FAQ: Pelosi’s Public Option Revealed
Following her Senate counterpart’s reveal of his healthcare reform plan earlier this week, Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi has now unveiled her chamber’s proposal for expanding affordable health insurance coverage. As expected, the House’s plan is farther-reaching than the Senate’s and more similar to the one outlined by President Obama during his campaign. Here’s a quick Q&A on Pelosi’s plan:
Q: How much is this going to cost?
A: It’s projected to cost a whopping $894 billion over ten years.
Q: How is the government planning to pay for reform?
A: It will raise income taxes on couples making over $1 million and individuals making over $500,000 yearly. In addition, Medicare spending will be cut by an unknown amount. Liberal representatives also floated the idea of having the government dictate the rates paid to health care providers by the public option, but moderates managed to strip out that provision. (The government, as well as private insurers, will instead negotiate payment rates with hospitals and doctors.)
Q: Is a public option included?
A: Yes. Unlike the Senate version, the House’s bill doesn’t allow states to opt out of it. So far, it doesn’t include a so-called “trigger” either.
Q: Will illegal immigrants be covered by the public option?
A: As of now, it’s unclear. That’s one of the main sticking points preventing the House bill from reaching a vote. However, remember that illegal immigrants are already receiving a form of public healthcare: hospital emergency rooms are required to serve everyone who comes in.
Q: What about abortion? Will it be covered?
A: That’s another controversial topic that will see much debate before the bill hits the House floor. A handful of pro-life Democrats will probably try to have abortion coverage removed from the public option in order for it to receive their votes. Meanwhile, some pro-choice representatives oppose a bill that doesn’t include abortion services. Either way, the Democrats have a solid majority in the House and can afford to lose some votes in either direction.
Q: What if I have a pre-existing condition and can’t get insurance?
A: These reforms are supposed to change that. Health insurers will no longer be allowed to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. They won’t be able to charge those with pre-existing conditions significantly more, either.
Q: When will healthcare reform take effect?
A: It’s hard to believe, but the bill won’t fully kick in until 2013. By then, a mandate will require everyone who can afford it to buy health insurance. They can be insured via the newly created exchange (consisting of private insurers, in addition to the public option), by their employer, or an existing government program such as Medicare or Medicaid.
Q: But I need health insurance now! What can I do in the meantime?
A: The government is putting together a temporary program to insure individuals and families that have been rejected by private insurers. Otherwise, do you really want to wait for the government’s health insurance plan? Keep in mind that the House bill needs to be reconciled with the Senate bill before there’s a final vote, and that could take months.
(Image: U.S. House of Representatives Portrait)