White House Health Care Plan Revealed Today

Today’s the big day – President Obama for the first time will throw his full weight behind a health care plan with the White House stamp of approval, a hybrid piece of legislation the administration is posting online at 10 a.m.

Obama has endured criticism for months that he wasn’t giving Congress enough guidance beyond broad health care principles, saying that he supported both the House and Senate bills which passed last year.

Now, the endgame approaches. We’ll have lots for you today detailing the compromise proposal which tees up Obama’s bipartisan Congressional health care summit Thursday.

Meanwhile, Congress comes back to town and we’re expecting even more senators signing onto a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid urging he use reconciliation (which needs just 50 votes with Vice President Joe Biden as the tiebreakers) to pass a public option plan.The White House leaked some details of the plan to the New York Times last night.

Among the highlights in the Times story is that Obama will propose new government power to block insurers from imposing massive rate hikes on customers. It’s inspired by the 39 percent proposed increases from Anthem Blue Cross in California.

More from the piece:

[A]dministration officials said it will incorporate legislation proposed last week by Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, in response to the Anthem increases and officials said would “help make sure that people are not unfairly subject to arbitrary premium hikes.”

The president’s bill would grant the federal health and human services secretary new authority to review, and to block, premium increases by private insurers, and it would create a new Health Insurance Rate Authority, comprised of health industry experts that would issue an annual report setting the parameters for reasonable rate increases based on conditions in the market.

The legislation would call on the secretary of health and human services to work with state regulators to develop an annual review of rate increases, and if increases are deemed “unjustified” the secretary or the state could block the increase, order the insurer to change it, or even issue a rebate to beneficiaries. States would be eligible for a portion of $250 million in grants finance premium review and approval.

The new rate board would be composed of seven members, including consumer representatives, an insurance industry representative, a physician, and other experts such health economists and actuaries, the White House said. The board’s annual report would offer guidance to the public and states on whether rate increases should be approved.

The president’s bill, like the measures adopted by the House and Senate, is expected to require most Americans to obtain insurance, and would provide new federal subsidies to help moderate-income people afford to buy private coverage.

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