October 13,2009

Finance Committee Approves Baucus’ America’s Healthy Future Act

Landmark Health Care Reform Legislation to Reduce Costs, Provide Quality, Affordable Coverage Approved by Vote of 14 to 9, Now Heads to Senate Floor

Washington, DC – The Senate Finance Committee today approved Chairman MaxBaucus’ (D?Mont.) landmark health reform bill, the America’s Healthy Future Act. Thelegislation would lower costs and provide quality, affordable health care coverage. Itwould make it easier for families and small businesses to buy health insurance, ensureAmericans can choose to keep the health care coverage they have if they like it and slowthe growth of health care costs over time. The America’s Healthy Future Act would barinsurance companies from discriminating against people based on health status,denying coverage because of pre?existing conditions or imposing annual caps or lifetimelimits on coverage. And it would improve the way the health care system delivers careby improving efficiency, quality, and coordination. The Congressional Budget Office hassaid the bill is fully paid for, estimated to cost $829 billion dollars and will reduce thefederal deficit by $81 billion within first ten years.

“The bill we passed today puts patients and doctors – not insurance companies – inthe driver’s seat,” Baucus said. “It includes strong provisions to end insurancecompany practices that discriminate against those who are sick or have pre?existingconditions. It modernizes our health care system to reduce waste and inefficiency andslows health care costs that stretch families, businesses and our economy to a breaking point. This balanced, common?sense bill begins to shave the federal deficits.The American people deserve a health care system that works for them and this voteis a critical step toward that goal.”

Provisions included in the legislation to ensure Americans have quality, affordable,health care coverage would:

  • Allow people who like the coverage they have today the choice to keep it;
  • Reform the insurance market so no one can be denied coverage or charged more because of a pre existing health condition;
  • Prohibit insurance companies from charging women or people who have been sick more for their coverage;
  • Eliminate yearly and lifetime limits on the amount of coverage plans provide and make it illegal for insurance companies to drop coverage;
  • Protect seniors by ensuring absolutely none of their Medicare benefits are cut;
  • Give consumers the choice of not for profit health care co-ops;
  • Limit tax deductions for insurance companies that give their executives excessive salaries;
  • Create web-based insurance exchanges that would standardize health plan premiums and coverage information to make purchasing insurance easier; and
  • Require Members of Congress to buy their health insurance through those same exchanges that people in their states use, rather than a separate Congressional plan.

Provisions included in the legislation to lower health care costs, improve the quality of care, and increase efficiency within the health care system would:

  • Create Health Care Affordability Tax Credits to help low and middle income families purchase insurance in the private market;
  • Provide tax credits for small businesses to help them offer insurance to their employees;
  • Provide a 50 percent discount on prescription drugs to seniors with gaps in their Medicare prescription drug benefit coverage;
  • Aggressively fight fraud, waste, and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid;
  • Save money by shifting incentives in Medicare toward care that results in better patient outcomes and away from care that doesn’t;
  • Encourage all of a patient’s doctors to coordinate care and reduce duplication and waste;
  • Increase the number of primary care doctors in the system;
  • Create incentives for health care providers to use safer, more cost effective health technology like electronic medical records;
  • Increase health care research so doctors know what care works best for which patients; and
  • Prohibit illegal immigrants from receiving any benefits under reform.

Provisions included in the legislation to promote preventive health care and wellness would:

  • Provide annual “wellness visits” for Medicare participants and their doctors to focus on prevention;
  • Eliminate out of pocket costs for screening and prevention services in Medicare;
  • Create incentives in Medicare and Medicaid for participating in and completing healthy lifestyle programs;
  • Increase federal Medicaid funding for states that cover recommended preventive services and immunizations for enrollees at no extra cost; and
  • Provide free tobacco cessation services for pregnant women in Medicaid.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates the Chairman’s Mark would make an $829 billion investment in the health care system over ten years and during that time would reduce the deficit by $81 billion. In the second ten years, the Congressional BudgetOffice estimates the Mark would continue to reduce the deficit by a quarter to a half a percent of GDP, which equates to from $450 to nearly $900 billion in deficit reduction.That investment would be fully paid for mostly through increased focus on quality,efficiency, prevention and adjustments in federal health program payments, withoutadding to the federal deficit. 

A summary of the America’s Healthy Future Act can be found in the printer-friendly version of this release. The full text of the bill as amended by the Committee is available on the Finance Committee website at www.finance.senate.gov.