform bill in a 14 to 9 vote. The Congressional Budget Office estimates tha it will cost $829 billion dollars and will reduce the federal deficit by $81 billion within first 10 years. In the second 10 years, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that it would continue to reduce the deficit by a quarter to half a percent of the GDP, which equates to roughly $450 to nearly $900 billion in deficit reduction.

The bill will now move to the Senate floor, where it will be joined to the version of the healthcare legislation that was approved in July by the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee and then voted upon.

The America’s Healthy Future Act will reportedly lower costs and provide quality, affordable healthcare coverage. Among other things, the bill would also put a cap on annual out-of-pocket expenses.
 
“The bill we passed today puts patients and doctors, not insurance companies, in the driver’s seat,” says Baucus. “It includes strong provisions to end insurance company practices that discriminate against those who are sick or have pre-existing conditions.”

The bill reportedly protects seniors by ensuring absolutely none of their Medicare benefits are cut. It also prohibit illegal immigrants from receiving any benefits under the reform, although details of how this will be implemented remain a mystery.

Insurance prices are expected to go down with nonprofit healthcare co-ops coming into play.  Additionally the bill will create web-based insurance exchanges that would standardize health plan premiums and coverage information to make purchasing insurance easier.

It looks like the bill is also putting an emphasis on preventive healthcare, As far as the role of biotech and personalized medicine, it seems like the only aspect that is being covered in this bill is comparative effectiveness.

Individual market reforms will begin in 2013, with insurance companies being required to issue coverage to all individuals regardless of health status; insurers would no longer be allowed to limit coverage based on pre-existing conditions. Limited variation in premium rates would be permitted for tobacco use (no more than 1.5:1), age (no more than 4:1), and family composition (no more than 3:1 for a family).

Small group market reforms will include groups of one to 50 employees. The bill would add larger employers to the new market over time, starting with groups up to 100 in 2015.

In general, it is expected that limited tax deductions for insurance companies that give their executives excessive salaries and the creation of healthcare affordability tax credits to help low and middle-income families purchase insurance in the private market will help drive costs down.