S. 1782, The American Health Security Act of 2013

Senator Bernie Sanders
Introduced in the Senate, December 9, 2013

Summary of S. 1782, The American Health Security Act of 2013

The American Health Security Act of 2013 (S. 1782) provides every American with affordable and comprehensive health care services through the establishment of a national American Health Security Program (the Program) that requires each participating state to set up and administer a state single payer health program.  The Program provides universal health care coverage for the comprehensive services required under S. 1782 and incorporates Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program and TRICARE (the Department of Defense health care program), but maintains health care programs under the Veterans Affairs Administration.  Private health insurance sold by for-profit companies could only exist to provide supplemental coverage.

The cornerstones of the Program will be fixed, annual, and global budgets, public accountability, measures of quality based on outcomes data designed by providers and patients, a national data-collection system with uniform reporting by all providers, and a progressive financing system.  It will provide universal coverage, benefits emphasizing primary and preventive care, and free choice of providers.  Inpatient services, long term care, a broad range of services for mental illness and substance abuse, and care coordination services will also be covered.

A seven-member national board (the Board) appointed by the President will establish a national health budget specifying the total federal and state expenditures to be made for covered health care services. The Board will work together with similar boards in each of the fifty states and the District of Columbia to administer the Program.

A Quality Council will develop and disseminate practice guidelines based on outcomes research and will profile health care professionals’ patterns of practice to identify outliers.  It will also develop standards of quality, performance measures, and medical review criteria and develop minimum competence criteria. A new Office of Primary Care and Prevention Research will be created within the Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The Program is designed to provide patient-centered care supported through adequate reimbursement for professionals, a wealth of evidence-based information, peer support, and financial incentives for better patient outcomes.  The Program seeks to ensure medical decisions are made by patients and their health care providers.

The Program amends the tax code to create the American Health Security Trust Fund and appropriates to the Fund specified tax revenues, current health program receipts, and tax credits and subsidies under the Affordable Care Act.  While the final structure of the financing component is still under consideration and is subject to change, the tax revenues in the draft include a new health care income tax, an employer payroll tax, a surcharge on high income individuals, and a tax on securities transactions.

The federal government would collect and distribute all funds to the states for the operation of the state programs to pay for the covered services. Budget increases would be limited to the rate of growth of the gross domestic product.  Each state’s budget for administrative expenses would be capped at three percent.

Each state would have the choice to administer its own program or have the federal Board administer it.  The state program could negotiate with providers and consult with its advisory boards to allocate funds.  The state program could also contract with private companies to provide administrative functions, as Medicare currently does through its administrative regions.  State programs could negotiate with providers to pay outpatient facilities and individual practitioners on a capitated, salaried, or other prospective basis or on a fee-for service basis according to a rate schedule.  Rates would be designed to incentivize primary and preventive care while maintaining a global budget, bringing provider, patients, and all stakeholders to the table to best determine value and reimbursement.

Finally, the Program also relieves businesses from the heavy administrative burdens of providing health care coverage, puts all businesses on an even playing field in terms of healthcare coverage, and increases the competitiveness of American companies in the global marketplace.  Every other industrialized nation has been able to use the power of a public authority to provide universal health care.  The American Health Security Act of 2013 seeks to do just that for all Americans and their businesses.

S. 1782, The American Health Security Act of 2013 (189 pages): http://www.sanders.senate.gov/download/american-health-security-act-of-2…

Introduction of another single payer bill – S. 1782, The American Health Security Act of 2013 – is very timely. Here’s why.

Implementation of the Affordable Care Act is proceeding, and a handful of citizens are pleased to finally gain entrance to an insurance market that they’ve been locked out of. Nevertheless, dissatisfaction is widespread because of a mandate to purchase insurance products that are expensive, that leaves individuals exposed to excessive out-of-pocket costs should they need health care, and that reduces health care choices by reducing the number of providers allowed in the insurance networks. Those with employer-sponsored plans are beginning to see the same changes that reduce both financial security and choices of physicians and hospitals. People are not happy.

The rocky rollout of the exchanges created more smoke than fire, but it did cause people to think more about whether Obamacare is a wise solution to the problems with our health care financing system. On the left, there is a loud and clear call to move forward with enactment of a single payer system – an improved Medicare for all. On the right, there is a loud clamor that Obamacare is so bad that we might end up with a single payer system. By some on the right, that’s posed as a threat, but by others it seems to be a dispirited acknowledgement that Obamacare is so bad, and the proposed Republican reforms are so ineffective, that people will demand a system that works – single payer.

Because increased awareness of the flaws in Obamacare, and because of the intensification of the national dialogue on single payer, along with the recent endorsement of respected thought leaders, now is the perfect time to introduce a new single payer bill. Sen. Bernie Sanders has introduced S. 1782 in the Senate, and Rep. Jim McDermott is sponsoring the sister bill in the House.

Some might be concerned that introduction of another single payer bill into Congress when we already have Rep. John Conyers’ single payer bill – H.R. 676 – could muddle the politics by diverting attention of potential supporters to the two bills, with a contest to decide which is the better legislation. There are differences in the bills, but it is crucial to understand that they are simply two expressions of the one single payer concept. The differences that we should be discussing in public are not the differences in these two bills, but rather the differences between an effective and efficient single payer model that achieves our goals, and our current highly inefficient, dysfunctional multi-payer model that falls far so short – the flawed model that Obamacare perpetuates.

When it becomes time to move the legislation forward, the details can be worked out. Proven single payer policies would be inviolate, but the markup would be directed more to crafting appropriate legislative language rather than to sabotaging beneficial single payer principles.

While there is a lot of noise and dissatisfaction, now is the time to push the single payer message. When we have people like Colin Powell, John Podesta, Steven Nissen and Donald Berwick willing to speak up, then we know it’s time for us to get to work.