By state Rep. Josh Shapiro (PA-153)
With the enactment of the Affordable Care Act in Washington, the debate now turns to the states as we work to implement the new health insurance reforms effectively and efficiently, and to ensure the benefits flow seamlessly and affordable access is established for all Pennsylvanians.
One of the requirements of the new federal law is the creation of state-based health insurance exchanges. I am a cosponsor of H.B. 627, which will create these exchanges in Pennsylvania. Under H.B. 627, the Pennsylvania exchanges will facilitate the purchasing and sale of qualified health plans to all individuals and small businesses. The exchanges will establish a standardized rating system so consumers can more easily compare the pricing and benefits of each plan. In addition, the exchanges will benefit low-income individuals by offering tax credits and reduce out-of-pocket expenses for those who qualify. Moreover, consumers will still be free to purchase plans on the private market if they choose not to participate in the exchanges and do not have a qualified health plan through their employer. In short, if you like what you have you can keep it, if not, you will have more affordable options under our bill.
If Pennsylvania does not establish a health insurance exchange by 2014, the federal government will do it for us. That is why last month I was frustrated when the Republicans on the Pennsylvania House Health Committee, in a straight party line vote, approved H.B. 42, which effectively blocks the implementation of health insurance reform in our state. The majority members of the committee, who approved the bill without holding any hearings on the matter, have chosen to play partisan politics instead of working in a cooperative way to deliver affordable care to Pennsylvanians.
Instead of partisan grandstanding, we must work together to implement health-care reforms that benefit Pennsylvanians and their health needs. Once they are implemented, the state health insurance exchanges will increase access, reduce costs, and ultimately aid consumers and employers make enrollment choices that are best for them.
As we carry out this health insurance reform in Pennsylvania, I want to hear from you. Please call my office at 215-517-6800 or email me at JoshShapiro@pahouse.net with your feedback.
Shapiro represents the 153rd Legislative District in Montgomery County, PA. For more information, please visit www.joshshapiro.org.