Healthcare Reform - A Complete Guide - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

Healthcare Reform - A Complete Guide

The federal government of the United States is considering major reforms to the healthcare system of the nation, possibly before the end of 2009.

The issue is complex and confusing. As a result, there are many rumors and items of misinformation circulating.

This guide is an attempt to help our viewers better understand the issue.

Will The Government Be Running Healthcare?

The option of doing away with insurance companies and offering free healthcare for all citizens is no longer being considered.

Healthcare reform could now more accurately be labeled as health insurance reform, as most of the options on the table are concerned with overhauling the current system instead of replacing it.


How Does Healthcare Work Right Now?

America currently has a business-driven insurance model.

Private insurance companies collect payments from citizens, often directly through their employer. They invest the money to make a profit.

When a customer needs healthcare, the insurer pays the healthcare provider. Each insurance company can dictate how much, and under what conditions, they will pay for healthcare.

Most Americans receive insurance through an employer who plays a part in paying for the benefits.


Why Do We Need Reform?

Not everyone believes the country needs reform, but among those who do the following points are usually emphasized:

  • Insurance companies often come between the patient and the doctor by telling both parties what treatments may be used.
  • The cost of healthcare and medication is rising at an alarming rate. If left unchecked, it could potentially bankrupt the country. (Source)
  • There are approximately 50 million people in America who are uninsured. These people often cannot afford to seek medical attention for themselves or their children. (Source)
  • The United States is listed as number 37 in overall quality of healthcare according to the World Health Organization despite spending more on healthcare than any other nation on the list. (SourceSource)
  • Uninsured Americans received $116 billion in healthcare in 2008, 37 percent of which was never paid to the provider. This raises the cost of insurance and healthcare. (Source)
  • The cost of healthcare is increasing faster than increases in wages. (Source)
  • The obesity rate in America is the highest in the world, which will continue to drive up costs. (Source)


How Many Plans Are There?

There are several plans out there; none of which have been selected as the single plan the government will go with.

President Barack Obama has provided general guidelines for reform, and both the House and Senate have been working on bills which attempt to meet those guidelines in different ways.


What are the Plans for Reform?

Although there are many plans, they all break down into essentially three categories.

  • A More Regulated Private Industry: Everyone will be required to be covered by a private plan, and no one can be excluded for any reason. Private insurers will fall under new regulations.
  • Co-Ops: Everyone will be required to either have a private plan or become part of a non-profit cooperative. Co-ops are run by the members who pay into them, and some hire their own physicians. No one can be excluded. Both will fall under new regulations.
  • Government Option as Competition: Everyone will be required to be covered by either a private plan or by a non-profit government-run plan. New regulations will require all plans to provide minimums of coverage, no one would be allowed to exclude people from their plan.


Read The House Bill Yourself

If you want to read the actual House Democrat's bill working its way through Washington, here is the link to the full text.

A much shorter summary is available here.


Read the Senate Bill Yourself

If you want to read the actual Senate Health Committee bill, here is a link to the full text.

You can read a much shorter summary by clicking here.


Does The Proposed Legislation Encourage Seniors To Commit Suicide?

There is no provision in either bill which would encourage suicide.

There is an option for seniors to sit down with a doctor for consultation about their future wishes should they become terminally ill or incapable of communication. This, however, is not required.

This provision has been endorsed by the AARP.


Will the Government Start Paying for Abortions?

Neither bill contains legislation requiring federal funding for abortions, but it may be possible for a woman who has a plan which covers abortions to receive public subsidies. 


Will Illegal Immigrants Receive Healthcare?

Both bills prohibit illegal immigrants from receiving federal aid.

Neither plan, however, has legislation preventing illegal immigrants from using emergency rooms.


Will The Government Get Between Me and My Doctor?

If people choose to stay with their insurance provider, they will be subject to the restrictions of that insurer. The government may place new rules in place which regulate what those insurance companies can and cannot deny their customers.

If a federal option is created, those who choose to be covered under such a plan will be subject to the provisions of the plan.

Like any other insurance company, it is possible the federal option will place limits on certain procedures and drugs.


How Will We Pay for Reform?

The current plan to pay for reform is to increase taxes on the wealthy and use funds from cap and trade permits.

Households with incomes exceeding $250,000 a year would receive less money through itemized deductions.


What Are The Criticisms?

The most common criticisms of the current proposed plans are:

  • The government may impose a minimum list of benefits each plan is required to offer which could hinder competition.
  • Many fear the government will find it difficult to fund healthcare reform despite promises to the contrary.
  • State governments are fearful healthcare reform will result in states being forced to contribute additional funding.
  • The Senate bill requires policies to insure children until the age of 26.
  • The government would ban insurers from charging different premiums based on the health of customers, which would prevent rewarding people for leading a healthy lifestyle.
  • The new plan will likely include community ratings, which means all patients would pay the same rate for their coverage regardless of age or condition.
  • The government option may be so cheap as to eliminate Health Savings Accounts which allow employees to deposit tax-free money into accounts matched by their employers from which they can purchase high-deductible plans. Approximately 5 million Americans use such a plan.
  • The government option and new regulations may force employers to drop existing plans and choose either a more qualified private company or the government option.
  • Those who make between $250,000 will pay more money in taxes, and this could lead to those who own businesses to pass the cost on to consumers.


How Can I Learn More?


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