Senator trying to expand health care
At a time when health care is becoming a hot national issue, U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia is in a position to do some of the heavy lifting. Rockefeller chairs the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Health Care. He's been a leader in extending health insurance coverage to more and more Americans, and in trying to improve medical care for veterans.
For instance, Rockefeller was one of the driving forces behind CHIP, the Children's Health Insurance Program. His current legislative agenda includes expanding coverage opportunities for both children and adults.
Rockefeller is one of the cosponsors of the Medicare Early Access Act, which would allow people between 55 and 64 to buy into Medicare early. This would benefit older people who have no health insurance coverage due to layoffs or early retirement, not to mention the budget-breaking costs of private insurance.
Another Rockefeller bill would reduce some of the gamble that people take when they choose one insurance company over another. If you've ever tried to compare a variety of health plans, you know what we're talking about. It's a dice roll. No two plans are exactly alike, so it's hard to match coverage and premium costs. It's almost like the system is designed to baffle folks.
This confusion adds to doctors' bills as well, since physicians have to deal with a multitude of different insurance forms and restrictions. To make it easier to get through the maze, Rockefeller has introduced a health care labeling bill – the Informed Consumer Choices in Health Care Act.
If passed, the bill would require insurance companies to put together a simple "Coverage Facts" page, like the consumer information on a box of cereal or a can of beans. The sheet would clearly spell out what the policy covers, how much will be paid for each procedure or service, and how much the patient can expect to pay out of pocket.
After all, there's a lot more to picking an insurance plan that just the lowest premium. What good is a low premium if little or nothing is really covered?
Those who fear that a national health system would restrict people's care should keep in mind that insurance companies – and people's lack of insurance in too many cases – are already restricting their medical care every day.
Senator Rockefeller should be commended for consistently attacking the problem.