Critical Condition

New Opening

After looking for ways to chop down the task of reading the 1,990 page House health reform plan, I’ve decided its time to start at the beginning.

HR 3962, as the bill Speaker Pelosi unveiled yesterday, has been numbered, opens differently than its predecessor, HR 3200.

Had HR 3200 become law, a long silence would have followed. Most of its health-care reforms would not have taken effect until 2013. The long pause could be for many reasons: to accommodate how long it will take to get the bureaucracy in motion; to wait until after the next presidential election; to reduce the ten-year cost number by pushing the start up date. All are true to some degree.

No such wait with HR 3962. After eight pages of the table of contents and eight more of definitions, HR 3962 opens with a set of immediate reforms. The Pelosi communications team helpfully highlighted things all the parts of the bill that take effect immediately.

Compared to the real force of the bill, which will come in 2013, these are microfixes and “in your face” items to the health-insurance industry. People who get turned down for coverage could get subsidized coverage immediately. The health insurers would face limits on “rescission,” when insurers rescind a previously issued policy. And there would be a standard for how much more than actual health claims insurers can charge as an insurance premium, although it probably will take all the time from now until 2013 to write the regulations to implement this “immediate” reform.

 — Hanns Kuttner is a visiting fellow at Hudson Institute.