Thursday, October 1, 2009

TN's uninsured could soar without reform

Report says 1 in 5 could be without health insurance By Bill Theobald • TENNESSEAN WASHINGTON BUREAU • October 1, 2009 WASHINGTON — The number of Tennesseans without health insurance would reach 1.3 million and health-care spending would continue to skyrocket in the state over the next decade if nothing is done to change the system, according to a report released Wednesday. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's report estimates that, under the worst-case scenario, the number of uninsured in the state would increase from 953,000, or 17.7 percent of the population, to 1,115,000, or 20.1 percent of the population, by 2014, and to 1,263,000, or 22.1 percent of the population, by 2019. Tennesseans would face a 67 percent increase in health-care spending over the decade, while employers would face an increase of 109 percent increase in health-care premiums, and state spending on Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program would rise by 107 percent. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which focuses on health care, attempted to estimate what would happen in each state if no comprehensive reform is adopted. It provided best-case, intermediate-case and worst-case estimates for a number of factors. To read the complete report go to: Progress on health bill Congress has been locked lately in a battle to revise health care, which could bring more uninsured people access to insurance. One promising version of health-care legislation survived a long day of Republican challenges over abortion, illegal immigration and other issues Wednesday, and the bill's architect claimed enough votes for passage by the Senate Finance Committee, possibly by the end of the week. Emotions in Congress are running high as both houses edge nearer to floor votes on the legislation that is President Barack Obama's top domestic priority. Republicans expressed outrage that one House Democrat summed up their alternative as an invitation to sick Americans to "die quickly." "We're coming to closure," said Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., the Finance Committee chairman who has presided over daily sessions that began last week and occasionally stretched deep into the evening. "It's clear to me we're going to get it passed." Passage would clear the way for debate on the Senate floor on the bill, designed to accomplish Obama's aims of expanding access to insurance as well as slowing the rate of growth in overall health-care spending. The bill includes numerous consumer protections, such as limits on co-pays and deductibles, and relies on federal subsidies to help lower-income families purchase coverage. Its cost is estimated at $900 billion over a decade. Senate debate set The committee met as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada announced the full Senate would begin debate on health-care legislation the week of the Columbus Day holiday (Oct. 12). Initial action is expected to be slow, consumed largely with parliamentary maneuvers in which Democrats try to set the stage for passage and Republicans erect a 60-vote hurdle as a test vote. In the House, a Democratic lawmaker angered Republicans when he summed up their health-care alternative as the GOP wanting Americans to "die quickly" if they get sick. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., has refused to apologize for his remarks on the House floor Tuesday night. Republicans are likening the remarks to Rep. Joe Wilson's widely criticized shout of "You lie!" during Obama's address to Congress earlier this month. They say Democrats should insist that Grayson apologize just as they insisted Wilson, R-S.C., should. Inside the Senate Finance Committee, Democrats rejected attempts by Republicans to insert stronger anti-abortion provisions into the measure, as well as proposals to require photo identification to prove eligibility for benefits under federal health programs for the poor. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, argued that provisions already in the bill to restrict federal funding for abortions needed to be tightened to guarantee they would be ironclad. He said his goal was to incorporate the restrictions into law, "so we don't have to go through it every year." Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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