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Health Care Financing Reform: (29) Coverage Requirements and Actuarial Value of Policies under the Baucus Bill

By Wilson Huhn Published: September 30, 2009

     Under the Baucus bill, how much coverage would health insurance policies have to provide?

     Under the Baucus bill health insurers could sell policies on the Exchange to individuals and small groups (employers with under 50 participating employees) with five different levels of coverage: Platinum, Gold, Silver, Bronze, and a Catastrophic Care policy available only to persons under the age of 25, the so-called "Young Invincibles."  These five benefit categories are defined on pages 17-18 of the Chairman's Mark of the America's Healthy Future Act of 2009.  For example, the Bronze Benefit Package would have to provide coverage equal to an actuarial value of 65%.  Silver would have an actuarial value of 70%, Gold 80%, and Platinum 90%.  In each case there could be no lifetime limits, no cost-sharing (deductibles, co-pays) for preventive care, and out-of-pocket expenses could not exceed $5,950 for an individual or $11,900 for a family - those are the maximum amounts allowed for Health Savings Accounts.  According to the Chairman's Mark the following services would have to be offered under any of the plans:

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Health Care Financing Reform: (28) Public Option and Other Amendments Before the Senate Finance Committee

By Wilson Huhn Published: September 29, 2009

     The Senate Finance Committee voted down both "public option" amendments to the Baucus bill today, and considered a handful of other amendments.  The Committee is now in recess until 7:15 p.m.  More below the fold.

     Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) both proposed amendments today which would have added a "public option" to the Baucus bill.  Under both bills the federal government would provide "start-up" funds for a publicly-owned insurance company, but no continuing government funding.  Instead, both bills would have required that customers could purchase health insurance policies at cost and that the public company would be subject to all of the same regulations as private insurers including requirements as to coverage.

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Health Care Financing Reform: (27) Infant and Child Mortality

By Wilson Huhn Published: September 28, 2009

     Infant mortality - the death of children born alive within the first year of life - is one of the most common methods of measuring the effectiveness of a country's health care delivery system, and the United States lags behind virtually every other developed country in this basic measure of health.  But when you look closely at the causes of infant mortality in this country it becomes clear that we cannot solve it simply by reforming our system of paying for health care.

     According to the WHO World Health Statistics the rate of infant mortality in the United States is approximately .6% - six out of every 1000 children born alive do not reach the age of one year.  The mortality rate for U.S. children aged 5 and below is .8% - eight out of every 1000 children in our country dies by the age of five.  The mortality rate for infants and children is lower in every other developed country.  The following countries have mortality rates of .4% or below for children below the age of five: San Marino, Iceland, Sweden, Finland, Luxemburg, Norway, Andorra, Portugal, Italy, Slovenia, Czech Republic, France, Greece, Spain, Austria, Germany, Ireland, Cyprus, Belgium, Singapore, and Japan.  In other words, the foregoing countries have child mortality rates less than half that of the United States.

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Health Care Financing Reform: (26) Insurance Ratings

By Wilson Huhn Published: September 25, 2009

     The discussion of Senator Rockefeller's and Senator Schumer's public option amendments to the Baucus bill has been postponed until next Tuesday, but the Senate Finance Committee discussed a number of other important considerations today, including the bans on insurance ratings.

     Insurance ratings reflect judgments about how likely it is that an insurance company will have to pay benefits on behalf of a policyholder, based upon the characteristics of the policyholder.  For example, when life insurance companies are allowed to issue ratings for gender, men pay higher premiums because, on the average, they die younger, but women pay more for annuities because on average they live longer.  Similarly, when we consider auto insurance, elderly people and young adults are charged higher premiums than middle-aged people are because, on the average, drivers who are very old or very young are more likely to be involved in auto accidents.

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FREE online law magazine

By Lynn Published: September 25, 2009

The Legal Workshop features short, concise articles written by scholars but for a generalist audience.  You can read the 'short and sweet' version on the site, or for some of the articles, you can read the full law review version.  FREE.

'A consortium of America's most influential law reviews launched The Legal Workshop (www.legalworkshop.org ), a free, online magazine featuring articles based on legal scholarship.  The Legal Workshop features short, plain-English articles about legal issues and ideas, written by an author whose related, full-length work of scholarship is forthcoming in one of the participating law reviews.'

