Wicker Introduces Bill to Lower Health Care Costs, Increase Options for Consumers

June 3, 2008

WASHINGTON – Saying there are too many individuals and families in Mississippi and across the country without access to affordable health insurance, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., has introduced legislation to improve the access to quality, affordable health care for Americans while empowering them to take more control over their health care decisions.  Wicker’s legislation, the Making Health Care More Affordable Act, provides health insurance options that are portable, meaning consumers could take their insurance with them if they move or change jobs.  

“There are currently 47 million Americans in our country without health insurance.  In Mississippi, there are over 500,000 uninsured adults, which equates to 18 percent of our state’s population,” Sen. Wicker said.  “This legislation addresses America’s damaged health care system by bringing together patient-driven reforms that will give Mississippians access to affordable health insurance.” 

Wicker’s legislation is based on six core provisions intended to address problems that are limiting health care choices for consumers and driving up costs. 

The Making Health Care More Affordable Act is based on the following provisions:

Health Insurance Tax Credit:  This provision would increase access to health insurance by providing a $2,500 refundable tax credit for individuals (and a $6,000 credit for a family of four) in order to purchase health insurance.

Small Business Health Plans:  This provision would help small businesses provide affordable health care for their employees by allowing them to band together to purchase health insurance.  This means small businesses can enjoy the buying power similar to that of labor unions and large corporations.

Purchase Health Care Across State Lines:  This provision would give individuals and families the freedom to find the best rates for health coverage.  In addition to maintaining their current choices, this would give consumers access to health care benefits and services in any of the 50 states.

Expansion of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs):  This provision would double the annual HSA contribution limits and allow Medicare beneficiaries and veterans to own HSAs.  HSAs are an alternative to traditional health insurance, allowing consumers to pay for current health expenses and save for future qualified medical expenses on a tax-free basis.

Health Care Tort Reform:  In order to limit the number of frivolous medical malpractice lawsuits that are driving up the cost of health care, this provision places a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages awarded in medical malpractice cases.

Health Information Technology:  This provision would establish an electronic medical records bank.  Medical technology increases healthcare productivity and reduces health care costs and the potential for medical errors.

Wicker said the answers to making health care more affordable and accessible are found in the patient-focused reforms proposed in his legislation, not by increased government involvement that will lead to fewer choices for consumers. 

“These six provisions will serve as a pathway to insuring the millions of Americans who are currently without health insurance,” Wicker said. 

Wicker’s bill is the Senate companion to legislation introduced in the House of Representatives by Representative Tim Walberg of Michigan.