May 11,2009

Baucus, Grassley Release Policy Options for Expanding Health Care Coverage

Washington, DC – Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) today released policy options for expanding health care coverage to the 46 million Americans who are currently uninsured. The Finance leaders will “walk through” the options at a Committee meeting on Thursday and solicit thoughts and ideas from Members on the options for expanding coverage. The options being released today are the second of three papers that Members will discuss before a Finance Committee mark-up of comprehensive health reform legislation in June.

“Expanding health care coverage is not just a moral imperative – it’s an economic necessity,” Baucus said. “Today 46 million uninsured Americans have few places to turn for health care besides a hospital emergency room. And the cost of that care is paid by every American with insurance in the form of a hidden tax of more than $1,000 a year in increased premiums. These policy options propose a uniquely American approach to provide affordable, quality coverage to all Americans through a mix of public and private solutions, and drive down health care costs for every American."

“Millions of Americans have no health insurance and millions more fear losing what they have,” Grassley said. “Even people with insurance might be under-insured. Congress has an obligation to make insurance more available and more affordable and still give people the option to keep what they have if they like it.”

The policy options released today aim to reform the individual and small group health insurance markets to end discrimination against sicker individuals. They would instead create a competitive insurance market where health plans compete on price and quality rather than the ability to segment risk and discriminate against individuals with pre-existing health conditions. The options also include an expansion of public health insurance programs to cover the poorest Americans and make coverage more affordable by providing tax credits to low income individuals and small businesses. The policy options make purchasing coverage easier and more understandable for all consumers.

The policy options for expanding health coverage follow the release of policy options to reduce costs and improve patient care in the health care delivery system. The final policy options paper on financing health care reform will be released before the Members meeting on that topic scheduled for May 20. A summary of the policy options for expanding health care coverage released today follows. The complete text of the policy options on expanding health care coverage can be found on the Finance Committee website. The deadline for public comments on the coverage policy options is May 22, 2009.

Refer to the printer-friendly version of this release for a full summary of policy options for expanding health care coverage.