October 31, 2009 (Washington D.C.) – Many Americans are not aware that The Affordable Health Care for America Act now before Congress has many provisions to help people afford healthcare costs right away. A public option (or choice between government-run healthcare and private insurance) if passed would take time to set up. This week, Speaker Nancy Pelosi released this list of the top 14 provisions that would kick in immediately:
1. BEGINS TO CLOSE THE MEDICARE PART D DONUT HOLE — Reduces the donut hole by $500 and institutes a 50% discount on brand-name drugs, effective January 1, 2010.
2. IMMEDIATE HELP FOR THE UNINSURED UNTIL EXCHANGE IS AVAILABLE (INTERIM HIGH-RISK POOL) — Creates a temporary insurance program until the Exchange is available for individuals who have been uninsured for several months or have been denied a policy because of pre-existing conditions.
3. BANS LIFETIME LIMITS ON COVERAGE—Prohibits health insurance companies from placing lifetime caps on coverage.
4. ENDS RESCISSIONS—Prohibits insurers from nullifying or rescinding a patient’s policy when they file a claim for benefits, except in the case of fraud.
5. EXTENDS COVERAGE FOR YOUNG PEOPLE UP TO 27TH BIRTHDAY THROUGH PARENTS’ INSURANCE— Requires health plans to allow young people through age 26 to remain on their parents’ insurance policy, at the parents’ choice.
6. ELIMINATES COST-SHARING FOR PREVENTIVE SERVICES IN MEDICARE—Eliminates co-payments for preventive services and exempts preventive services from deductibles under the Medicare program.
7. IMPROVES HELP FOR LOW-INCOME MEDICARE BENEFICIARIES—Improves the low-income protection programs in Medicare to assure more individuals are able to access this vital help.
8. PROVIDES NEW CONSUMER PROTECTIONS IN MEDICARE ADVANTAGE— Prohibits Medicare Advantage plans from charging enrollees higher cost-sharing for services in their private plan than what is charged in traditional Medicare.
9. IMMEDIATE SUNSHINE ON PRICE GOUGING—Discourages excessive price increases by insurance companies through review and disclosure of insurance rate increases.
10. CONTINUITY FOR DISPLACED WORKERS—Allows Americans to keep their COBRA coverage until the Exchange is in place and they can access affordable coverage.
11. CREATES NEW, VOLUNTARY, PUBLIC LONG-TERM CARE INSURANCE PROGRAM—Creates a long-term care insurance program to be financed by voluntary payroll deductions to provide benefits to adults who become functionally disabled.
12. HELP FOR EARLY RETIREES—Creates a $10 billon fund to finance a temporary reinsurance program to help offset the costs of expensive health claims for employers that provide health benefits for retirees age 55-64.
13. COMMUNITY HEALTH CENTERS—Increases funding for Community Health Centers to allow for a doubling of the number of patients seen by the centers over the next 5 years.
14. INCREASING NUMBER OF PRIMARY CARE DOCTORS — Provides new investment in training programs to increase the number of primary care doctors, nurses, and public health professionals.
Thus far, San Diego's Congressional delegation has split down party lines, with Republicans Duncan Hunter, Brian Bilbray and Darrell Issa opposing the bill (as well as any form of public option). Democratic Congressional members Bob Filner and Susan Davis support the measure, along with California's two Democratic Senators, Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein.