October 8, 2009

Health care reform is financially sound, but is there a ‘stealth plan’?

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rita_hibbardweb4So word is that health care reform looks financially healthy itself, although Republicans are whispering there’s a ‘stealth bill’ out there somewhere with hidden costs.

But the much anticipated cost analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office shows that the plan will insure more people at less cost than the current system, which flushes a lot of money down an inefficient, bureaucratic middle, and not on patients and care providers. The bill, written by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont, would cost $829 billion by 2019.

But because that tab would be offset by spending cuts elsewhere and by new revenue, the bill actually would lower the deficit by $81 billion over the next decade — and potentially even more in later years — the budget office concluded, the Los Angeles Times reports. At the same time, the bill would expand the percentage of Americans with health insurance from 83% to 94%, according to the estimate.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is saying there will be a public option before the thing is done. And Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., is pointing to her own state is an example of how to offer private insurance for low-income patients. Often known as Medicaid-managed care plans, these plans exist in several states and typically offer a choice among several insurance carriers. In Washington state, it’s called the Basic Health Plan, and while it’s run into some tough times lately, moving to push 40,000 people from its rolls due to the state’s budget woes. Still, the plan insures 100,000 low income people who wouldn’t otherwise be insured, and has a waiting list of 30,000 people.

The New York Times reports that Cantwell proposes to ” let states create or expand similar programs to include people earning up to 200 percent of the poverty level, or $44,100 for a family of four.”

The bill proposed by Mr. Baucus would expand Medicaid to all American citizens earning up to 133 percent of poverty. Ms. Cantwell’s plan effectively broadens it further.

 At the same time, an Associated Press poll  released Wednesday, taken well before this Congressional Budget Office cost analysis was out, shows that Americans are shifting toward support of health care reform. This month, we’re split evenly, 40 percent in support of the President’s health care reform efforts, 40 percent in opposition. In September, only 34 percent of Americans supported the plan. Interestingly, seniors also are increasingly supporting health care reform. Thirty-eight percent support it now, compared to 31 percent in September.

— Rita Hibbard

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