Action on Uninsured, Medicare Unlikely This Year, Thompson Says
HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson said yesterday said that the slowing economy and increased "budget pressures" have decreased the chance that Congress will be able to fund proposals to reduce the number of uninsured and reform Medicare this year, the Los Angeles Times reports. Earlier this year, Congress passed its fiscal year 2002 budget resolution, it set aside $28 billion over three years to reduce the number of uninsured largely by expanding the Children's Health Insurance Program, and $300 billion over 10 years for Medicare reform, including the addition of a prescription drug benefit. In an interview with the Times, Thompson said both of these proposals were contingent on Congress' ability to come up with funding. "The reality is the economy is starting to contract, and when it does you don't have as much money. [The] $28 billion would be a nice fix toward helping the uninsured, but ... I don't know if it's going to be there," he said. Instead, Thompson said the Bush administration would focus on passage of two other plans to help the uninsured: an increase in the number of community health clinics from the current 1,200 to 2,000 by 2006, and the introduction of tax credits for the purchase of health insurance. While the clinics, a "low-budget program," have bipartisan support, Senate Democrats are opposed to the tax credit proposal, saying the amounts sought by the administration -- $1,000 for single persons and $2,000 for couples -- are not high enough to enable the uninsured to buy private insurance. Thompson, however, said that these subsidies are "enough to put [the uninsured] over the top" in deciding whether to purchase a policy (Rosenblatt, Los Angeles Times, 8/24).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.