Healthcare reform cuts alarm hospitals, insurers

Fewer Americans are being covered under the reform bill up for vote today, according to a report in the Chicago Tribune.

A series of compromises designed to control costs and limit federal subsidies in the face of Republican opposition and climbing federal deficits has reduced the number of uninsured who would be covered by the bill expected to emerge today from the Senate Finance Committee.

That's bitterly disappointing to the healthcare industry and Democrats alike. Many pundits expect nothing less than a showdown this week, as a result. Indeed, hospitals and insurers previously made universal coverage a condition of their support for healthcare reform.

The health insurance industry sounded the alarm yesterday in a report showing premiums would dramatically increase if universal coverage was not part of the reform deal. America's Health Insurance Plans, a lobby for the industry, commissioned a PriceWatersHouseCoopers report that says the cost of the average family coverage will rise from the current $12,300 to $18,400 in 2016 under current law and to $21,300 if the Senate bill is adopted.

The report may have backfired, as several Democrats are making the argument this morning that the report confirms competition, that is a public option plan, is needed--rather than universal coverage--to control premium costs.

Insurers and hospitals are continuing the struggle for universal coverage under private plans. "The larger the insurance pool, the better able you are to spread risk," Peter Harbage, a healthcare consultant who has advised Democrats in Washington, told the Chicago Tribune. "If you have universal coverage, you will have the most efficient system and best achieve affordable coverage."

The Senate Finance Committee bill is up for vote this morning.

For more on the story:
- see the Chicago Tribune article