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HELP draft legislation includes provisions to mandate access to coverage


By Matthew DoBias
Posted: June 5, 2009 - 5:00 pm ET
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Private insurance companies would be required to extend health coverage to virtually every American regardless of pre-existing conditions, medical history or genetic information and they would have the option to do so in a state-based health insurance exchange under provisions outlined in a draft bill being circulated by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

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Called the American Health Choices Act, the draft includes a number of proposals, including ones that would offer subsidies for people with incomes up to 500% of the federal poverty level, or $110,250 for a family of four, and another that would increase Medicaid eligibility to those with incomes up to 150% of the federal poverty level, or $33,075 for a family of four. The bill also calls for the creation of a Medical Advisory Council that would help set the terms of the insurance exchange.

The draft language, a little under 200 pages, is about one-third of what’s officially expected and deals largely with coverage provisions. It doesn’t include language for a public plan option.

The committee, which shares jurisdiction on health reform with the Senate Finance Committee, could begin negotiations on June 16.

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