Kennedy Proposes To Extend Medicare
The federal government should implement a program to provide health insurance to all U.S. residents by 2010, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chair Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) said at a hearing Wednesday, the AP/Houston Chronicle reports (Freking, AP/Houston Chronicle, 1/10).
Kennedy proposed a plan that would extend Medicare to all residents and allow them to select from health plans offered to federal lawmakers and the president. According to Kennedy, the plan would save an estimated $380 billion annually through reduced administrative costs, a national electronic health records system and reduced overhead costs.
In addition, the plan would reduce costs because residents would receive preventive care for health conditions before they become more serious and expensive to treat, Kennedy said (Johnson, CongressDaily, 1/10).
Kennedy said, "The stakes couldn't be higher. Too many trends in health care are going in the wrong direction. Insurance coverage is down. Costs are up, and America is heading to the bottom of the league of major nations in important measures of the quality of care."
At the hearing, employer, labor and think tank representatives asked lawmakers to take action to reduce health care costs and the number of uninsured residents. Witnesses also asked lawmakers to fully fund the SCHIP program this year. In addition, some witnesses proposed to eliminate the relationship between employers and health insurance, provide employers with more flexibility to for purchasing pools to reduce health insurance costs, provide consumers with more information on health care quality and compare the effectiveness of the U.S. health care system with the systems of other nations.
Service Employees International Union President Andrew Stern, said, "We don't have a problem, we have a crisis. And it's getting worse. The solution is no longer a matter of policy -- but politics."
Karen Davis, president of the Commonwealth Fund, said, "Other countries are achieving universal coverage, much lower spending per capita and better health outcomes" (Agnes Carey, CQ HealthBeat, 1/10).
Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), ranking member of the committee, said, "My primary interest is to provide health insurance reform for small businesses and working families, and I believe that one million more people will be insured if we enacted the (small business health plans)" (AP/Houston Chronicle, 1/10).