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

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.