You can read the entire bipartisan bill that came out of the Senate Finance Committee this week -- also called the Baucus Bill -- at: http://finance.senate.gov/sitepages/leg/LEG%202009/091609%20Americas_Healthy_Future_Act.pdf
This is the long-awaited bill that is supposed to keep the costs within the framework mandated by President Obama, and be acceptable to both sides of the aisle, while keeping the spirit of reform.
Note: It does NOT include a public option. In other words, it’s a compromise, from the start.
Since the Baucus Bill was published over the weekend for Mark Up, nearly 600 amendments have been proposed. The amended version of the bill should be available for study in a few days. I’ll put up a link when I have one.
During the conference call, we focused on priorities for seniors, and how the bill will affect Medicare recipients. Here are a few highlights:
--This bill contains no benefit cuts to seniors on Medicare. NONE.
--Those enrolled in a drug benefit plan will get a 50% discount on brand name drugs while they are in the so-called donut hole. That discount will not affect their ability to reach the next level in the drug program, however, because they will be credited for 100% of the cost of the drugs they buy at a discount.
--Senior Medicare recipients will get a free annual physical. This is something new.
--All prevention testing and immunization will be free. This will include flu shots, mammograms, colonoscopies and the like. One amendment under consideration would add bone-density testing to the list.
--Physicians treating Medicare patients will get a 5 % increase in reimbursements beginning 2010, instead of the scheduled 21% payment cut. This should make it more likely that physicians will open their doors to new Medicare patients.
I asked what the catch was for all this “free” stuff. After all, we know there’s no such thing as a free lunch.
We were told money would be raised to pay for new benefits through revenue provisions (taxes and fees?), as well as by cracking down on waste, fraud and abuse. The Baucus Bill gives the Secretary of DHHS, FBI and Department of Justice new tools to monitor and increase penalties for fraud.
One aide said we already spend billions every year on health care in this country that do not improve health one iota. For instance, a large part of the health care dollar goes to pay for consumer marketing and direct advertising by insurance and drug companies, or is lost to fraud or waste.
All bloggers were urged to encourage their readers to voice opinions on this bill and other health care reform proposals through emails or calls to elected officials, or through blogs like our own.
For more information, be sure to read the blogposts by the other bloggers on the call:
George Phenix at Blog of Ages
Nancy Belle at The Tempered Optimist
Jan Adams at Happening Here
Ronnie Bennett at Time Goes By
Here’s a handy form Ronnie Bennett put together:
Contact your senators and representative here.