Debate on the Uninsured Centers on Tax Credits vs. Expansion of Programs
The Boston Globe today examines the current debate in Congress over the best way to reduce the number of uninsured in America, with Democrats generally in favor of expanding public health programs and Republicans favoring tax credits. The budget outline approved by both chambers earlier this year sets aside $28 billion over the next 10 years for the uninsured, but the logistics of the legislation are still undetermined. So far, President Bush has proposed a $1,000 tax credit for individuals to purchase health insurance, while House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) has called for a $3,000 credit for families. They, as well as many conservative groups, say that tax credits would provide the easiest and least expensive means of obtaining insurance. "Public programs have sort of reached their limit," Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute, said, adding, "Why not try something new?"
Many Democrats and health advocacy groups, as well as some Republicans, however, say that the government should expand Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program. Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), for instance, have proposed (S 1244) spending around $80 billion over the next decade to insure parents under CHIP, an expansion that Kennedy says would reduce the number of uninsured by one-third. Families USA Executive Director Ron Pollack, citing a recent report by his organization that found 81% of uninsured adults do not qualify for public health assistance, said there is much more that Medicaid can do. "Most of the public and many policymakers believe that Medicaid provides a health care safety net for all low-income people. This myth is grossly inaccurate and discourages corrective action that could significantly reduce the number of uninsured in this country," he said (Washington, Boston Globe, 8/14).