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Brown: Insurance reform will improve industry

Hospitals that are accountable is what Sen. Sherrod Brown predicts will come from the health care reform he and his colleagues in Congress are drafting, legislation he would like to see come for a floor vote by the first week in August.

That’s was one of the comments Brown made in a conference call Thursday afternoon that The Tribune participated in along with The Lorain Morning Journal and The Columbus Dispatch.

Recently the hospital industry, working with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, (D-Mt) stated it could increase savings in federal health care spending over the next 10 years. That savings will be earmarked for paying for health care reform.

“Right now hospitals get extra pay from the federal government, money given to hospitals to take care of so many people who are not insured,” Brown said. “We are going to see a more responsible hospital system.”

Joining Brown at his office in the Hart Senate Office Building was Nancy Ann DeParle, director of the White House Office of Health Reform, who applauded the hospitals’ efforts that she says is paying for the reform.

“They have come to the table saying, ‘We know we can do better,’ “ she said. “That is part of the reason why the reform is doing better this year than last.”

Brown quoted statistics that showed the percentage of Ohioans who struggle to pay medical costs.

“The great majority in Ohio counties have difficulty paying medical bills. For some in Appalachia it is as much as 40 percent,” the senator said.

The proposal will offer public insurance plans and sliding scale subsidies for those needing assistance to pay premiums.

Workers currently covered under employer-provided plans can switch from their private insurers to the public option, if they choose.

“The first step in this bill is to reform insurance company rules. There are no more pre-existing exclusions, no more discrimination based on gender and background,” Brown said.

With the public option, Brown expects the subsequent competition to keep private companies in line.

However, those who refuse to get insurance, whether public or private, will face fines to be determined by the Department of Health and Human Services.

“It is different this year. President Obama has learned from President Clinton’s mistakes,” Brown said. “The business community is much more supportive this year. They are pro-active.

The system is so much more broken than it was 15 years ago. Hospitals, more conservative and resistant to change no longer are.

Health care will make economic recovery stronger and more lasting.”