It goes without saying that meaningful health care reform is essential to provide coverage for the tens of millions currently uninsured. But what do the reform bills currently moving through Congress do for the far greater number of people who already have insurance? Insured Americans are already bearing a huge burden of out-of-pocket costs that are growing much faster than their incomes. Millions of people are “underinsured” – their policies don’t come close to covering their medical bills. Many postpone medical care or don’t fill prescriptions because they can’t afford to pay their share of the costs. And many declare personal bankruptcy because they are unable to pay big medical debts. Health care reform should provide everyone with coverage they can count on.
The bills being considered will reform the insurance industry and improve the health care coverage of those with insurance. The legislation will almost certainly include an organized marketplace for the purchase of insurance – the so-called health insurance exchange. The exchange will ensure that working families will get stable, affordable coverage that can be counted on to be there in case they’re laid off or choose to leave their jobs. Many middle class families – earning up to $66,000 to $88,000 for a family of four – would get subsidies to help them buy coverage through the exchange.
Furthermore, all policies sold through the exchange must offer “essential benefits.” Reform would prohibit those policies from excluding or charging higher rates to people with pre-existing conditions and would bar the companies from rescinding policies after people come down with a serious illness. It would also prohibit insurers from setting annual or lifetime limits on what a policy would pay. Moreover, all this would kick in immediately for all new policies.
For working families living paycheck-to-paycheck, this kind of stability ensures more than protecting their pocket books; it ensures peace of mind. Families will have peace of mind that they’ll never be denied coverage because they fall sick; peace of mind that they’ll never leave the hospital with a bill too big to pay; and peace of mind that they’ll always have a choice of their doctor and health plan, even if they’re laid off.