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Health Care Financing Reform: (25) The Antitrust Exemption

By Wilson Huhn Published: September 25, 2009

     The McCarran-Ferguson Act of 1945 exempts insurance companies from the Sherman Antitrust Act.  It would seem that a pivotal key for creating competition in the market for health insurance would be to repeal the antitrust exemption for health insurance companies, so that insurance carriers could not enter into agreements to fix prices or divide up the market amongst themselves.  But according to Alexander Bolton of The Hill, the elimination of the antitrust exemption may have to wait.

     In this article published yesterday, Bolton describes one reason for the high cost of health care in the United States - insurance companies are exempt from antitrust laws, thus allowing them to conspire instead of compete on prices and policy terms; the exemption even allows companies to assign geographic markets to specific companies.  This has led to almost unimaginable market concentration.  According to a report by Health Care for America Now (an advocacy group), in thirty states there are metropolitan areas where a single company issues more than 42% of the policies (the level at which the Justice Department would consider the market to be "highly concentrated");  in nine states, over 80% of the health insurance policies are sold by just two companies; in Alabama, 89% of the market belongs to one company.  And the market is becoming more concentrated.  In 2002, about 33% of the policies purchased by small employers were issued by a single company in any particular market.  By 2008 this figure rose to 47%.  A comprehensive report on market concentration of health insurers prepared in 2007 by the AMA may be found here.  The AMA concludes:

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Health Care Financing Reform: (24) Public Option Vote Friday

By Wilson Huhn Published: September 24, 2009

     David Herszenhorn of the New York Times is reporting tonight that Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) plan to ask the Senate Finance Committee to add a "public option" to the Baucus bill tomorrow.

     Four congressional committees - three in the House and the HELP Committee in the Senate - have already approved various types of "public options."  Olympia Snowe (R-ME) has indicated that she would support an "optional" public option - one that would come into play only if the cost of health care does not decline under laws reforming the market for private health insurance.  The Baucus bill presently includes provisions allowing some consumers to form "co-ops" for purchasing insurance.

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Selling out Shareholders and the Truth: The SEC's Settlement 'Facade'

By Stefan Published: September 24, 2009

On January 1, 2009, Bank of America closed its deal to acquire Merrill Lynch in what can fairly be called one of the 'distressed' deals of the financial crisis.  Prior to closing the deal, the bank had gotten required shareholder approval for the transaction but without fully disclosing, as Fortune notes, 'that Bank of America had already agreed in writing to let Merrill Lynch pay its execs up to $5.8 billion in bonus compensation -- a sum amounting to 12% of Merrill's $50 billion price-tag.'  (Fifteen billion dollars in pending Merrill losses were also not disclosed.) 

This past August, the SEC settled its dispute with Bank of America over the propriety of the bank's compensation disclosures for $33 million.  (As Professor Davidoff puts it, the SEC didn't want to touch the failure to disclose the pending losses because that 'would encroach upon the question of whether the government actually ordered Bank of America not to disclose these losses later in December.') 

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Health Care Financing Reform: (23) The Political Calculus

By Wilson Huhn Published: September 24, 2009

     I think that health care reform legislation is likely to pass Congress.  Here are my thoughts.

    Health care financing reform will pass easily in the House of Representatives.  There are more than enough Democratic votes in the House to enact the legislation.  It is in the Senate where the matter hangs in the balance.

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Health Care Financing Reform: (22) Improving Competition in the Market for Health Insurance

By Wilson Huhn Published: September 23, 2009

     The principal mechanism that the proposed health care legislation utilizes to broaden coverage and to bring down the cost of medical care is to increase competition in the market for health insurance.  In this respect the Baucus bill is woefully deficient in three respects.  The most important wrangling over the bill will involve changes to the bill intended to address these concerns.

     The most important feature of health care financing reform is the "Exchange," a market for health insurance that will allow individuals and employers a wide range of choice in the purchase of health insurance.  The most serious reservations against the Baucus bill all concern whether the proposed law will achieve its goal of opening up competition in the health insurance industry, thereby reducing cost and improving coverage.  Senator Baucus has yet to address three aspects of his bill that have been heavily criticized.  They are:

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Health Care Financing Reform: (21) Changes to the Baucus Plan

By Wilson Huhn Published: September 22, 2009

     Senator Max Baucus' bill is the now the focus of the health care debate, principally because it appears that Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) is leaning towards supporting it.  The bill is undergoing substantial revision as it moves towards a vote in the Senate Finance Committee. 

