The president is barnstorming the nation, urging swift approval of legislation that is taking shape in Congress. This legislation — the Affordable Health Choices Act that’s being drafted by Sen. Edward Kennedy’s staff and the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee — will push Americans into stingy insurance plans with tight, HMO-style controls. It specifically exempts members of Congress (along with federal employees; the exemptions are in section 3116).
Members of Congress “enjoy the widest selection of health plans in the country,” according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. They “can choose from among consumer-driven and high deductible plans that offer catastrophic risk protection with higher deductibles, health saving/reimbursable accounts and lower premiums, or fee-for-service (FFS) plans, and their preferred provider organizations (PPO), or health maintenance organizations (HMO).” These choices would be nice for all of us, but they’re not in the offing. Instead, if you don’t enroll in a “qualified” health plan and submit proof of enrollment to the federal government, you’ll be tracked down and fined (sections 3101 and 6055).
For a health plan to count as “qualified,” it has to meet all the restrictions listed in the legislation and whatever criteria the Secretary of Health and Human Services imposes after the bill becomes law. You may think you’re in a “qualified” plan, but the language suggests that only plans with managed-care controls such as the “medical home” will meet the definition (sections 3101 and 2707).
As usual, you are being subjected to laws that Congress exempts itself from. Not only that, but Federal employees are immune to the controls imposed on the peons, er, taxpayers. From what is known about the tippity-top secret bill at this point, it appears that it is bad enough that Congress will not allow it to apply to themselves or the rest of the Federal government.
That should tell you all you need to know about this bill.
Not only will this bill serve to take away insurance from some 23 million working Americans, it will also subject them to fines unless they submit to controls that Congress is unwilling to accept.
Bottom line, if this bill will really improve health care, then it should – no, must – apply across the board. If it does not apply equally to Congress, Federal employees and the people who will have to pay for this then it is obviously not equitable.