“This cost crisis is trapping us in a vicious cycle. As premiums rise, more employers drop coverage, and more Americans become uninsured. Every time those uninsured walk into an emergency room and receive care that’s more expensive because they have nowhere else to turn, there is a hidden tax for the rest of us as premiums go up by an extra $922 per family. And as premiums keep rising, more families and businesses drop their coverage and become uninsured.”
» University of Iowa, May 2007

Sen. Barack Obama’s, D-Ill., health care plan has three major parts that, he says, build upon the strengths of the U.S. health care system, including innovative efforts by some of the states, and address its weaknesses, such as affordability. Obama says his plan would be available to all Americans, but requires that everyone under the age of 21 be covered. Obama says that his plan will save the typical American family up to $2,500 a year on medical expenditures. Here are some of his proposals.

Provide affordable, comprehensive and portable health care coverage for every American.

  • Guaranteed eligibility — No American would be turned away from any insurance plan because of illness or pre-existing condition.
  • Comprehensive benefits — The benefits package would be similar to that offered through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. The plan would include coverage of all essential medical services, including preventive, maternity and mental health care.
  • Subsidies — Individuals and families who don’t qualify for Medicaid or State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP, but still need assistance, would receive income-related federal subsidies to keep health insurance premiums affordable. The subsidy can be used to buy into the new public plan or purchase a private health care plan.
  • Simplify paperwork and reduce health costs — Plan will simplify paperwork for providers and increase savings to overall system.
  • Portability — Participants will be able to move from job to job without changing or jeopardizing their health care coverage.
  • Quality and efficiency — Participating hospitals and providers will be required to collect and report data to ensure that standards for health care quality, health information technology and administration are being met.

Modernize the U.S. health care system to contain spiraling health care costs and improve the quality of patient care.

  • Reduce costs of catastrophic illnesses for employers and their employees. The plan would reimburse employer health plans for a portion of the catastrophic costs they incur above a threshold, if they guarantee such savings are used to reduce the cost of workers’ premiums.
  • Lower costs by ensuring patients receive and providers deliver quality health care.
  • Support disease management programs.
  • Require full transparency about quality and costs.
  • Align reimbursement with the provision of high quality health care.
  • Reform medical malpractice while preserving patients’ rights.
  • Lower costs through investment in electronic health information technology systems.

Promote prevention and strengthen public health to prevent disease and protect against natural and man-made disasters.

  • Employers — Expand and reward efforts by employers to offer work site health promotion programs, onsite clinical preventive services such as flu vaccinations, nutritious foods in their cafeterias and vending machines, and exercise facilities.
  • Schools — Provide grant support for school-based health screening programs and clinical services, increased financial support for physical education and educational programs for students.
  • Workforce — Expand funding including loan repayment, adequate reimbursement, grants for training curricula and infrastructure support to improve working conditions among primary care providers and public health practitioners.
  • Individuals and families — Preventive care only works if Americans take personal responsibility for their health and make the right decisions in their own lives, such as eating the right foods, being active and not smoking. Obama says his plan would require all federally supported health plans to cover cancer screenings and smoking cessation programs. His plan would also increase funding to expand community based preventive interventions to help Americans make better choices to improve their health.
  • Federal, state and local governments — Governments at all levels should lead the effort to develop a national and regional strategy for public health, and align funding mechanisms to support its implementation.
*Sen. Obama’s voting record on health care issues:
Voted Topic Date
YES Requiring negotiated prescription prices for Medicare part D. April 2007
YES Expanding enrollment period for Medicare Part D. Feb. 2006
YES Increasing Medicaid rebate for producing generics. Nov. 2005
YES Negotiating bulk purchases for Medicare prescription drug. March 2005
Source: On the Issues

*Members of Congress sometimes vote on different versions of a bill. Voting yes or no on one doesn’t mean they’ll vote the same way on succeeding versions.