Topic Healthcare Reform 101: What is it Exactly that Capitol Hill is Trying to Change About Our Healthcare System?

The world of healthcare can be confusing and the idea of reforming it even more so. So what is it exactly that the government is trying to do to change our current healthcare system? Below are the answers to a few of the most commonly asked questions about this subject.

Q: What would healthcare reform do?

The overall goal that the government is trying to accomplish is universal healthcare, or providing healthcare to all American citizens. Under the bill that Congress is currently trying to pass, all Americans would be required to carry health insurance or pay a penalty. Additionally, the bill would require businesses to provide insurance for their employees or pay a substantial fee. Insurance companies would not be allowed to deny someone coverage for pre-existing conditions. Medicaid would be expanded to cover more of the poor, and an avenue of new exchanges would be created for middle-class Americans to purchase health insurance with the help of government support.

Q: How are we going to pay for this?

Experts currently estimate that universal healthcare will cost more that $1 trillion over the next ten years, which is obviously a lot of money considering the economic crisis we are in. There are two main methods that Congress is planning on using to trim this number down.

First, Congress would pay for half of this cost by reducing its spending on Medicare. However, one legitimate concern to think about: how is the government going to cut back spending on Medicare if they are also planning on expanding it to cover more people? It will be interesting to see how they resolve that problem.

Second, Congress is planning on paying for the other half by raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans (families with incomes exceeding $350,000 and individuals with incomes exceeding $280,000). Obviously, this too has created some heated debate.

Q: Will this system reduce the cost of healthcare?

That is the plan. In the bill, Congress is trying to adjust Medicare reimbursements to encourage healthcare providers to improve their productivity, expand prevention and wellness programs, reduce hospital readmissions, and increase the use of primary care in order to decrease the need for expensive specialists.
Additionally, the bill establishes a center for studying and comparing the effectiveness of drugs, devices, and procedures. The hope is that a center like this one will discover the most successful forms of medical care and reduce costs through efficiency.

Further, the new healthcare system will create a new market of public healthcare and increase competition by giving Americans more choices. By giving Americans the option to choose from public and private insurance providers, current private insurance providers will have to revamp their prices, policies, and coverage in order to adequately compete with the public providers.

Q: Universal healthcare sounds pretty good. So why is there a debate?

Critics of the plan are mainly concerned about what it will cost to provide medical care to all American citizens. The wealthy class is especially disturbed about the idea that they will have to bear a large portion of the price tag by paying more taxes. Finally, Republicans are against a plan that involves a public form of health insurance, and feel that any reform that occurs should take place solely in the private realm of healthcare.

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