     A few hours ago Martin Vaughn and Patrick Yoest of the Wall Street Journal reported on a number of changes to the Baucus bill, including the following: (1)  At the request of Senator Snowe penalties for failing to purchase health insurance were reduced; (2)  The itemized deduction for health care expenses was reduced; (3) The subsidy for low and moderate income families to purchase health insurance was increased at the request of Senator Snowe and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR); (4) changes were made in the calculation of the excise tax on expensive health plans, and, at the request of Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), persons in certain dangerous occupations such as mining and firefighting were exempted from the tax; (5) at the insistence of Senator Ben Nelson (D-FL), seniors would be allowed to remain in Medicare Advantage plans, but companies would have to competitively bid to participate in that program; (6) at the request of Senator Snowe and Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the limits on health care spending accounts are increased from $2,000 to $2,500 annually; (7) at the request of the AARP, insurance companies may not charge anyone more than four times what it charges any other person on the basis of age (the original bill had allowed a differential of 5:1).

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The ABA Ohio Death Penalty Report: Innocence and E-Discovery

By Diana Published: September 22, 2009

On Thursday, Oct. 1, 2009 The Akron Bar Association and The University of Akron School of Law presents The ABA Ohio Death Penalty Report:  Innocence and E-Discovery.  Seventeen years after Robert McClendon was sentenced to life in prison for alleged rape, a joint investigation by the Ohio Innocence Project and the Columbus Dispatch led to DNA testing that proved his innocence and exonerated him of the crime.  He was released from prison in August 2008.  Topics of discussion will include:

12:30 p.m.      REGISTRATION

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Health Care Financing Reform: (20) Hard Choices

By Wilson Huhn Published: September 21, 2009

     We all agree that we are facing a crisis in health care.  Costs are out of control, people are losing their insurance at a frightening rate, while co-pays, deductibles, and lifetime limits are climbing.  We have to do something - but in crafting reform we have to be ready to take the bitter with the sweet.

     I have mentioned the frightening statistics in earlier posts.  Health care costs have more than doubled over the past decade, and are increasing much faster than growth in individual income or our country's gross domestic product.  We are presently paying 17 cents out of every dollar for health care, and that is slated to increase to 25 cents within just a few years.   This both reduces our purchasing power and, because most of us acquire insurance through our employers, American goods are services are more expensive, making them less competitive in the global marketplace.

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The Constitution of the United States

By Lynn Published: September 18, 2009

This week, the country celebrated the anniversary of the signing of the Constitution in September of 1787.  Let's look at some of the various web sites with United States Constitutional materials.

The Library of Congress has a United States Constitution page.  Resources include scanned images of a very early printing of the U.S. Constitution and links to other materials from the Continental Congress (1774).  More here.

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Is There a Constitutional Right for Corporations to Influence Elections?

By Stefan Published: September 17, 2009

The New York Times described the case of Citizens United v. FEC, which was recently re-argued before the Supreme Court, as "a momentous case that could transform the way political campaigns are conducted."  As the NYT reports:

PPS--I have been listening to William Cohan's "House of Cards: A Tale of Hubris and Wretched Excess on Wall Street", and I can highly recommend it.  It's all about how rational and efficient markets can solve everything ;)

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Health Care Financing Reform: (19) The Baucus Bill

By Wilson Huhn Published: September 17, 2009

     On Wednesday Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) unveiled his long-awaited "compromise bill" on health care financing reform.  Below the fold are links to the bill and people's reaction to it.  I will analyze the bill and compare it to other proposals Monday.

     Here are links to the 223-page bill that Senator Baucus introduced yesterday and which the Senate Finance Committee will consider, and various reactions to the bill. 

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Health Care Financing Reform: (18) More Data Comparing U.S. Health Care to Other Countries From the Commonwealth Fund

By Wilson Huhn Published: September 16, 2009

     In yesterday's post I provided links to reports from the World Health Organization showing that Americans are less healthy than the people of many other countries despite our spending so much money on medical care.  Here is additional information from the Commonwealth Fund regarding the quality of medical care in the United States as compared to other countries.

