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Letters to health-care Santa: More affordability, please

180px-Andystern.JPGOver the course of this week, I'll be asking some health-care experts what they'd like Santa to add to the bill during conference committee, and publishing their responses on the blog. Joining us now is Andy Stern, president of SEIU, the fastest-growing union in America. His union hosted the first campaign forum on health care, and has been one of the main participants in the process ever since.

The bottom line: affordability – to make sure people can afford the care they need, when they need it. Let’s be clear, the Senate took some and the House took more good steps to make that happen. But we can and should do more to protect families from spending down their savings or worse going broke simply because they got too sick.

Let’s say you and your spouse make $41,000 and have an 8 year old child. If your employer doesn’t offer coverage and you’re on the exchange, between premiums and out of pocket costs, you could pay more than 20 percent of your income for family coverage under the Senate plan. That's a full $2,100 more than the House's. Now, $2,100 might not be much to members of Congress, but for a family trying to make ends meet it's the difference between just getting by and trying to climb out of a hole.

There are several other provisions that should be strengthened in conference to make health-care reform truly affordable;

1) Expand Medicaid to those families making less than $27,000;

2) Make sure employers aren’t rewarded for cutting workers’ hours to avoid paying their fair share;

3) Don’t tax workers more for health-care benefits that are no better than their members of Congress or as a result of the age of the group or a lack of competition because of insurance monopolies in their state.

Earlier in this series, Diane Archer called for Congress to create national exchanges rather than state exchanges, Alain Enthoven offered some ideas for how to fix the exchanges, David Cutler proposed a soda tax, Austin Frakt argued for competition in the Medicare Advantage program, Jacob Hacker broached letting the public sector help the private sector negotiate lower rates, George Halvorson tried to expand the exchanges to include providers of actual care rather than just insurance coverage, Henry Aaron wants the death panels back, Jon Gruber wants the House's definition of decent insurance coverage to prevail, Victor Fuchs would like to turn the exchanges over to Ron Wyden, Harold Pollack thinks it's time to cut the waiting period for the disabled, and Matthew Holt wants to let our data free.

By Ezra Klein  |  December 23, 2009; 4:30 PM ET
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Next: Letters to health-care Santa: More payment reform in Medicare


Andy Stern is a health care expert?

I'm pretty impressed with the group as a whole-- he's clearly the one that doesn't belong. He's a special interest group, and unless you've got posts from Billy and Karen coming next, let's leave all of them out of this. They're the problem, not the solution.

Posted by: wisewon | December 23, 2009 4:48 PM | Report abuse

You just insulted the rest of the contributors by lumping them in with Andy Stern. What a joke.

Posted by: ab13 | December 23, 2009 5:32 PM | Report abuse

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