States reap benefits with health reform

Sens. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., and Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., took center stage in the health care debate this past week. Both have threatened to join a Republican filibuster against the Senate health reform bill if their personal disagreements with it aren’t addressed.

A new report, however, from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) analyzing the potential impact of the Senate bill suggests that the social cost of this political gamesmanship may be high.

A successful Republican filibuster would keep in place the broken health system. Across the country, it leaves about 50 million without health care coverage and tens of millions more subject to arbitrary insurance company policies that deny coverage.

“Families, seniors and businesses are all suffering under the health care status quo,” said Sebelius in announcing the release of the new report. “Our new reports demonstrate how health insurance reform will improve health care for all Americans.”

According to a Business Roundtable study released last week, employer-based insurance costs could triple for businesses, if a Republican filibuster succeeds.

Small business owners would be priced out of the market. They would increasingly be forced to choose between paying good wages and providing health benefits.

In the new HHS study, the benefits of reform are laid out state by state. Arkansas, for example, would see some 481,000 of its residents who now lack health care coverage gain affordable access to insurance.

In addition, some 36,000 small businesses would get a new tax credit to help buy coverage for their employees. Currently, only 27,000 Arkansas small businesses can afford health benefits.

Almost 90,000 seniors would see new savings for prescription drugs. Over one-half million Arkansas seniors on Medicare would benefit from new savings from reduced taxpayer overpayments to privatized plans and would gain access to free preventive care.

As a result of health reform, Arkansas taxpayers would see a savings of about $650 million each year, the study showed. With expanded coverage, the state government no longer would have to pay for uncompensated care that is now so much a part of the broken health system.

In Connecticut, more than 350,000 residents without any insurance would have access to affordable coverage if reform passes. Another 150,000 people who rely on the expensive and inadequate private individual insurance market would get access to less expensive group coverage.

More than 97,000 Connecticut seniors would be able to buy their prescription drugs at more affordable prices. More than 540,000 seniors would get access to free preventive care.

At least 37,000 small businesses would be eligible to new tax credits and subsidies to provide health insurance. Currently, only about half of the state’s small businesses can afford to provide health benefits to their employees.

Connecticut tax payers would also benefit from a savings of $383 million annually the state government now pays for uncompensated care.

These kinds of statistics are available for every state at That HHS web site also shows that more than 97,000 businesses in Washington and 51,000 in Louisiana would see new subsidies and tax credits to provide health benefits.

About 1.4 million people in Ohio and 1.3 million people in Michigan who currently health insurance would have access to affordable coverage if health reform passes, the HHS said.

At least 250,000 Maine seniors would have new access to free preventive care services, HHS added. Almost 45,000 seniors in that state would see big savings in prescription drug costs if reform passes.

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Joel Wendland-Liu
Joel Wendland-Liu

Joel Wendland-Liu teaches courses on diversity, intercultural competence, migration, and civil rights at Grand Valley State University in West Michigan. He is the author of The Collectivity of Life: Spaces of Social Mobility and the Individualism Myth, and a former editor of Political Affairs.