     Like the W.H.O., the Commonwealth Fund also prepares reports comparing the relative health of the populations of different countries, and it agrees with the W.H.O. that the U.S. is lagging behind all other western democracies in the quality of medical care we are receiving.  In a powerpoint resource from the Fund entitled "Multinational Comparisons of Health Systems Data, 2008" it shows that while Americans spend twice as much both per capita and as a percentage of GDP on health care, we have shorter lifespans and suffer more from chronic conditions like diabetes.  Furthermore, we are receiving less medical care than the people in other countries.  We actually have substantially fewer doctor visits, fewer hospital stays, and shorter stays in the hospital than the people of other industrialized countries.

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Health Care Financing Reform: (17) America Does Not Have the Best Health Care in the World

By Wilson Huhn Published: September 15, 2009

     Far from it.  According to the World Health Organization, the United States ranks 37th in the world in terms of the overall performance of its health care system.  The Commonwealth Fund also rates the U.S. behind Canada and all of western Europe.

     Here is the link to the Statistical Index of the 2000 report of the World Health Organization on the performance of member countries' health systems. Despite paying twice as much per capita and spending double the percentage of our Gross Domestic Product on health care as any other country, the United States has the most ineffective system for delivering health care of any major industrialized nation on virtually every relevant measure.  Japan ranks first, followed by Australia (2), France (3), Sweden (4), Spain (5), Italy (6), and other countries in western Europe.  Canada is ranked twelfth.  At number 37, the United States is comparable to the wealthier countries of South America like Chile (32) and Argentina (39) or the nations of the Caucasus region like Armenia (41) and Georgia (44). 

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Health Care Financing Reform: (16) Census Bureau and Treasury Department Reports on the Number of Uninsured Americans

By Wilson Huhn Published: September 14, 2009

     Earlier this month both the Census Bureau and the Treasury Department issued reports concerning the number of Americans who lack or who have insufficient health insurance.  The good news is that due to the expansion of CHIP more children had health insurance in 2008 than in 2007.  The very bad news is that the number of uninsured adults is climbed even faster and promises to become much worse as people lose their jobs and as employers cut back on their workers' health insurance.

     The Census Bureau report entitled "Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2008" issued earlier this month, may be accessed here.  The Bureau's summary of its findings is here.  The commentary of Karen Davis, President of the Commonwealth Fund, on the report is here.  

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Stevens, Holmes, Cardozo, and ... Posner?

By Wilson Huhn Published: September 13, 2009

     Two weeks ago the AP speculated that Justice Stevens may be planning to retire, and Howard Fineman reportedly repeated those rumors this morning on the Chris Matthews Show.  At 89 Stevens is the second-oldest Supreme Court justice ever to serve, second only to Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., who retired in 1932 at the age of  90 years, ten months, and three days.  The appointment of Holmes and of Holmes' successor, Benjamin Nathan Cardozo, have something to teach us.

     According to the short biography of the justices maintained by The Oyez Project, Holmes was nominated by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1902.  Confirmation was swift, according to Oyez:

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Legislative Tracking and Web 2.0

By Lynn Published: September 11, 2009

Here is a nice review of 3 web sites for researching federal legislative information.  I added the Thomas site because it is such a good site and also has RSS feeds.

My previous post some months back also covered finding federal law on the web.

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Health Care Financing Reform: (15) A Reply to a Reader

By Wilson Huhn Published: September 11, 2009

     In response to a recent essay in this series a reader "jacksmith," posted a comment expressing enthusiastic support for reform.  Below the fold I take issue with the ad hominem attacks contained in his comment. 

     Here is my reply to jacksmith:

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Profiting on Death and Other Random Points

By Stefan Published: September 10, 2009

Here are a few bits of news you might find interesting:

1.  The race is on to write the script, can you guess how this movie ends (hat tip to Kristina Melomed)?

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Health Care Financing Reform: (14) President Obama's Speech and Senator Kennedy's Letter - (updated with link to letter)

By Wilson Huhn Published: September 10, 2009

     Yesterday evening in his address on health care to the joint session of Congress the President revealed that Senator Edward Kennedy had written him a letter on "the great cause" of his life.

     In his address to Congress President Obama embraced many of the ideas contained in the Wyden-Bennett bill, the Dingell bill, and the Kennedy bill, which have been described in the previous postings of this series on health care financing reform.  These proposals include:

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Health Care Reform Programs at Akron Law

By Diana Published: September 9, 2009

Akron Law will host two programs on Health Care Reform. Tomorrow, the Federalist Society and the Black Law Students Association will host a debate on the subject. On Tuesday, Sept. 15, the Constitutional Law Center will host a presentation by Dr. Sharon Hull of NEOUCOM. Both programs are free of charge and open to the public. The programs will be held in Room 151 at Akron Law. Professor Will Huhn, a regular blogger on the Akron Law Café blog, will participate in both programs.

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Health Care Financing Reform: (13) The Baucus Framework and the President's Speech

By Wilson Huhn Published: September 9, 2009

     Max Baucus (D-MT), the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has drafted a compromise measure on health care financing reform, and President Obama will address a joint session of Congress and the Nation this evening at 8:00.

     Carrie Budoff Brown and Chris Frates of The Politico published an article yesterday entitled "Max Baucus to Gang of Six: Time is Running Out."  Baucus and other Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee have been negotiating a compromise with three Republicans (Chuck Grassley, Mike Enzi, and Olympia Snowe), and Baucus has given the Republicans until 10:00 this morning to respond to his proposed bill.  Brown and Frates report:

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Health Care Financing Reform: (12) Kevin O'Brien: "Health Care Is Not a Right"

By Wilson Huhn Published: September 9, 2009

In a recent column Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter and columnist Kevin O'Brien makes a powerful argument for the proposition that health care is not a right.  On constitutional grounds he is absolutely correct.

O'Brien's column from last Thursday was entitled "Health Care Costs Money - Real Rights Don't."  This neatly sums up the distinction between "negative liberties" and "affirmative duties."  The United States Constitution prohibits the government from interfering with our basic liberties - the government may not infringe upon our exercise of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, or the right to privacy.  But in general the government has no obligation to provide us with anything - food, clothing, shelter, education, or medical care.

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Akron Law to Hold Symposium on Professional Responsibility and Ethics

By Diana Published: September 8, 2009

Akron Law's Joseph G. Miller and William C. Becker Institute for Professional Responsibility is holding its inaugural symposium titled 'Lawyers Beyond Borders' and 'Practicing Law in the Electronic Age' on Oct. 8 and 9 at Quaker Square Inn at The University of Akron, 135 South Broadway, Akron, Ohio. The symposium is co-sponsored by the American Bar Association Center for Professional Responsibility.

Renowned authorities in the fields of professional responsibility and ethics will examine multiple current issues. Among the issues raised will be how the technological and the multi-jurisdictional nature of practice raises a variety of challenges for lawyers, judges and teachers in an increasingly more global and high-tech practice of law today.

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Health Care Financing Reform: (11) How the Dingell and Kennedy Bill Differ on Provider Reimbursement

By Wilson Huhn Published: September 8, 2009

     In the previous post I set forth summaries of the "public option" provisions of the Dingell bill and the Kennedy bill, which are working their way through the House and the Senate respectively.  Below I describe one major difference between the two bills - how each bill would set rates for reimbursing doctors and hospitals for taking care of patients.

      The major difference between the House Democratic bill and the Senate Democratic bill is how reimbursement rates for payments to doctors and hospitals would be established.  Under the House bill, payments are tied directly to Medicare - doctors and hospitals would receive the Medicare rate plus 5%.  Under the Senate bill, rates would be set through negotiations between the government agency and doctors and hospitals or their representatives.  This is a major difference - Medicare reimbursement rates are often much lower than the rates paid by private insurance, in many cases as little as one-fourth the rate paid by private insurance companies.  Many doctors refuse to accept Medicare - others are forced to accept Medicare because their hospital affiliations require it.  Both the House and the Senate bill state that health care provider participation in the program will be "voluntary" - but that is only true in the sense that the law does not punish doctors for refusing to participate.  It is one thing for a physician or surgeon to accept Medicare for a few of his or her patients - it would be quite another if the doctor were being paid Medicare rates for services rendered to many or most of the patients.  It is difficult to see how doctors and hospitals could cover even the overhead costs of their businesses (rent, salaries, medical malpractice premiums) at that level of payment, let alone the variable costs (medical supplies).  What would happen to quality of care and medical innovation?  (Full disclosure - my wife is a physician.)

