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Health Care Reform & the Nonprofit Sector

by Brenda Peluso

Individually, many of us have been following the health care reform debate with personal interest.  As an employer, the Maine Association of Nonprofits has been following the debate hoping a solution will emerge that addresses the high cost of providing quality benefits to our employees.  As a statewide association of other nonprofit organizations, our interest is twofold:

  • How does reform address the needs the many nonprofit employers in the state?  Maine nonprofits employ one in eight Maine workers and provide health care coverage at a higher rate than our for-profit counter parts.
  • How does reform impact the missions and individuals we serve?  Much of the health care delivery in Maine is done by nonprofit organizations and reform will have a huge impact on nonprofits’ ability to meet mission.

I just learned on a White House sponsored conference call that four committees in the US House and Senate have produced health care reform bills and that there are many areas of common ground in these bills, such as:

  • They all address reforming of the insurance marketplace by banning certain practices such as denying coverage for pre-existing conditions and dropping individuals who become severely ill, by requiring no-cost-sharing preventative care, by enhancing transparency to increase a consumer’s ability to comparison shop, and by providing premium subsidies to low income individuals.
  • They all have provisions for delivery system reforms such as promoting electronic records, the concept of “medical homes” and best medical practices to the public and physicians.

One of the provisions we would like to see is, if incentives are introduced to help employers cover the cost of providing health care coverage, these incentives should be accessible to nonprofit employers.  An example of an incentive that is often put forth is tax credits.  These work for small for-profit businesses, but not for the nonprofit sector which is income-tax exempt.

In September, when the Congress returns from the August Recess, the White House anticipates the bills being finalized by committee and introduced to their respective floors in the House and Senate.  They expect a bill to emerge from both chambers and then go to a Conference Committee who will reconcile the two versions of the bill.  They were hopeful that there would be a bill to sign by the end of this year.

Senator Snowe is a member of the Senate Finance Committee which is crafting a much anticipated bi-partisan health reform bill, one of the four mentioned above.  We have been invited to participate in a listening session would love to bring your concerns and thoughts to the Senator.

What is it about the current health care system that is not working for your organization?

What would you like to see be included in any reform package to come out of the US Congress?

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