HIAA/AHA/Families USA Proposal to Cover the Uninsured Meets Criticism
A plan designed to "bridge the bipartisan divide" on the issue of the uninsured proposed by three "strange bedfellows" -- the Health Insurance Association of America, the American Hospital Association and Families USA -- has met its "first major criticism," CongressDaily/A.M. reports. The three organizations unveiled a proposal last month that would combine tax credits with state CHIPs to "guarantee insurance coverage" for all Americans with incomes less than 200% of the federal poverty level (Rovner, CongressDaily/A.M., 12/14). The plan's three-pronged approach calls for the following: expanding Medicaid to people under 65 earning up to 133% of the federal poverty level; allowing states to expand CHIP coverage to certain adults; and establishing tax credits for businesses to encourage them to provide coverage to workers (American Health Line, 11/21). But the proposal was criticized by House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chair Bill Thomas(R-Calif.) and subcommittee member Rep. Jim McCrery (R-La.) in a recent letter to GOP House members. The two-page "critique" advised members to review the plan more carefully before it "gets legs." The legislators wrote that the plan's "key problem" is that it "empowers bureaucrats, not individuals [by building on] the current byzantine and inefficient healthcare system."
According to CongressDaily/A.M., McCrery and Thomas support using tax credits to help the uninsured purchase their own coverage. The letter continues, "Instead of empowering individuals to choose the health plan that best suits them, it empowers others -- employers and (HCFA) and state governments -- to make these choices for them." The legislators' criticism "stung" advocates of the proposal, CongressDaily/A.M. reports, as they hoped the plan could "at least foster a dialogue on what has proved a nearly intractable issue to address." Families USA Executive Director Ron Pollack said in response to the criticism, "The whole purpose of our effort is to reduce the temperature, not raise it. We would much prefer to reach out gently and calmly [to legislators]." Pollack is currently promoting the plan with HIAA President Chip Kahn in California (CongressDaily/A.M., 12/14).