What Does Health Care Reform Mean For You?

The debate over health care reform has devolved into scaremongering with death panels and rationed care. What’s really going on, and what does it really mean for you and your family? Inside, the New York Times breaks down the competing bills…

For the moment, here’s where things stand:

Your Doctor: The Senate plan gives you the “option to retain current insurance coverage.” That includes your doctor. Everything stays the same for you so long as your insurer doesn’t much around with their current offerings. The House bill would set standards for “acceptable health care coverage” and “essential benefits.”

Socialized Medicine? Nope! All the current reform bills preserve the private sector’s role in health care. A so-called “public option” would only crowd out private insurers if it offered superior benefits at a cheaper cost than the competition. Clearly that won’t happen since all Americans love their private health insurer. The details wouldn’t be known for some time, and the Congressional Budget Office predicts that only 11 million people would sign up for a public plan. Besides, the government already accounts for more than a third of total healthcare spending thanks to a little program called Medicare.

Your Insurer: Any reform bill would ban insurers from denying coverage or charging more for pre-existing conditions. The insurers realize this, and are pouring all their political capital into defeating a public option.

Cost: Yeeaaahhh… this one’s a toughie. Health care reform is needed because without it, health care spending will bankrupt the nation. And you thought wars were expensive! The Congressional Budget Office worries that the bills under consideration could cost up to $1 trillion. For the moment, the House bill clocks in costing $239 billion over 10 years, and that’s mostly to avoid scheduled Medicare pay cuts for doctors. Why so expensive? “Health costs are rising faster than the rate of inflation and proposed new taxes would not keep up.” Any bill will be expensive, not because we’re throwing money at the problem, but because health care doesn’t get cheaper. The goal is to level off the costs before they skyrocket the nation into bankruptcy.

DEATH PANELS! They’re as real as unicorns and dragons, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. The kerfuffle stems from a provision in the House bill that lets Medicare pay for optional consultations with doctors who provide “end-of-life services” like euthanasia hospice care. See, not so scary.

The Future Of Medicare: The competing reform bills are expensive and Congress wants to save money by reducing Medicare spending. The President insists that this means eliminating wasteful spending like “duplicative tests ordered by different doctors for the same patient.”

There are several draft reform bills flying around, and none of them are anywhere near final. The Senate Finance Committee still needs to weigh in, and the real fun won’t happen until the competing bills turn down the lights and do the reconciliation dance in a conference committee.

A Primer on the Details of Health Care Reform [The New York Times]
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