Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell unveiled a long-anticipated plan to offer affordable healthcare coverage to small businesses and the uninsured through the private insurance market. A mandate that will require health insurance for those with incomes more than 300% of the federal poverty level ($60,000 for a family of four) and for all full-time college and graduate students will be phased in, he said. Companies that do not insure their employees will be assessed to help pay the cost of the program. The sweeping plan also aims to enhance access to healthcare by fully incorporating allied health professionals such as nurse practitioners, pharmacists and midwives, and it also promotes incentives to providers who offer services on evenings and weekends. To improve the quality of healthcare, the program calls for significant reforms to increase the accountability of everyone in the healthcare system, including consumers, and more effective regulation of the insurance industry to prevent spikes in premiums. The plan also updates hospital regulations to require patient-safety practices and electronic health records. In addition, the plan promotes a common-sense payment system that rewards wellness and stops paying for unnecessary or ineffective medical services and offers consumer incentives that reward healthy lifestyles. Parts of the program, which could begin operating in January 2008, will require legislative and federal approval. View the plan. -- by Cinda Becker
Pa. governor announces reform plan
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