Americans Rank Access to Care and Costs as Most Urgent Health Care Problems

A new Gallup poll released today underscores the urgent need for comprehensive health insurance reform. Americans surveyed overwhelmingly identified access to care as the 'most urgent health care problem' facing the U.S. today for the third straight year in a row (32%). High health care costs were also cited as a pressing problem — ranking second on the list with 18%.

The Affordable Health Care for America Act passed by the House improves access to care:

Extends health insurance coverage to 96 percent of Americans — including 36 million currently uninsured people.

Provides immediate help for the uninsured with an interim high-risk pool — a temporary program until the Health Insurance Exchange is available for individuals who have been uninsured for several months or denied a policy because of a pre-existing condition.

Allows young people up to age 27 to remain on their parents' insurance policy, at their parents' choice.

Increases funding for Community Health Centers to allow for a doubling of the number of patients seen by the centers over the next 5 years.

The Affordable Health Care for America Act passed by the House lowers health care costs for America's families and small businesses:

Makes coverage more affordable by reining in rising health costs. The House bill introduces competition that will drive premiums down, capping out-of-pocket spending, ensuring no more co-pays for preventive care, ensuring no yearly and lifetime caps on what the insurance company will cover, and providing affordability credits to bring down premiums for those who need them. For small businesses, tax credits will help them cover their workers, and eliminating health status rating means they won't pay higher premiums based on their employees' health status.

Results in lower premiums. The House bill creates a Health Insurance Exchange for those who do not have access to affordable employer-sponsored coverage. An analysis of the bill by the noted MIT health care economist Jonathan Gruber shows that the bill would result in lower premiums than under current law for the millions of Americans using the Exchange — including those who are not receiving affordability credits to help them purchase coverage. Gruber estimates that families not receiving subsidies would see their premiums reduced by 12 percent, families making 275% of poverty would see their premiums reduced by 47 percent and families making 175% of poverty would see their premiums reduced by 84 percent.

Lowers costs over the long term. The House bill rewards care that prevents hospital readmissions, promotes doctors working together to coordinate your care better, cuts waste and fraud, invests in prevention and wellness, strengthens primary care, and institutes key delivery system and payment system reforms that give health care providers incentives for the quality, not the volume, of services.

Improves choice and competition. There is little competition in the current health insurance marketplace–in the vast majority of states today, one or two insurance companies control more than half of the market. To increase competition and keep insurance companies honest, the House bill provides those who must buy their own insurance the choice between private plans and a public health insurance plan. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that this public health insurance plan would save taxpayers tens of billions of dollars.

In addition, the Medicare Physician Payment Reform Act passed by the House last week protects seniors' access to doctors — and the Affordable Health Care for America Act increases their access to primary and preventive care.