Washington, DC — Today, the Education and Labor Committee passed HR 3200, America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009. It now moves for consideration by the full House of Representatives in the coming weeks.
Representative Raúl M. Grijalva, a member of the Education and Labor Committee, released the following statement after its passage:
“Today is historic because we have taken a strong step toward providing health and peace of mind to Americans and their families. For decades, we have all experienced a failing health system that does not ensure quality healthcare or access for all. The current system is ruled by the insurance companies and creates distance between the doctor and patient.
“This legislation makes a clear statement: the status quo of healthcare cannot continue. Congress has a responsibility to address the healthcare crisis and make changes that prioritize individuals, provide security for families and guarantee that we all have access to quality healthcare.
“I am proud to have voted in support of this legislation, which addresses the rising cost of healthcare, works to ensure the uninsured now have a plan and an ability to access health services and no longer allows those seeking health services to be denied.
“As this bill moves forward I will continue to advocate that a strong public option remain in the legislation and that there be no efforts to weaken the public option.
“If we are going to do health reform right, we must provide competition for the private insurance companies. This will be done through a public option that provides quality and guarantees choice for the American people.”
Key principles of the legislation include:
Increasing choice and competition. First, the bill will protect and improve consumers’ choices.
- Individuals who like their current plans will be able to keep those plans.
- For individuals who either are not currently covered, or who want to enroll in a new health care plan, the proposal will establish a health care exchange where consumers can select from a menu of affordable, quality health care options: either a new public health insurance plan or a plan offered by private insurers. People will have choices similar to plans that members of Congress have.
- This new marketplace will reduce costs, create competition that leads to better care for every American and keep private insurers honest. Patients and doctors will have control over decisions about their health care, instead of insurance companies.
Giving Americans peace of mind. Second, the legislation will ensure that Americans have portable, secure health care plans. This means that individuals will not lose their healthcare if their employer drops their plan, or if they lose their job.
- Every American who receives coverage through the exchange will have a choice of plans that includes quality health care benefits.
- It will end increases in premiums or denials of care based on pre-existing conditions, race or gender.
- The proposal will also eliminate co-pays for preventative care, cap out-of-pocket expenses and end lifetime caps on benefits to protect every American from bankruptcy.
- The proposal offers a robust public option that provides consumer choice and reduced costs.
Improving quality of care for every American. Third, the legislation will ensure that Americans of all ages, from young children to retirees, have access to greater quality of care by focusing on prevention, wellness and strengthening programs that work.
- Guarantees that every child in America will have healthcare coverage that includes dental and vision benefits.
- Provides better preventive and wellness care. Every health care plan offered through the exchange will cover preventive care.
- Grows the health care workforce to ensure that more doctors and nurses are available to provide quality care as more Americans are eligible for coverage.
- Strengthens Medicare and Medicaid so that seniors, people with disabilities and low-income Americans receive better quality of care and see lower prescription drug costs and out-of-pocket expenses.
Ensuring shared responsibility. Fourth, the bill will ensure that individuals, employers and the federal government all share responsibility for a quality and affordable health care system.
- Employers who currently offer coverage will be able to continue offering coverage to workers. Employers who do not currently offer coverage could choose to cover their workers, or pay a penalty.
- All individuals would be required to get coverage, either through their employer or the exchange, or pay a penalty.
- The federal government will provide affordability credits, available on a sliding scale for low- and middle-income individuals and families, in order to make premiums affordable and reduce cost-sharing.
Protecting consumers and reducing waste, fraud, and abuse. Fifth, the legislation will put the interests of consumers first, protect them from any problems in getting and keeping health care coverage and reduce waste, fraud, and abuse.
- Provides complete transparency in plans in the health exchange so that consumers have the information they need to select the plan that best meets their needs.
- Establishes a Consumer Advocacy Offices as part of the exchange in order to protect consumers, answer questions and assist with any problems related to their plans.
- Identifies and eliminates waste, fraud and abuse by simplifying paperwork and other administrative burdens. Patients, doctors, nurses, insurance companies, providers and employers will all encounter a streamlined, less confusing, more consumer friendly system.