In recent weeks, President Obama and his administration have demonstrated support to improving healthcare in the United States.
The first important step was the February 3, 2009, signing of a bill expanding the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), providing healthcare coverage to an additional 4.1 million uninsured or underinsured children from low-income families.
Two weeks later, on February 17, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The Economic Stimulus Bill sets aside substantial funding for healthcare and healthcare coverage, including subsidies for COBRA premiums for qualified unemployed Americans, a temporary increase to federal funds for state Medicaid programs totaling approximately $86 billion, and funds for health information technology.
On February 26, President Obama released his proposed budget, which included a $634 billion reserve over 10 years as a “down payment” on healthcare reform. Half of it will be subsidized by savings proposals and the other half through tax code changes. Although many details are still to come, highlighted items include reducing out-of-pocket premiums for health insurance, protecting individuals against catastrophic illness and eliminating pre-existing condition clauses.
Finally, on March 5 President Obama assembled a group of more than 150 individuals, including members of Congress, doctors and leaders of labor unions, business groups, hospitals, insurance companies and representatives of consumer organizations, to discuss how to advance healthcare reform. Many of the individuals who participated were former opponents of such reform, but who now support changes to it. There will certainly be significant compromises along the way as the details are hashed out.
NHF is committed to furthering a healthcare reform agenda that addresses the real needs of people with chronic health conditions. In particular, we are seeking changes that improve access to high-quality care, such as eliminating lifetime insurance caps, eliminating pre-condition clauses, and protecting the ability of a physician to make appropriate medical decisions in consultation with a patient. We will keep the community informed of important developments as we continue our efforts to convey your needs and concerns to our elected representatives.