As it moves into the final stretch of enacting long overdue health care reform, Congress needs to do four things to make sure we finish the job right. Health care must be affordable at work. It must be affordable for people who currently lack employer-based coverage. It needs to be fairly financed. And it needs to hold insurance companies accountable.
The House bill is better than the Senate bill in achieving nearly every one of these reforms. It requires that all but the smallest employers pay their fair share. It makes health care affordable for low- and moderate-income families. It raises revenue by taxing those who can most afford to pay. And it has numerous consumer protection provisions, including the choice of a public health insurance option, to stop private insurance companies from turning health care reform into a corporate windfall.
But unfortunately, the House bill is not as affordable for middle-income people as the Senate bill and could cost some families more than they can afford to buy health insurance. The Senate bill does a better job here although it too can be improved.
Congress needs to combine the best of both bills into one historic piece of legislation that guarantees the quality, affordable health care we’ve all needed for so long.
Let’s hope Rep. Sires and Senators Lautenberg and Menendez are able to help improve health reform legislation in the upcoming House-Senate conference that will combine the bills and send the finished product to the President.