Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Is there a Health Plan proposal that stands out in the Presidential Race? I think so!

On October 23, 2007 , Democratic Presidential Candidate Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware unveiled a health care plan that would provide health insurance for all children, provide more coverage options for adults, and focus on disease prevention and modernizing the nation's health care system.

Biden's plan would permit uninsured Americans to buy into an insurance program similar to the one that provides health care benefits to federal employees and members of Congress. People would pay on a sliding scale based on income. Biden's proposal would continue the Medicare program, and inaddition, allow people between the ages of 55 and 64 to buy into the Medicare program, with the federal government providing a subsidy to low-income individuals.

The State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) would be expanded to children in families with incomes of 300 percent of the federal poverty level or below. This equates to $61,950 for a family of four, and coverage to children in the family would be extended to at least age 21. Biden's plan also would have the federal government "reinsure" 75 percent of the cost of catastrophic health costs for cases exceeding $50,000 per individual, in order to help keep the cost of the commercial plans low.

Senator Biden has said that if he is elected, he would convene a meeting, within the first 90 days of his administration, with all players involved in health care, in hopes of making coverage both universal and affordable. "Getting this done will require the kind of experience and leadership that comes from years of success corralling bipartisan support for numerous issues," he said. "I have that experience and it will prove invaluable when I am president."

Here are some other important elements of Biden's plan:
  • Eliminate co-payments for physicals, vaccinations, vision and hearing screenings, and preventative dental checkups for children of all income levels.
  • Prohibit employers and insurers from collecting or using genetic discrimination when making decisions about hiring or providing health care coverage, including the cost of a policy.
  • Invest at least $1 billion yearly to help hospitals, physicians, and other health care providers move to electronic health records systems.
  • Add 100,000 new nurses to the workforce in the next five years and establish scholarship and loan repayment programs to encourage people to join the public health workforce.
After reviewing all of the plan proposals from the Democratic and Republican candidates for president that have so far been released, this plan seems like the best to me! It combines the strengths of our private insurance system with intelligent government subsidy for those who need it. It also encourages access to needed types of primary care in order to improve quality and decrease cost. It addresses a growing problem of older adults not yet able to join Medicare, ensures treatment for children, and covers the large group of younger adults who are ignored by most other proposals. Most importantly, this plan avoids the "false choice" between pouring more money into our dysfunctional current system, or going to a government take over of health care. It is an intelligent middle way, that includes important reforms along with intelligent funding.

One of my adult daughters has given money to the Biden campaign based on her support of this proposal, and I hope this plan receives a great deal of attention and debate!