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Glossary of healthcare terms

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2009-09-09

The war-of-words in the US healthcare debate has been waged using an arsenal of complex terms that have sometimes not helped the complicated, acrimonious nature of the discourse. FRANCE 24 offers a shortlist of healthcare buzzwords.

HELP (also referred to as ‘Senate health committee’): The Health, Employment, Labour and Pensions Committee is the US Senate committee that considers matters relating to health, education, labour, and pensions. Was chaired by Democrat Sen. Edward (Ted) Kennedy until his Aug. 25 death. Current acting chairman is Connecticut Democrat Sen. Christopher (Chris) Dodd.

Medicare: US government-run health insurance programme providing coverage to people over 65. Also covers disabled Americans under 65 who meet tight qualifications. First Medicare beneficiary was former US President Harry Truman, who received his card at a bill-signing ceremony by then US President Lyndon Johnson.

Medicaid: US government-run health insurance programme for individuals and families with low incomes and resources as well as qualifying people with certain disabilities. Since each state administers its own Medicaid programme, different states may have different terms – eg. “MassHealth” for Massachusetts, Medi-Cal in California.

The Uninsured: Americans or US residents with no health insurance. Nearly 46 million - 45.7 million to be precise, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) - have no insurance. That’s about 15.3% out of a total 305 million-strong population.

The Underinsured:  People with an insurance plan that provides poor coverage against illness. Some researchers define it as spending more than 10% of income on out-of-pocket medical costs.

Public option: Including a government-run insurance company to compete with private health care providers in the healthcare options mix. Critics call it a “European-style” or “socialist-style” service.

Individual mandate: Deems that Americans should be required by law to obtain health insurance.

Employer mandate: Calls on employers to provide their employees with healthcare coverage.

Senate Finance Committee: Standing committee of US Senate that concerns itself with taxation and revenues. Has played a big role in the healthcare debate since this is the body charged with overseeing the final bill. Chaired by Sen. Max Baucus, a Democrat from Montana.

Gang of Six
: Comprised of six “centrist” members of the Senate Finance Committee – three Democrats, three Republicans. This bipartisan group is working on a compromise healthcare legislation. Group includes Sen. Kent Conrad (Democrat), Sen. Jeff Bingaman (Democrat), Sen. Max Baucus (Democrat), Sen. Charles Grassley (Republican), Sen. Olympia Snowe (Republican) and Sen. Mike Enzi (Republican).

Doughnut hole: Usually refers to the gap in Medicare's prescription drug coverage that costs some seniors thousands of dollars before drug reimbursement coverage kicks in again. In other words, it’s a drug coverage gap that occurs after the individual’s drug costs for the year reach $2,700; the coverage does not resume until his or her costs exceed $6,154 for the year.

Date created : 2009-09-09