Merkley: Health Committee Bill Will Dramatically Expand Access to Health Coverage, Lower Costs to Consumers

Washington, DC – The Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
(HELP) Committee today released new details on the health care reform bill
currently under consideration by the committee.  The Affordable Health
Care Choices Act will include a strong, nationwide public health insurance
option to lower costs and greatly reduce the number of uninsured
Americans.  Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley, a member of the Committee,
applauded the improvements that have been made to the bill.

“Our health care system is broken.  Over the last nine
years, costs for the average family have doubled even as insurance companies
use less and less of premiums for patient care,” said Merkley.  “We need
to provide consumers with real choices to keep costs down and keep insurance
companies honest.”

The new provisions of the HELP bill would create the
Community Health Insurance Option, which will be a national plan available in
each state and administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
(HHS).   The public option would be offered alongside private
insurance options in a “Health Insurance Gateway,” or insurance exchange.  Participation
in the public option is completely voluntary, and would assure American
families that they will have access to an affordable choice.  Through
pooled purchasing power and lower administrative overhead than private
insurers, the Community Health Insurance Option will help to lower costs and
encourage insurance companies to improve their services. 

The complete Affordable Health Care Choices Act would cost
approximately $611 billion over ten years according to the nonpartisan
Congressional Budget Office – and when combined with the Senate Finance
Committee bill, will expand health coverage to 97 percent of Americans. 

“If you like your doctor and you like your insurance,
nothing will change for you.  But if you want more options, this bill
provides them, while increasing healthy competition that will reduce costs for
everyone,” said Merkley.  “For far too long, insurance companies have been
able to set the rules, charge what they like and revoke coverage on the
flimsiest of excuses.  The Affordable Health Choices Act will level the
playing field for consumers by providing them with more choices.”

In the coming days, Senator Merkley will be introducing an
amendment to the Affordable Health Choices Act to provide small businesses with
access to better health care options for their employees by ensuring that they
can participate in the Health Insurance Gateway.