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Health Care Financing Reform: (10) The Public Option in the Kennedy and Dingell Bills

By Wilson Huhn Published: September 7, 2009

     The "public option" that you have heard so much about would essentially create a government insurance program like Medicare and would allow individuals and employers to purchase coverage for themselves and their workers.  The Kennedy bill and the Dingell bill both contain a "public option."  The relevant provisions of each bill are summarized below.

     The bill introduced by John Dingell (D-MI) which has been approved by three committees in the House of Representatives would create a government program called the "Public Health Insurance Option."  Individuals and employers could purchase health insurance under this program through the "Exchange," the marketplace for health insurance that this law would create.  Policies sold under the Public Health Insurance Option would be subject to all of the same requirements as policies sold by private insurance companies on the Exchange - in particular, the policies would have to cover preexisting conditions and preventive care.

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Ohio Attorney General Provides Assistance to Crime Victims

By Lynn Published: September 4, 2009

Sometimes I am amazed at what I find when helping patrons.  Here is one of those 'gems of information.'

Innocent victims of violent crime can apply online on the Attorney General's web site for compensation of up to $50,000 in expenses.  There are strict guidelines of course.

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Health Care Financing Reform: (9) Summaries of Congressman Dingell's and Senator Kennedy's Bills

By Wilson Huhn Published: September 4, 2009

     The late Senator Edward Kennedy was a champion of health care financing reform - he called it "the cause of my life."  He introduced the Affordable Health Choices Act  and sheparded it through his committee, the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP). Below is his summary of his bill.  Representative John Dingell (D-MI) proposed similar legislation in the House - America's Affordable Health Choices Act - where it has cleared several committees.  Both bills are summarized below.

     The full text of Senator Kennedy's proposed Affordable Health Choices Act is available here.  Beware - it is 615 pages long.  Senator Kennedy's website contains the following summary of this bill: 

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I hate to say I told you so, but....

By Stefan Published: September 3, 2009

This is what I wrote a while back in my paper "Finding State Action When Corporations Govern" (last revised April 15, 2009):

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Health Care Financing Reform: (8) A Comparison of the

By Wilson Huhn Published: September 3, 2009

     In this post I will compare the House Republican plan to the Wyden-Bennett bill. 

     In two previous posts (here and here) I described the Wyden-Bennett bill (the "Healthy Americans Act").  In the most recent installment in this series (here) I set forth in whole the House Republican plan proposed by the Health Care Solutions Group chaired by Congressman Roy Blunt of Missouri.  In this posting I will compare the two plans.

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Health Care Financing Reform: (7) The House Republican Plan

By Wilson Huhn Published: September 2, 2009

     Surprise!  I had promised to begin review of Ted Kennedy's reform bill today, but it occurred to me that before doing that it makes more sense to first describe the House Republican plan and compare it to the Wyden-Bennett bill that was described in the two previous posts (here and here).  Like the Wyden-Bennett bill the House Republican plan is focused on making changes to our system of private health insurance and it does not include a "public option" like the Kennedy bill and the House Democratic bills do.

    The House Republicans have not yet submitted legislation offering a solution to the national crisis in the cost and availability of health insurance.  A group of Republicans called the Health Care Solutions Group led by Congressman Roy Blunt (R-MO) has proposed a general plan.  Here is the most detailed description of the Republican plan that I have been able to find - it is what Congressman Blunt says on his website is an outline of the proposal that the Health Care Solutions Group intends to put forward: 

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Health Care Financing Reform: (6) CRS Summary of the Wyden-Bennett Bill

By Wilson Huhn Published: September 1, 2009

     As noted in yesterday's post, the Wyden-Bennett bill, called the Healthy Americans Act (S. 391) and which its supporters claim has the support of a bipartisan group of about 20 Senators, represents an attempt to lower the cost of health insurance by eliminating the favorable tax treatment for employer-based health insurance and instead requiring employers to contribute to a fund which would be used to help their employees purchase their own health insurance.  In addition, the taxes that would be raised by ending the deduction for health insurance would be used to subsidize low-income persons in purchasing private health insurance.  All persons would be required to purchase health insurance, and programs like SCHIP that allow low-income families to be covered under Medicaid would be eliminated.  Below the fold is the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service summary of this proposed legislation as well as Senator Wyden's description of his plan.

     The CRS has issued the following summary of the features of the Wyden-Bennett bill: 

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