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AUSTIN, Oct. 14 - Consumer group Texas Public Interest Research Group commended the Senate Finance Committee for passing its health reform bill on Tuesday, despite what Health Care Advocate Melissa Cubria called “a barrage of last-minute insurance propaganda.”
Cubria was referring to a widely panned report issued yesterday by America’s Health Insurance Plans that claimed that it was health reform, not insurance industry practices, that would drive up health care premiums in coming years.
“Despite AHIP’s ridiculous claims, progressives and moderates from both parties joined forces to move the health reform toward the Senate floor. Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) deserves credit for bucking the insurance lobby and standing up for what’s right,” Cubria noted.
But she added that while the bill “takes great steps forward in delivery reform, it still falls short on the issue of choice and competition.”
The bill – called the American Healthy Futures Act – would:
- End insurance abuses in the individual and small business insurance markets, including denials of health coverage for pre-existing conditions for individuals and small businesses, and revocation of coverage once you get sick;
- Begin the process of shifting the federal government’s health care payment systems away from our current expensive fee-for-service and towards new models that reward quality of care, rather than quantity;
- Insure that Americans without decent employer-provided coverage will have access to more affordable coverage options in a new health insurance exchange, and
- Establish an independent commission that would insulate Medicare provider payment policies from special interest politics.
At present, however, the bill lacks some provisions that are included in other Congressional reform proposals:
- An insurer efficiency standard requiring that premium dollars go to care, not profits and bureaucracy, and
- The choice of a public health insurance plan that would compete on a level playing field with private plans.
TexPIRG’s recent Report Card gave a recent version of the bill a B for its cost-containment efforts.
Cubria, however, admits that there’s room for improvement.
“More must be done to increase affordability of coverage and improve choice and competition as the bill moves forward,” she said.
Some of the provisions in the Finance Committee bill are not in the Senate HELP Committee or House bills, including an independent commission to set Medicare payment policy, and provisions that would pay doctors and hospitals based on the value of the care they deliver.
Today’s committee vote follows dozens of Congressional hearings, consideration of hundreds of amendments and painstaking efforts to win bipartisan support by Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT).
“This vote has given health reform new momentum. That momentum means the full Senate will soon consider health reform legislation that will offer security to Americans who enjoy decent insurance today, and affordable coverage choices for those who don’t currently have access to comprehensive, quality, affordable coverage,” Cubria ended.
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