WASHINGTON Employers would be required to offer health care to employees or pay a penalty and all Americans would be guaranteed health insurance under a draft bill circulated Friday by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's health committee.Insurers would be supposed to offer a basic level of care and would be required to cover all comers, without turning people away because of pre-existing conditions or other reasons. Insurance companies' profits would be limited, and private companies would have to compete with a new public "affordable access" plan that would for the first time offer government-sponsored health care to Americans not eligible for Medicare, Medicaid or other programs.The draft bill sets up a system of state-level "exchanges," where people would go to shop for insurance plans and which would also oversee the marketplace. The federal-state Medicaid program for the poor would be greatly expanded.
Insurers would be required to pay for preventive care, and a new Medical Advisory Council would make recommendations on required health care benefits that would take effect unless Congress rejected them all at once similar to how military base closures are handled.
The draft doesn't address how this would all be paid for. That remains a major sticking point.This is just a draft I understand but I can't begin to list how horribly designed it is.Yet many hurdles remain. Republicans are strongly opposed to a new public plan, especially the way Kennedy's bill designs it. Under Kennedy's bill the "affordable access plan" would pay providers 10 percent over Medicare rates, which would make it cheaper for patients, but harder for private insurers to compete with. Private insurers fear such a construct would drive them out of business, and there's even division within Democratic ranks.
That was underscored Friday in the House, as the liberal Congressional Progressive Caucus released a set of principles for how the public plan should operate that directly contradicted principles released Thursday by the Blue Dog Coalition of conservative Democrats.
I wish Kennedy would retire already.