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Kennedy Health Plan Would Include Public Insurance

Discussion in 'Political Zone' started by WoodysGirl, May 30, 2009.

  1. WoodysGirl

    WoodysGirl Shut up and play! Staff Member

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    Laura Litvan And Nicole Gaouette – Fri May 29, 2:45 pm ET

    May 29 (Bloomberg) -- Senator Edward Kennedy, chairman of a Senate panel drafting a health-care overhaul, is circulating a plan that would require everyone to have insurance and would create a government program to compete with private insurers, said people familiar with the plan.

    The proposal would pay health-care providers participating in a public plan 10 percent more than they would get under Medicare, according a summary provided by the people.

    Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat and chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said in an op- ed piece yesterday in the Boston Globe that a key way to expand health-care coverage to the 46 million uninsured Americans is through a new program run by the U.S. government.

    “An important foundation of our legislation is the following principle: If you like the coverage you have now, you keep it,” Kennedy wrote. “But if you don’t have health insurance or don’t like the insurance you have, our bill will give you new, more affordable options.”

    Kennedy’s plan would require employers to provide health insurance or pay a subsidy to help support the public plan, according to the summary. It would set a federal standard for Medicaid, the federal program for the poor, to cover people who earn up to 150 percent of the poverty level. States currently set their own standards for coverage.

    CHIP Program

    The Kennedy proposal expands the Children’s Health Insurance program to cover people up to age 26, from age 18 under the current plan, according to the summary. It also outlined the creation of a “Medical Advisory Council,” a body like the Federal Reserve that would help set minimum benefits for a public plan.

    Kennedy’s proposals might go further than another plan being drafted by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus. Baucus, a Montana Democrat, has said he is weighing whether to include a government-run program in a measure and, if so, how it might be structured to attract Republican votes and industry support.

    Baucus spokeswoman Erin Shields said in an e-mail yesterday that he is “working very closely” with Kennedy’s panel and that Baucus is “confident they will be able to reach agreement on one package before it is considered by the full Senate this summer.”

    Kennedy’s panel yesterday released a preliminary schedule for considering his legislation, with work to begin June 16.

    ‘Moving Target’

    “These dates are a moving target,” Anthony Coley, a Kennedy spokesman, said yesterday. Coley declined to comment on Kennedy’s proposals, saying the senator’s words in the Boston Globe article “speak for themselves.”

    Kennedy last week joined 27 other Senate Democrats in co- authoring a resolution calling for creation of a “public option” of government-run health insurance. Others included Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democratic leader in the chamber, and Senator Charles Schumer of New York, the third-ranking Democratic leader.

    Some insurance companies, including Hartford, Connecticut- based Aetna Inc., argue that private corporations would be at a disadvantage under a plan that would, in effect, extend Medicare, the U.S. government health plan for the elderly and disabled, to more people. Aetna says it pays an extra $89 billion a year to providers to make up for “underpayments” from patients covered by existing government programs.

    Split the Parties

    The issue has the potential to split the political parties in this year’s debate over one of President Barack Obama’s top domestic priorities. His budget request for 2010 sets aside $634 billion over 10 years to pay for a health-care overhaul.

    In a telephone conference call yesterday with volunteer supporters, Obama said it is vital that Congress act this year or the opportunity for broad-based changes will slip away.

    “I think the status quo is unacceptable and that we’ve got to get it done this year,” Obama said during the call arranged by the Democratic National Committee. “If we don’t get it done this year we’re not going to get it done.”

    Nancy LeaMond, executive vice president of the AARP retirees’ lobby, said her group’s efforts to build “political will and trust across ideological lines” to pass a health-care overhaul “have led up to this moment -- it’s time to get it done.”

    Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, the finance panel’s top Republican, opposes including a government-run program.

    Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, the No. 2 Senate Republican leader and a member of the finance committee, this week said inclusion of any public program also would lose his support.

    Computer ‘Gateways’

    In his Boston Globe article, Kennedy said he wanted to let the uninsured and others purchase affordable coverage at group rates through computer “gateways” that would allow comparison shopping.

    He said he favored barring insurers from excluding coverage for pre-existing conditions and from placing “other restrictions” on consumers. Kennedy said he would back some measures of effectiveness for medical procedures and products to boost efficiency in health care.

    To contact the reporters on this story: Laura Litvan in Washington at llitvan@bloomberg.net ; Nicole Gaouette in Washington at ngaouette@bloomberg.net .


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