Both the accessibility and the rising cost of health care insurance are of concern to many Americans, and many business owners as well. In a recent survey of our members, fully 82% reported that the cost and availability of health insurance for myself and my employees is a very or extremely important issues second only to the state of the economy in importance to them as business owners at the present time. Further, 47% of our members mentioned health care issues, unaided, in an open-ended question about what two or three issues would be most important to their Presidential vote this fall (again, second only to the state of the economy).
While choice, access, and quality of care issues are among the most important health care issues for business owners, NAWBO members differentiate themselves from others in their greater than average concern for preventative care and wellness issues. In particular, our members tell us that it is just as important for them to see preventative and wellness care issues included in any health care reform plan as it is to ensure choice of plans and doctors; 91% and 90%, respectively, say that it is very or extremely important for any health care reform plan to include wellness and choice.
Please explain the major elements of your health care reform plan, including how you would include preventative care, wellness care, and continued choice among coverage options and providers.
The Obama-Biden administration will ensure affordable health coverage for all Americans. Their plan maintains patient choice, and establishes a National Health Insurance Exchange with a range of private insurance options as well as a new public health plan to allow individuals and businesses to buy affordable and accessible health coverage similar to that available to federal employees. The Obama-Biden health plan will provide tax credits to people so they can afford health care and will reduce the typical familys medical expenditures by $2,500 per year while providing them with more health care options and greater security. The Obama-Biden plan will end insurance company discrimination and guarantee that all Americans regardless of preexisting conditions will be able to purchase any private insurance plan at an affordable and fair price.
The Obama-Biden health plan will ensure that all Americans have access to preventive health care services. Their proposal creates a voluntary national pool, the National Health Insurance Exchange, comprised of a range of private plans and a new public plan. These plans as well as all federally supported health plans, including Medicare, Medicaid and SCHIP, will be required to cover all essential clinical preventive services with minimal or zero co-pays and deductibles.
Under the Obama-Biden plan, women will have access to affordable coverage for maternity care, reproductive care, cancer screening and treatment, preventive care, mental health care, and other necessary services. Obama and Biden will also strengthen partnerships between federal, state and local public health authorities to expand access to proven community-based prevention programs, extend prevention efforts into workplaces and schools, and support federal initiatives.
Under the Obama-Biden health care plan, large employers that do not offer meaningful coverage or make a meaningful contribution to the cost of quality health coverage for their employees will be required to contribute a percentage of payroll toward the costs of the national plan.
Small businesses will be exempt from this requirement. Barack Obama understands that the skyrocketing cost of healthcare poses a serious competitive threat to Americas small businesses. To help small business provide quality health care to their employees and to reduce the burden on small businesses in our economy, Obama will offer a new Small Business Health Tax Credit, which will provide small businesses with a refundable tax credit of up to 50 percent on premiums paid on behalf of their employees. To be eligible for the credit, small businesses will have to offer a quality health plan to all of their employees and cover a meaningful share of the cost of employee health premiums.
The key to John McCains health-care reform plan is choice. Under his plan, each American family would be provided with a $5,000 refundable tax credit ($2,500 for individuals) to purchase health insurance, either through their employers or in the individual market. This tax credit would replace the current deduction for employer-sponsored health insurance, thereby equalizing the tax treatment of employer-sponsored and non-employer-sponsored plans and providing a substantial increase in the federal governments contribution to most families health insurance. This tax credit is sufficient to fully cover the cost of a health care plan as good as a Member of Congress, regardless of what tax bracket you are in. For lower income Americans, this credit would cover the cost of such a plan and provide a contribution to that persons health savings account. All families would be able to keep employer-sponsored coverage, but they could also search for better deals in the individual market and even purchase health insurance across state lines. This would vastly expand the ability of American consumers to choose among an array of options to find the health-care plans that best meet their needs. In addition, families would be able to keep their health insurance and, more importantly, their doctors, even if a parent changes jobs or leaves the workforce.
John McCain has also proposed a comprehensive plan to reduce the costs of health care in America. A major proposal of his is to re-orient our health-care system around preventive care. Chronic conditions account for three-quarters of the nations annual health-care bill. By emphasizing prevention, early intervention, healthy habits, new treatment models, new public health infrastructure, and the use of information technology, we can reduce health care costs. We should dedicate more federal research to caring and curing chronic diseases.
John McCains other proposals for reducing health-care costs include: lowering drug prices through re-importation and generics; updating our health-care infrastructure with 21st century technology; promoting coordinated care, where patients pay a single bill for overall disease care; reforming the Medicare and Medicaid payment systems; promoting the availability of smoking-cessation programs; passing comprehensive medical-liability reform; and bringing more transparency to health-care costs.
John McCains plan stands in stark contract to Senator Obamas proposal, which would dismantle the current employer-based framework in favor of a big new government bureaucracy. Obama would mandate that employers provide a $12,000 plan to their employees or else pay a $12,000 fine. According to a study in the National Bureau of Economic Research, an employer mandate of $9,000 for family coverage would reduce wages by $3 per hour and cause 224,000 workers to lose their jobs. To put this in perspective, the Obama plan would lose more than the 219,000 jobs created by American small businesses so far this year. Obama would also build a big new health bureaucracy, shifting more control to lobbyist-filled Washington at a time when Medicare is broke and Congress has a single-digit approval rating. According to prior analysis of similar plans, it is estimated that his employer mandate combined with a national plan option would potentially shred the employer sponsored insurance system by almost one-third or nearly 52 million lives and raise employer taxes by almost $110 billion.