Health Reform by the Numbers
Alaskans would see many benefits from pending legislation
Alaska families, businesses, seniors and individuals will see multiple benefits in the health reform legislation currently being discussed in Congress, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich said today. Lost in much of the partisan debate and hype have been many of the significant improvements that will make health care more affordable and accessible for Alaskans.
"Much of what you read and hear about these days is the fight over the health care bill, rather than the solid, positive changes that will make a real difference in the lives of Alaskans," Begich said. "My goal is to continue to work to get the correct information out as we work to improve this landmark legislation."
According to statistics compiled by Sen. Begich's office, there are a variety of items in the health care bill Alaskans would be able to take advantage of to make their health care and health insurance more efficient and affordable:
Assistance to Alaska families
· Expanding health care coverage - Most of an estimated 133,000 Alaskans who do not currently have insurance and 27,000 residents who now buy expensive individual premiums could get affordable new coverage, through the new health insurance exchange and other provisions.
· Providing affordability through tax relief - More than 52,000 Alaskans could qualify for tax credits to help them purchase health coverage. In Alaska, credits are available for single people earning up to $54,144 and for a family of four earning up to $110,304.
· Covering more children - Under reform, enrollment in Alaska's Children's Health Insurance Program (under Denali KidCare) will nearly double to more than 15,000.
· Ending the "hidden tax" on families - About $119 million is spent on uncompensated care in Alaska and passed on to insured families through a hidden tax averaging $1,900 per year. By expanding coverage to the uninsured, reform will help eliminate this burden.
Benefits for Alaska seniors
· Lowering premiums by reducing Medicare overpayments to private plans -
Reform clamps down on these excessive overpayments. Right now, Alaska's nearly
60,000 Medicare beneficiaries pay the price of excessive overpayments through higher premiums, even though 99 percent of Alaska seniors are not enrolled in the private plan, Medicare Advantage. A typical couple in traditional Medicare pays nearly $90 more in Medicare premiums to subsidize these private plans. This would end with reform.
· Reducing prescription drug spending - About 10,600 Alaskans hit the "doughnut hole" in Medicare drug coverage, which can cost some seniors more than $4,000 per year. Reform will provide a 50 percent discount for brand-name drugs in this coverage gap.
· Covering free preventive services - Currently seniors in Medicare pay part of the cost of preventive services. A seniors' share of a colonoscopy can cost nearly $200 - a price that can be prohibitive for those on fixed budgets. Under reform, a senior will not pay anything for that colonoscopy, or for regular checkups or other preventive services.
· Offering health coverage to early retirees - About 7,300 Alaskans have early retiree coverage, which often erodes over time. A reinsurance program would stabilize this and provide premium relief to early retirees.
Help for Alaska's small businesses
- Providing tax credits to make employee coverage affordable - Under reform 8,600 Alaska small businesses could be helped by a small businesses tax credit. The Senate bill offers $27 billion in tax credits nationally to help pay for premiums.
- Offering relief from employer mandates - Small businesses with 50 or fewer workers would be exempt from employer responsibility provisions. About 96 percent of small businesses nationally are exempt.
- Requiring more competition in the insurance marketplace - Reform creates a web-based insurance exchange for small businesses and the self-employed and places two new national insurance plans into the marketplace to make insurance more affordable by pooling buying power.
- Stopping discrimination against small businesses - Many insurance reforms will now protect the self-employed and small businesses, through no more denials for pre-existing conditions, cancellation of policies or excessive premium increases.