Health News Round-Up

As Congress continues to debate a range of proposals that could ultimately reform the nation’s health care system, a number of policy institutes have attempted to quantify the costs and benefits of the effort.

Health insurance reform explained: The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released a number of studies last week related to the national effort. One of the studies explains how and to what extent the three main proposals moving through Congress could make health coverage better and less expensive for many people.

The upshot: People without access to job-based health coverage would generally be able to find better plans under each of the three main bills than those typically available for individuals to buy in the current “individual market.” However, this new health coverage option would still be less comprehensive than the coverage that many Californians receive through their employers today. Read the full paper here.

Status quo: Earlier this month, the Urban Institute released a study projecting trends in health coverage, as well as costs, 10 years out, assuming no changes to the current system. The bottom line is not surprising: More uninsured and a smaller share of workers obtaining coverage through their jobs – even under the rosiest of economic scenarios.

In California, under the worst-case scenario – defined as relatively high unemployment, modest income gains, and accelerated increases in health costs – the share of Californians who obtain health coverage through work would drop substantially, while 27.0 percent of residents would find themselves uninsured, compared to 21.9 percent now, according to the report.

The best-case scenario – which assumes relatively low unemployment, greater income gains, and slower increases in health costs – results in a smaller increase in the share of uninsured Californians (23.6 percent would lack insurance) and a smaller reduction in the share of workers without job-based coverage. Read the full report here.

Insuring the uninsured: Meanwhile, the passage of health reform legislation could extend coverage to an enormous swath of uninsured Californians. More than three out of five of the 6.4 million Californians under age 65 who were uninsured all or part of the year in 2007 could obtain health coverage under current proposals in Congress, according to the latest policy brief from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.

— Hanh Kim Quach

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