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Letter to D.C. Leaders Warns Against 'Fallback' Health Reforms As Trojan Horses for Insurers

Tuesday, February 2, 2010 General News J E 4
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Consumer Watchdog Also Releases Dozen 'Better Than Nothing' Reforms To Curb Insurance Abuses, Aid States

WASHINGTON, Feb. 1 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Consumer Watchdog issued a warning today in a letter to President Obama and Congressional leaders against the health reform fallback proposals of some Congressional moderates, including deregulated national insurance plans and malpractice restrictions, calling them "the wish list of the insurance and medical industries."

In the letter to President Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate leader Harry Reid, the group also offered a dozen individual reforms that could be passed separately from the health bill. The list includes market reforms to curb insurance company abuses, encourage states to expand coverage, and protect consumers.

Download Consumer Watchdog's letter here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/ObamaLtr2-1-10.pdf

In the letter sent, Consumer Watchdog wrote:

"Passage of a broad health reform bill that aims toward universal health coverage is the only outcome that would make life more secure, and health care less expensive, for all Americans. But as political division tears apart Congress, there are growing calls for more piecemeal reforms. Even worse, we hear proposals in Washington to adopt, under the mantle of bipartisanship, ideas that are high on the wish list of the insurance and medical industries.

"We urge you to resist unbalanced 'compromises.' However, if no comprehensive bill can be passed, we ask instead that you craft individual reforms that would comprise a framework for fairness and improvement in health care, including robust state-level reforms."

In the letter, Consumer Watchdog outlined a dozen key proposals, many of them part of current legislation, that would reform insurance markets and lead to coverage improvement in the states:

1. No mandate. Partial reforms must not require anyone to purchase private insurance.

2. Expand Medicaid. Cover families up to 150 percent of the poverty level, as called for in the House bill.

3. Encourage broader state reform. Allow states to seek even broader waivers to fund efforts toward universal coverage.

4. Control premium increases. Set guidelines for states to limit what insurers can charge in premiums and require prior justification of rate increases before they are imposed.

5. Equalize legal accountability. Make all insurers, including those providing employer-based insurance, accountable in state courts.

6. No rescission, less underwriting. Bar post-claims cancellation of insurance policies after people get sick in all cases except those of deliberate falsehood.

7. Out of pocket limits. Cap what patients must pay out of pocket when they get sick.

8. Preserve state requirements. Ban federal preemption of stronger state benefit laws like those of New York and California.

9. Enhance community rating. Reduce the premium cost disparities among broad classes of people--older and younger, male and female, urban and rural.

10. Reduce cherry-picking. Bar insurers from marketing their policies only to the youngest and healthiest customers, and shedding expensive claimants.

11. No policy caps. Bar lifetime and annual payment limits.

12. Make Medicare Advantage compete. Grant Medicare Advantage contracts through regional competitive bidding, as originally envisioned.

Consumer Watchdog is a nonpartisan consumer advocacy organization with offices in Washington, D.C. and Santa Monica, CA. Find us on the web at: http://www.ConsumerWatchdog.org

SOURCE Consumer Watchdog
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