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Podcast: The Current Status of Health Reform

In this podcast, we will discuss the current status of health reform in Congress. I’m Janet Hodur and the Center’s Senior Health Fellow, Judy Solomon, is joining me today.

1. Judy, the Senate finally passed health reform legislation on Christmas Eve. What happens next?

The House and Senate have passed separate bills, so leading members of both chambers now have to iron out the differences between the bills and create a final bill. Then, the House and Senate will vote on that final version. Presuming that it passes both chambers, the bill will go to the President for his signature and it will then become law.

2. As the House and Senate sort out differences between the bills, what are some of the key issues that have to be addressed?

The final bill should make health care affordable for low and moderate income families. Both the House and Senate bills would provide subsidies for families who don’t receive insurance through their employers and who can’t afford to pay for it on their own. The lower a family’s income, the more help that family would get paying for coverage– this is known as a sliding scale.

However, families at the lower end of the subsidy scale could still have trouble affording coverage under the Senate bill. For example, a family of four with income just over $33,000 a year would have to pay about $1,500 a year for premiums, which is over $500 more than that same family would pay under the House bill.

3. What else needs to be sorted out?

We also need to make sure that the rules that insurance companies will follow are as strong as possible so that all people have access to affordable and comprehensive coverage regardless of whether they are sick or healthy. The new insurance exchanges where people will be able to buy coverage need to be properly structured. Insurance companies should compete on the basis of price and quality instead of by trying to attract the healthiest people who will use the least amount of services. We also want to make sure that people can easily compare insurance policies so that they can get the coverage that best meets their needs.

4. Once the House and Senate come up with a final bill, will it represent real reform of the health care system?

Yes. Both the House and Senate bill will cover millions of people who are now uninsured. They will both establish consumer protections that will prevent insurance companies from charging sicker people more for coverage and refusing to cover their pre-existing conditions; and they will start to slow the growth of health care costs. Health reform legislation will be a major accomplishment and improve the lives of millions of Americans.

Thank you for joining me, Judy.