Robert Pear, NY Times: “Efforts to overhaul the health care system have moved ahead rapidly, with the insurance industry making several major concessions and the chairmen of five Congressional committees reaching a consensus on the main ingredients of legislation. The chairmen, all Democrats, agree that everyone must carry insurance and that employers should be required to help pay for it. They also agree that the government should offer a publichealth insurance plan as an alternative to private insurance.
But members of Congress are JUST NOW turning to the most explosive issues, which could delay or derail the process.
They have yet to tackle the question of how to pay for coverage of the UNINSURED.
They have not wrestled with vehement Republican objections to the idea of a new government-run insurance plan, competing directly with private insurers.
And they have not figured out the role of state insurance regulators, who enforce hundreds of state laws mandating coverage of a myriad of items, including infertility treatments, prostate cancer screening and acupuncture….The White House, displaying a surprisingly light touch, has encouraged Democrats in Congress to make the hard decisions while the administration holds forums around the country to hear suggestions from ordinary citizens.
Congressional leaders have set an ambitious timetable, under which the House and the Senate would vote on separate bills by the end of July. Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, has kept the heat on negotiators. ..In November, two weeks after the presidential election, the health insurance industry said it would ACCEPTall applicants, regardless of illness or disability, IFCongress required everyone to have coverage. The industry went a step further last week, offering to END THE PRACTICE of charging higher premiums to sick people in the individual insurance market.
But each point of agreement raises a host of questions. The government CANNOT require people to have insurance if they cannot afford it, so lawmakers must decide: Who would get subsidies? How much? And if the government subsidizes insurance, should it also prescribe the items and services that must be covered — the specific benefits or their overall value? … ”