Ask the Experts About Reform: Where Are We Now and Where Are We Headed?

Before the Congressional summer recess began, four committees approved major reform bills; negotiations continue among some members of another. Now Congress returns having heard an earful from constituents about health care. We are clearly at a crucial stage in our consideration of how, and to what extent, we should reshape our health care system.

What is the status of major reform bills? How do they differ from each other, and from the plan that may emerge from the Senate Finance Committee? What are some of the outstanding issues that will need to be decided to get a bill to the President‚Äôs desk? Will the public option remain, or be replaced by nonprofit co-ops? What are some models for the co-op alternative? How far up the income scale will the subsidies for low income persons go under the various proposals? What financing mechanisms are on the table — Capping the tax exclusion for employer-provided health benefits? Cuts in some Medicare expenditures? Will there be an employer mandate, and, if so, which employers will be affected? How ambitious will the final proposal be? How exactly do these proposals contain costs, and reform the delivery system, and how long will those steps take?

Attendees at this briefing, cosponsored by Eli Lilly, came prepared to pose whatever questions they had about the current health reform efforts to an expanded panel of prominent experts which included: Henry Aaron, The Brookings Institute; Joe Antos, American Enterprise Institute; Bob Berenson, The Urban Institute; Judy Feder, Georgetown University; and Dennis Smith, the Heritage Foundation. Julie Rovner, of National Public Radio, provided a status update on the progress of the bills under consideration. Ed Howard of the Alliance moderated.

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