Democrats take their turn at improving Affordable Care Act

The revised, Republican-drafted U.S. Senate bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act has garnered much media attention but you probably didn’t hear much about a proposal released last week from a group of 10 House Democrats to fix problems in the act.

The Democratic proposal seeks to protect people with pre-existing conditions and tackle rising premiums and deductibles. It also seeks to provide more insurance choices for consumers and encourage more people to enroll in ACA, according to its drafters, the New Democrat Coalition Affordable and Accessible Health Care Task Force.

The plan, which drew an initial favorable response from Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Matteson, chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust, calls for creating a $15 billion reinsurance fund to provide payments to insurers enrolling people with serious illnesses. It also calls for the continuation of cost-sharing reduction payments to insurers to help them offset the costs of offering discounts to low-income people.

Uncertainty in the industry about the payments is leading to fewer consumer choices and driving up premiums, task force representatives stated when they unveiled their plan.

The task force also proposed:

•Creating more options enabling older Americans nearing Medicare eligibility to buy into the insurance program.

•Expanding the availability of catastrophic health insurance plans with essential health benefits.

•Expanding tax credits by age, geography and income to help people pay premiums.

•Beefing up ACA marketing during open enrollment periods.

I welcomed the news that a group of Democrats had finally put forth an alternative proposal to address ACA’s problems. Too bad it wasn’t a bipartisan group. Task force representatives said its plan is based on input from health care experts, providers and patients.

Upon hearing about the plan last week, Kelly said, “I would…

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