COLUMBUS, OH – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today participated in a panel discussion entitled “The Heart of Health Care Reform” to outline how proposed health insurance reform will work for middle class families in Ohio. Brown was joined by U.S. Reps. Mary Jo Kilroy (OH-15), Zack Space (OH-18), Betty Sutton (OH-13), Director of Ohio Department of Insurance Mary Jo Hudson, and Director of Ohio Department of Job & Family Services Doug Lumpkin at the program hosted by Ohio News Network (ONN). The panel will air Sunday, September 6, 2009 at 9 AM and 8 PM and again on Monday, September 7, 2009 at 8 PM. 

“All Ohioans deserve the highest quality of care at a rate they can afford, but that’s not what big insurance companies are providing.” Brown said. “Health insurance reform will protect American families and businesses against insurance industry practices that limit care or pass along huge out-of-pocket costs to consumers. That’s why I’m working to pass health insurance reform that puts Ohioans first.”

Earlier this week, Brown hosted a town hall in Cincinnati convening more than a thousand Ohioans to discuss health insurance reform. Brown heard testimony from Ohioans struggling with rising health costs and access to medical care and opened the forum for a question and answer session with the audience. 

In Ohio, average family health insurance premiums have increased by 92 percent since 2000 while wages have stagnated. It is estimated that Ohio families and businesses pay a “hidden tax” of around $1,000 per year on their health insurance premiums to compensate for the costs of caring for the uninsured.  Nearly 400 Ohioans lose their health insurance each day. Eleven percent of Ohioans are uninsured, and 64 percent of them are in families with at least one full-time worker.

High health costs are also undermining the competitiveness of Ohio businesses. While small businesses make up 72 percent of Ohio businesses, only 47 percent of them offered health coverage benefits in 2006. Businesses also pay high costs to cover their employees, due to limited choice of health insurance in Ohio.

Brown, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, outlined how health insurance reform will reduce private insurance premiums and out-of-pocket health care expenses, while giving all Americans more affordable private and public insurance options during periods of unemployment.

Health insurance reform includes the following protections for consumers against abusive practices by some insurance companies:

•    No Discrimination for Pre-Existing Conditions: Insurers will no longer be able to refuse coverage based on medical history.
•    No Exorbitant Out-of-Pocket Expenses, Deductibles or Co-Pays: Insurers will have to limit the charges they pass along to consumers each year in out-of-pocket costs.
•    No Cost-Sharing for Preventive Care: Insurers must fully cover regular checkups and tests that help prevent illness.
•    No Dropping of Coverage for Seriously Ill: Insurers can no longer drop policyholders or water down their insurance if they become seriously ill.
•    No Gender Discrimination
•    No Annual or Lifetime Caps on Coverage: Insurers will no longer be able to place yearly or lifetime caps on the medical care you receive.
•    Extended Coverage for Young Adults: Young adults would be eligible to stay on their family’s plan through the age of 26.
•    Guaranteed Insurance Renewal: Insurers can no longer refuse to renew a policy as long as the policyholder pays premiums in full.

The HELP Committee passed a health insurance reform bill with bipartisan input. More than 160 Republican amendments were accepted. Brown supports health insurance reform that includes the following elements:

•    Guarantees choice of plan for consumers (which includes keeping current coverage) while providing consumers new, more affordable private and public insurance options;
•    Reduces health care costs through market competition, stronger preventive services, better quality of care, and steps to root out fraud and abuse;
•    Strengthens prevention and wellness programs for millions of Americans;
•    Modernizes the health system and expands the health care workforce by investing in training for medical professionals and by better coordinating patient care;
•    Improves long term care and services for elderly and disabled Americans.