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Sen. Obama's statement on underinsured Americans

Senator Obama believes that all Americans deserve health insurance that covers their important medical expenses.  It is unacceptable that 25 million Americans have coverage that nevertheless leaves them exposed to financial ruin when they get sick or injured.  Senator Obama understands that many people enroll in high-deductible health plans and limited benefit plans because they cannot afford the costs of comprehensive coverage. He will make health insurance affordable and accessible to all Americans, including the 25 million underinsured and the additional nearly 50 million who have no health insurance at all.  It is time for a real change that will provide health insurance Americans can believe in.

Senator Obama's proposed "Plan for a Healthy America" will enable all Americans – including workers, the self-employed and small businesses – to buy affordable health coverage that is similar to the plan available to members of Congress.

Senator Obama's proposal does this in two ways.  First, it works to lower the cost of medical care.  The plan stresses prevention and chronic care management, not just treatment when people are sick.  It also sets up health insurance exchanges which can reduce the administrative expense of health insurance and assure quality coverage in the private health plans and public plan that it offers.  And it proposes unprecedented investment in health information technology and other sources of knowledge so that we can know better what we do and pay smarter for the care that is provided.

Second, the Obama plan proposal will make health care affordable and accessible to everyone.  His plan will establish a National Health Insurance Exchange through which anyone can obtain coverage.  All health plans offered through the Exchange will include the comprehensive benefits that members of Congress and federal employees get through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP). The plan will cover all essential medical services, and will not turn people away just because they get sick.  Individuals and families will no longer fear that their health plan will leave them without sufficient coverage if they get sick or injured.

To make coverage affordable, the Obama plan will provide tax credits for all individuals and families who cannot afford health insurance on their own.  Those who need financial assistance will receive an income-related federal subsidy to purchase a private health care plan or buy into a new public plan through the National Health Insurance Exchange. In addition, the Obama plan will reimburse health plans for a portion of the catastrophic medical costs they incur above a threshold if they guarantee such savings are used to reduce the cost of workers' premiums.  These costs drive many small employers and individuals to abandon comprehensive coverage, exposing themselves and their families to medical debt by opting instead for high-deductible health plans.

Through these means, Senator Obama will make comprehensive, portable insurance coverage affordable for all Americans and will work to end the problem of underinsurance.