Families USA, HIAA Unveil Plan to Expand Coverage
Hoping to shift the post-campaign spotlight back to the issue of the uninsured, officials at the Health Insurance Association of America, Families USA and the American Hospital Association are expected to announce Monday a proposal that could expand health care coverage to nearly half of the country's 42.6 million uninsured residents, the Hartford Courant reports. The three "diverse groups" agreed earlier this year to "put aside long-standing policy differences" and devise a plan to provide more people coverage.
The proposal offers a three-pronged approach -- providing states additional funds to broaden Medicaid eligibility; allowing states to expand CHIP eligibility; and offering tax credits to employers who provide coverage, which could be used to cover "part or all of the cost of premiums that are often too expensive for low-income workers." The groups did not have a cost estimate for the plan, but the Courant reports that the proposals could exceed $22 billion annually.
This election year, the issue of the uninsured has been largely overshadowed by other health care issues, including a Medicare prescription drug benefit. But the plan's sponsors hope to change that with their announcement, and some analysts are calling the proposal "a good starting point for discussion." Diane Rowland, executive vice president of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, said, "I think it is a reasonable place to begin discussion. If it puts the issue on the front burner, that's good." Rowland noted that some of the urgency about the issue was "drained" after a Census Bureau report released in September showed that the number of residents lacking coverage decreased in 1999 for the first time in 10 years. Executive Vice President of the Alliance for Health Reform Edward Howard was cautious about action on the plan. He said, "I think it's credible. If they're successful it couldn't hurt." However, he warned that any progress on the issue would come only if Congress and whoever is elected president agree to work together. But Rep. Nancy Johnson, (R-Conn.) predicted some congressional action next year. She said, "I think there will be a high level of interest" (MacDonald, Hartford Courant, 11/17).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.