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Senate To Debate Health Care Reform

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WASHINGTON–Following the Senate’s vote Saturday to open debate on a health care reform bill, groups representing insurance agents and actuaries are voicing deep concern about the proposed legislation.

Covering the uninsured should not come at the cost of making the current employer-based system unaffordable, warned representatives of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors.

“Attempts to cover the uninsured should not come at the expense of the employer-based system that currently covers 160 million Americans or raise premiums beyond affordable levels for those now covered,” said Tom Currey, president of NAIFA.

Officials of the American Academy of Actuaries spoke out on the same issue, saying the individual coverage mandate provision in the Senate bill must be strengthened.

An effective and enforceable mandate would minimize adverse selection stemming from more restrictive issue and rating rules prescribed by the bill, the AAA said.

The comments by NAIFA and the AAA came as the Senate took the week off to observe the Thanksgiving holiday. The Senate late Saturday approved the critical motion to proceed on the bill


Republicans voted “no” in the 60-39 vote, while 58 Democrats and two independents voted in favor of debating the measure. Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, did not vote, saying the bill is too flawed for him to waste time opposing it.

The Senate debate on the bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, will resume Nov. 30.

The bill is comparable to H.R. 3590, health care reform legislation passed by the House Nov. 7.

Cori Uccello, senior health fellow with the AAA, said, “The individual mandate language should be strengthened.”

Uccello said the “viability of health care reform depends on attracting lower-risk individuals, and strengthening the individual mandate through higher financial penalties increases the likelihood that these individuals will purchase coverage.”

In his comments, NAIFA’s Currey also disputed the need for a so-called “public plan” in the legislation and said the Senate bill does not address “the devastating results of allowing individuals to purchase coverage after they are ill or injured–essentially leaving everyone in the system ‘on claim.’

Currey also took issue with the Senate version of a long term care entitlement program, the Community Living Assistance Services and Support Act, or CLASS Act.

The new opt-out long term care program, with its daily benefit of $50 to $75, is disappointing as it creates a sense of false security that is severely insufficient to meet the daily long term care for expenses now averaging $200 per day,” Currey stated. “This creates a disincentive for individuals to plan properly for their long term care financing needs. New health insurance responsibilities will have an economic adverse affect on many employers.”

In a note to members late Friday, lobbyists for the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers said they had expected the vote to debate the bill, “notwithstanding a massive public outcry and backlash.”

The note stated that it is difficult to envision at this time the outcome of the debate but said it was “more and more likely that the debate will spill into next year.”

For coverage of the debate about proceeding with debate, look here.

For coverage of the content of the bill itself, look here.


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