Without Changes To Federal Policy, Number Of Uninsured U.S. Residents Could Increase To 54M In 2019, According To CBO

February 12, 2009 at 11:00 am Leave a comment

The number of uninsured U.S. residents could increase from about 45 million people this year to 54 million people in 2019 unless the lawmakers change federal health care policy, Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf said Tuesday during a Senate Budget Committee hearing, the AP/Detroit News reports. Elmendorf said that the increase would be driven, in part, by health insurance premiums that rise faster than incomes. Costs for new medical breakthroughs that extend and improve people’s lives also will continue to increase, he said. Wasteful and unnecessary medical care also will drive cost increases, according to Elmendorf. He said, “A substantial share of spending on health care contributes little, if anything, to the overall health of the nation” (Freking, AP/Detroit News, 2/11).

Elmendorf said that any plan to expand health care would be dependent on the federal government’s ability to pool risk; create subsidies that make health insurance more affordable; and develop an enforceable requirement that all U.S. residents obtain health coverage. He added that beyond those three basic concepts, none of the health care overhaul proposals discussed by lawmakers in recent years alone can solve the complex problems in the U.S. health care system. He added that no financial analysis organization, including CBO, can predict which types of changes will be able to generate savings and improve quality of care (CongressDaily, 2/10). According to CQ HealthBeat, Elmendorf also expressed uncertainty about the potential savings from improved preventive care and health care information technology (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 2/10).

In addition, Elmendorf said current tax breaks for health insurance reduce incentives to control costs (AP/Detroit News, 2/11). He said that “the cleanest and strongest lever that you have about private health care is the tax exclusion,” adding, “Many analysts would agree that adjusting that exclusion can be very beneficial for health insurance coverage and for ensuring a more efficient health care system.” According to Elmendorf, “In the public sector … the comparably clean and strong lever would be increasing cost-sharing by Medicare beneficiaries” (CQ HealthBeat, 2/10).

Senate Budget Committee Chair Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said, “There’s a growing consensus that you’ve got to have universality of care in order to get at the cost issue effectively, because to the extent you have people outside the system, they tend to get treated, but they tend to get treated in the most expensive way.” He added that overhauling the health care system would require some upfront costs, but warned against plans that would add to health costs (CQ HealthBeat, 2/10). Conrad said, “Those who advocate spending hundreds of billions of dollars more, I think, have a very heavy burden to carry,” adding, “And I hope that message is heard outside this hearing room” (Young, The Hill, 2/10).

Elmendorf’s testimony is available online.

Letters to Obama

Democratic congressional leaders and advocates for health reform in recent weeks sent letters to President Obama calling on the administration to include plans to overhaul the health care system in its upcoming budget proposal, The Hill reports. Presidents typically are expected to deliver their budget proposals to Congress by the first Monday in February, but the new administration has “a little leeway,” and Obama is expected to make his request during the first week of April, The Hill reports. According to The Hill, lawmakers and interest groups “are eager for the president to signal his intentions” on health care.

In a Jan. 29 letter by Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chair Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.), House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), House Committee on Ways and Means Chair Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) and House Committee on Education and Labor Chair George Miller (D-Calif.), the lawmakers wrote, “Change of this magnitude requires presidential leadership and we’re grateful for all you’re doing to provide it. One early signal to Congress and to the nation that you intend to move forward boldly and promptly on health reform will be your budget.” The lawmakers also wrote, “For this reason, we strongly urge you to use that opportunity by making clear in your February budget document that you intend for Congress to pass comprehensive health reform this year,” adding, “This is our top priority this year and we look forward to working with you on it.”

A separate letter sent to Obama on Friday by Divided We Fail — a coalition led by AARP that includes the Business Roundtable, the National Federation of Independent Business and the Service Employees International Union — also called on Obama to include plans for overhauling the health care system as part of his budget proposal. The letter co-signed by the CEOs of the four groups stated, “We ask you to send a clear signal on the importance of health care reform by including in your budget submission policies that would moderate cost growth and reinvest savings toward providing the tools necessary to support a modernized health care delivery system that provides access to quality, affordable coverage for all Americans.”

A third letter — sent by AARP, SEIU, the AFL-CIO, America’s Health Insurance Plans, the American Medical Association, Families USA and five other groups — made a similar request, stating, “(W)e urge you to include adequate resources for health care reform prominently in your budget submission,” adding, “Your budget submission will probably be seen as the clearest indication of your reaffirmed commitment to get health care reform adopted this year.”

The Hill reports that congressional Democrats and advocacy groups “widely agree that the effort stands its greatest chance for success if the White House and Congress undertake it early in Obama’s presidency, when his stock is at its highest and before the politics of the midterm congressional elections can interfere” (The Hill, 2/10).

GOP Health Care Task Force

In related news, former House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) — who was appointed last week to lead a new Republican task force on developing strategies to improve access to health care — said that Republicans aim to focus on highlighting the differences between universal access and an individual health coverage mandate, as well as the differences between a government-run health care system and a government-managed system for health coverage, CongressDaily reports.

In an interview with CongressDaily, Blunt said, “My encouragement to people on this task force has been, ‘Let’s spend the first month or so listening to each other, listening to people we bring in to talk to us and trying not to rush to conclusions quite yet as to what a Republican health care alternative would look like,'” adding, “We’re going to be talking about two things. One is how can we develop a message that most Republicans in the Congress can agree with and will be comfortable talking about as an alternative, and, two, where are the areas we can work to find common ground with Democrats.”

He also said, “Last Congress I put together the House Energy Action Team and by August of last year, certainly, every single Republican in the House was on board with about three important concepts, and they were all willing to talk about it,” adding, “Well, I’d like to see that happen in health care, to where our members find common agreement on the important framework of how we deal with health care going forward, and that they get very comfortable talking about the Republican view, as well as their individual view of how we approach this critical issue” (Edney, CongressDaily, 2/11).

Reprinted with kind permission from http://www.kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at http://www.kaisernetwork.org/dailyreports/healthpolicy. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

© 2009 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

[Via http://www.medicalnewstoday.com]


Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

Race And Ethnicity Affect Use Of Hospice Services Among Patients With Advanced Cancer Ustekinumab In The Treatment Of Psoriatic Arthritis: Investigational Study Published

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed


Top Clicks

  • None

Blog Stats

  • 15,692 hits

%d bloggers like this: