With Congress now needing only to combine ideas from the House and Senate versions of health insurance reform into one final bill to send the President, there is an unavoidable temptation among the media to focus on the five percent of differences between the two versions, instead of the remarkable 95 percent the bills have in common. But, even as difficult work does remain, it is important not to lose perspective of how far we have come and how close we are to the enacting health reform.
The reality is that the two versions of reform legislation are vastly similar – built upon a shared foundation that will provide stability and security for Americans with insurance, affordable options for those without, and lower costs for families, businesses, and the government.
Both the House and Senate versions of health insurance reform rest upon the following building blocks:
* Insurance reforms to protect consumers from insurance company worst-practices – like denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions, capping total coverage, and dropping or watering down coverage when you get sick and need it most
* Consumer protections that will restrict how much of your premium dollars insurance companies can spend on marketing, profits, salaries.
* Creation of a health exchange to increase consumer choice and guarantee coverage
* A commitment to expanding health coverage
* Affordable health options, with subsidies for working families and a hardship waiver
* Tax credits to help small businesses afford coverage
* Improvements in the health status of our population by investing in prevention and chronic disease management
* Making preventive care completely free – with no copayments or deductibles
* Improving the quality and extending the life of Medicare
* Strengthening our primary care workforce
* Reforming the delivery system
* Ensuring that reform is not only fully paid for, but actually significantly reduces the federal deficit.
So as you follow the health reform debate in the media, don't fall prey to the cynicism and pessimism of a lot of the chattering class and remember that we are on the precipice of a historic accomplishment that will make a real difference in the lives of American families.
Dan Pfeiffer is White House Communications Director