Wednesday, March 24, 2010

What's to Like about the New Health Insurance Bill

How should we regard the new health insurance bill that President Obama just signed into law? On Monday, I gave an overview. For the next few days, let's go into the details.

Compared with the system we have now, there's plenty to like about the new plan. Based on a summary in the Boston Globe, here are some of the good points:

More money for states to pay for poor people's health insurance. "Massachusetts would receive a $2 billion boost in Medicaid assistance over 10 years to help pay for insurance coverage for low-income residents." Medicaid plans let poor people get decent health care they couldn't afford otherwise.

More money to help moderate-income people pay for their own health insurance. "Tax credits are provided to help pay for insurance, and that aid is available for people with incomes up to four times the federal poverty level, which is $88,2oo for a family of four and $43,32o for an individual."

Fewer denials of coverage. "The measure would prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage because of a preexisting condition," within six months for children and by 2014 for adults. It also lets young adults stay on their parents' plans until they turn 26 (meaning fewer will go without health insurance), and it makes sure Medicare pays for elders' prescription drugs (eliminating the "doughnut hole" in which, if you paid more than $2,700 a year for prescriptions, you were on your own until your expenses mounted to $6,200). People with pre-existing health problems, young people, and seniors make up a large part of the population! They will all be better off because of these provisions.

Coverage for legal immigrants. Currently, the federal government provides no help at all to legal immigrants seeking health insurance. In 2014, under the new bill, the feds would send money to state governments like Massachusetts which choose to subsidize health insurance for low- and moderate- income legal immigrants the same way as they subsidize low- and moderate-income American citizens.

If your question is, "Will anybody be better off under the new bill than they were before?", then the answer is, "Yes, lots of people will." And I agree with columnist Scot Lehigh that Obama and the Democrats need to go on tour to promote it. They should use every mass marketing and social networking trick in the book to spread the word and build support for the bill.

That doesn't mean I think it's a good bill. Why? Come back tomorrow to find out.

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