Mental Health, Medicaid Get Boost In Health Care Reform Proposal
A health care reform bill introduced Tuesday by Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives would expand Medicaid and require mental health coverage for all Americans, but fails to include significant change to long-term care.
The bill was brought forth collectively by three House committees — Education and Labor, Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce — which have jurisdiction over health care.
As currently written, the bill would allow Americans to keep their current health insurance coverage and doctor, but would also provide a so-called “public option,” essentially a government-run insurance program that individuals or business could buy into.
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Mental health coverage would be required under the bill no matter which insurance option is selected. Plus, insurers will not be allowed to deny anyone coverage due to a preexisting condition.
Medicaid would be expanded under the House bill to include families with incomes at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty level. Furthermore, reimbursement rates for primary care services provided to people on Medicaid would increase, with the federal government picking up the tab.
“We can’t afford to leave people in a system that looks to recruit the healthy and leave the sick uninsured, underinsured or uncertain about their insurance,” said Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich. “The current broken health care system will not fix itself and the people who made billions from it have no reason to change their ways unless we make them.”
Long-term care is not emphasized in the House bill. Neither the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act — which would create a government long-term care insurance program — or the Community Choice Act — which would allow people with disabilities the option to use Medicaid funding to pay for community-based rather than institutional care — are included.
Just last week Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sent a letter to a Senate committee expressing the Obama Administration’s support of including the CLASS Act in health care reform legislation.
House committees will consider this proposal beginning this week. In order for any changes to take place, legislation must be approved by the House and Senate and be signed into law by the president who has indicated he would like to wrap up health care reform before Congress leaves for its August recess.