April 24, 2008

Senators Expand Employer and Employee Choices for Affordable, Universal Coverage Under the Healthy Americans Act

Washington DC - Continuing their effort to modernize the employer - employee healthcare relationship, U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Bob Bennett (R-Utah), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) introduced an amendment to the Healthy Americans Act (S.334) that makes it clear that working within the HAA framework, employers can choose to continue offering health care as a benefit to their employees.

"We are pleased to be able to expand the array of choices that will be available under the Healthy Americans Act," said Wyden. "Our goal has always been to not only guarantee that every American has quality, affordable health care, but to give everyone the ability to choose the plan that works best for them and their families."

"One of the core principles of the Healthy Americans Act is to provide individuals and families with a variety of options to customize their health care coverage to fit their specific needs," said Bennett. "The introduction of today's amendment supports the tenets of choice and flexibility."

"I am pleased that we are putting forward this bipartisan amendment to address a concern I raised when becoming a cosponsor of this important legislation," said Stabenow. "This amendment ensures that someone who currently has a good insurance plan and wants to keep that plan is able to do so. As we work to address the health care crisis facing our nation, we must be sure that no one is left behind. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to ensure we have a health care system that works for all Americans."

Today's amendment comes in response to concerns expressed by individuals who are happy with their employer-sponsored health benefits and are afraid of losing their current coverage under a new system. The Healthy Americans Act now clarifies that employers can continue offering their employees the same health benefits that they do today so that employees will be able to continue under their current plans without disruption or choose another plan offered in their state. During the two- year transitional period, employers will still be required to convert what they currently spend on their workers' health care into additional salary for their employees - the added benefit being that, by redirecting tax benefits to individuals, rather than employers, the Healthy Americans Act not only gives individuals a choice in where they get their coverage, but allows them to keep their health benefits even when they change jobs, lose jobs or can't find jobs.

Introduced by Wyden and Bennett, the Healthy Americans Act is the first bipartisan, comprehensive health reform bill with seven Democratic and seven Republican cosponsors. In addition to guaranteeing that every American can afford quality, private health insurance, HAA promotes personal responsibility and preventative medicine and reforms the insurance market so that insurers are forced to compete on price, benefits and quality.

To learn more about S.334 visit http://wyden.senate.gov/haa and http://bennett.senate.gov