Senate Finance Committee
Senate Finance Committee Chair Baucus and ranking member Grassley released a 41-page document that outlines policy options for financing health care reform, as reported by The Hill. Identified options include:
- Re-evaluating the tax exemption for employer-sponsored health care benefits, which cost the government $194.2 billion in revenue in 2008;
- Modifying or eliminating tax exemptions for itemized deductions for medical expenses, health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts;
- Levying new taxes on not-for-profit hospitals that do not provide enough charity care or meet other requirements;
- Cut or reduce a special deduction for BlueCross and BlueShield companies amounting to 25% of claims and expenses incurred during the year;
- Reducing, eliminating or creating standards for annual Medicare increases for certain treatments and fee-for-service providers;
- Extend the Medicare payroll tax to all State and local government employees;
- Adjusting the payment formula for home health care, medical imaging and durable medical equipment;
- Reduce Medicare payment rate updates to account for gains achieved through new technologies and other productivity increases that reduce costs;
- Adjust Medicare payments to reduce geographic variations; and
- New taxes on alcohol and sugary drinks
House Republicans are releasing health care reform proposals from conservatives and one from moderates. One proposal, the Patient’s Choice Act (S 1099, HR 2520), would establish State Health Insurance Exchanges, where U.S. residents could shop for private insurance. The legislation calls for tax credits of $5,710 to families and $2,290 to individuals to help pay for health insurance, as reported by the Washington Times. The credits would be funded by taxing employer-provided health benefits. Under the plan, coverage would be portable, and states would provide direct oversight of health insurers and providers to ensure equal benefits. The measure also would establish a system of automatic enrollment for coverage. The so-called moderate proposal, Medical Rights Act (HR 2516), would guarantee that the government would not be able to interfere with medical decisions made by physicians and patients. The measure would make changes to the private insurance market and medical lawsuits to help reduce the cost of health coverage. The bill also would expand the number of public health clinics, increase the use of electronic health records and strengthen state-run high-risk insurance pools.
The AP/San Jose Mercury News reports President Obama saying that a single-payer system will not be a consideration in efforts for health reform. The paper quotes him as saying that the reformed system "may not have everything I want in there or everything you want in there, but it will be a vast improvement over what we currently have."