Ed & Labor Approves Historic Health Reform Bill; Reforms One Step Closer for Americans

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The House Education and Labor Committee today passed historic legislation that will deliver the fundamental health reforms that Americans want by reducing and controlling costs, guaranteeing people’s choices of doctors and plans, and ensuring access to quality, affordable health care for all.

The Committee passed the America’s Affordable Health Choices Act, H.R. 3200, by a vote of 26-22. Five amendments offered by Republicans were adopted. The legislation is expected to be considered by the full House of Representatives in the coming weeks.

Created with flickrSLiDR.

“Health care reform is moving forward. This legislation will reduce costs that are crushing workers, families and businesses alike and it will ensure that patients – not insurance companies – hold the power to make decisions about their care,” said U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-CA), the Chairman of the Committee. “These reforms will save jobs, create millions of new careers, improve the health of our workforce and help rebuild our nation’s middle class. Today’s vote is a monumental step forward in our journey to finally fix our broken health care system.”

“I am honored to have participated in the historic passage of America's Affordable Health Choices Act by the Education and Labor Committee,” said U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ), the Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, Pensions.  “Millions of Americans work hard, play by the rules, and take care of their families.  Yet they suffer from ever increasing health care costs and inadequate health insurance coverage.  Our work was done on their behalf. Our country is now one step closer to a better health care system that will create jobs, promote wellness, and reduce health care costs for all Americans.”

The legislation is consistent with President Obama’s overall goals of building on what works within the current health care system by strengthening employer-provided care, while fixing what is broken. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the bill will cover 97 percent of Americans by 2015, and two million more Americans will have employer-provided health plans by 2019.

H.R. 3200 will make remarkable changes in the way Americans access and receive health care. Among other things, it will establish a new health exchange that allows them to choose from either private insurers or a public health insurance option. Consumers will be protected from abusive and predatory tactics by insurance companies.  Individuals and small businesses will receive subsidies that make health care more affordable. The CBO estimates that 30 million Americans would choose to enter into the exchange, and that one-third – or 9 million – of those people would choose the public health insurance option.

In addition, the legislation strengthens Medicare and Medicaid and makes reforms to the health care delivery system that will help tame long-term costs.

Earlier this week, CBO issued a preliminary estimate of bill’s reforms at a net cost of $1 trillion over ten years. These reforms will be fully paid for through reforms to Medicare and Medicaid that will generate significant savings and a surcharge that will impact only the wealthiest 1.2 percent of all Americans, and only four percent of small businesses.  

The key principles of legislation include, among other things:

Increasing choice and competition. First, the bill will protect and improve consumers’ choices.

  • If an individual likes their current plan, they will be able to keep it.
  • For individuals who either aren’t currently covered, or wanted to enroll in a new health care plan, the proposal will establish a health care exchange where consumers can select from a menu of affordable, quality health care options: either a new public health insurance plan or a plan offered by private insurers. People will have similar choices that members of Congress have.
  • This new marketplace will reduce costs, create competition that leads to better care for every American, and keep private insurers honest. Patients and doctors will have control over decisions about their health care, instead of insurance companies.
Giving Americans peace of mind. Second, the legislation will ensure that Americans have portable, secure health care plans – so that they won’t lose care if their employer drops their plan or they lose their job.

  • Every American who receives coverage through the exchange will have a choice of plans that include quality health care benefits.  
  • It will end increases in premiums or denials of care based on pre-existing conditions, race, or gender.
  • The proposal will also eliminate co-pays for preventative care, cap out-of-pocket expenses, and end lifetime caps on benefits to protect every American from bankruptcy.

Improving quality of care for every American.
Third, the legislation will ensure that Americans of all ages, from young children to retirees have access to greater quality of care by focusing on prevention, wellness, and strengthening programs that work.

  • Guarantees that every child in America will have health care coverage that includes dental and vision benefits.
  • Provides better preventive and wellness care. Every health care plan offered through the exchange will cover preventive care.
  • Grows the health care workforce to ensure that more doctors and nurses are available to provide quality care as more Americans get coverage.
  • Strengthens Medicare and Medicaid so that seniors, people with disabilities, and low-income Americans receive better quality of care and see lower prescription drug costs and out-of-pocket expenses.

Ensuring shared responsibility. Fourth, the bill will ensure that individuals, employers, and the federal government all share responsibility for a quality and affordable health care system.

  • Employers who currently offer coverage will be able to continue offering coverage to workers. Employers who don’t currently offer coverage could choose to cover their workers or pay a penalty.
  • All individuals would be required to get coverage, either through their employer or the exchange, or pay a penalty.
  • The federal government will provide affordability credits, available on a sliding scale for low- and middle-income individuals and families to make premiums affordable and reduce cost-sharing.

Protecting consumers and reducing waste, fraud, and abuse. Fifth, the legislation will put the interests of consumers first, protect them from any problems in getting and keeping health care coverage, and reduce waste, fraud, and abuse.

  • Provides complete transparency in plans in the health exchange so that consumers have the information they need to select the plan that best meets their needs.
  • Establishes Consumer Advocacy Offices as part of the exchange in order to protect consumers, answer questions, and assist with any problems related to their plans.
  • Identifies and eliminates waste, fraud, and abuse by simplifying paperwork and other administrative burdens. Patients, doctors, nurses, insurance companies, providers, and employers will all encounter a streamlined, less confusing, more consumer friendly system.
Over the past six months, the House Committees on Education and Labor, Ways and Means, and Energy and Commerce have been working together in an unprecedented way as one committee to develop health care reform legislation.

To view a complete summary of the legislation, click here.

View detailed fact sheets and what health care reform means for American families.

H.R. 3200 is supported by a diverse coalition of stakeholders, including the American Medical Association, the AARP, the Consumers Union, and many more.