Finishing Reform Right

This week, Congress is negotiating the final health care reform bill that will make critical improvements to our broken health care system.  This is great news for the 224,000 Nebraskans – 45,000 of them children – who lack coverage today, and the thousands who struggle to afford their current coverage.  But for health care reform to be most successful, it must ensure that coverage is truly affordable.  We have to ensure that Nebraskans are not required to purchase coverage that costs too much and covers too little.

To that end, Nebraska Appleseed joined 20 other Nebraska organizations and faith leaders in a letter to Senators Nelson and Johanns.  See coverage of the letter’s release here. The Nebraska letter urges Senators Nelson and Johanns to make affordability for low- and moderate-income Nebraskans a priority in the final health care bill.  The letter’s release coincided with a National Health Care Affordability Summit in Washington, D.C.  Many Nebraska organizations and faith leaders joined a similar national letter circulated by PICO National Network that included more than 750 signatories urging the adoption of strong affordability provisions.

When we talk about affordability, we mean: how many people are covered under the bill through Medicaid; how much a family has to pay in premiums; and, after they pay their premiums, how much do they have to pay out-of-pocket – in deductibles, co-pays, etc. – when they have to go to the doctor.

In the letter the groups encouraged Congress to take the best affordability provisions from the House and the Senate.  The House bill covers more people – 36 million Americans compared to 31 million under the Senate’s language.  The House is also stronger at capping low- and moderate-income families’ share of premium and out-of-pocket expenses and providing subsidies for those earning up to 250% of the Federal Poverty Level – $45,775 for a family of three.  The Senate bill, however, is stronger than the House for moderate-income families who earn above 250% to 400% FPL – $73,240 for that family of three.

Congress must adopt the strongest affordability provisions from the House and Senate bills.  Health care reform will be most successful and its overarching goal met, if health care is both affordable and accessible.

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