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Looking beyond the political soap opera.


While most new items today are focused on the health reform "sausage making" process that is pre-occupying folks within the beltway, the Washington Post did a great piece answering the top 8 questions in the health reform debate.  It is a MUST READ for those out there trying to make heads of tails of things in this debate. It outlines how health reform will affect YOU  -- if you have health insurance, if you don't have insurance, if you receive Medicare benefits, and if you run a small business or work for one.

I wanted to highlight a few of the points made in the article:

1. What does reform mean for those WITH health insurance (which represents 80% of Americans)

"The legislation is intended to preserve the existing employer-based insurance system -- at first, only small businesses and people who aren't covered through their jobs will be allowed to buy plans in the new health insurance exchange. People now covered by individual plans will be able to get better-regulated plans on the new exchange, possibly with government subsidies. People now covered in the workplace won't have to worry as much about losing coverage if they lose their job or want to start their own business -- they would turn to the exchange for new coverage."

2. How does reform affect small businesses?

"Small businesses now have a difficult time buying coverage for employees. They have a smaller pool of people to cover than large companies do, so coverage costs can soar if the workers tend to be older or if even one person happens to get very sick. The proposals seek to solve this problem by letting small businesses buy coverage on the new exchange, where their workers would be pooled together with all the other people on the exchange, spreading the risks more broadly. The proposals also include various tax credits to help small businesses obtain coverage. At the same time, the proposals require businesses of a certain size to provide coverage or pay a penalty. The House bill mandates that companies with a payroll of at least $500,000 offer insurance or pay a fine ranging from 2 to 8 percent of payroll depending on the company's size. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee bill has a penalty of $750 per full-time worker and exempts firms with fewer than 25 employees."

3. How does reform affect seniors on Medicare?

"The vast majority of benefits provided by Medicare to 45 million senior citizens and people with disabilities would NOT be changed. Under the House bills,  prescription drug coverage would be increased to close the gap known as the "doughnut hole.  Overall, the result would be lower out-of-pocket costs on prescription drugs for most seniors, according to the Congressional Budget Office.  Most of the bills Congress is considering would provide higher reimbursement to doctors, especially primary-care physicians."

Speculation over the President's speech tomorrow and Senator Baucus' circulation of his own plan is certainly an entertaining political soap opera -- however, we need to stay focused.  This reform will affect the lives of millions of Americans and it is important to make sure the benefits of reform are front and center....not the drama.

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