Kerry Addresses Children’s Health Insurance Bill
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) on Monday held a rally in Seattle to build support for legislation (SB 114) that would expand health insurance coverage for people less than 21 years of age, the Seattle Times reports. Kerry's plan would spend an estimated $264 billion over the next 10 years to provide health coverage to people under age 21 with family incomes that do not exceed 300% of the poverty level (Song, Seattle Times, 5/3).
Under Kerry's bill, all U.S. residents younger than age 21 who have family incomes below the federal poverty level would receive federally funded health insurance through Medicaid. Children in families with annual incomes between 100% and 300% of the federal poverty level would receive benefits funded jointly by the states and the federal government (California Healthline, 3/15). The legislation would fund the expansions by repealing some personal income tax credits for people whose annual incomes exceed $300,000 (Connelly, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 5/2).
Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire (D), Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) joined Kerry at the rally. Murray said that providing health insurance to children was "not only popular, but ... also critical." About 11 million of the approximately 45 million uninsured Americans are children. Kerry this week also will discuss the legislation in St. Paul, Minn.; Baton Rouge, La.; and Miami (Seattle Times, 5/3). Kerry said, "We're going to the 'red states' with this," adding, "If we can't do the missionary work, we can't get the job done" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 5/2).
"If we believe drivers have a responsibility to buy car insurance, surely we believe parents have a responsibility to get health insurance for their kids," Kerry writes in a Times opinion piece. Kerry writes that provide health insurance to "every child won't require big tax hikes or new bureaucracy," concluding, "When it comes to getting kids health care coverage, it's a promise we can afford to keep -- and one we cannot afford to break" (Kerry, Seattle Times, 5/2).
Two recent opinion pieces also addressed the issue of the uninsured. Summaries appear below.
- "Cover the Uninsured Week," sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, "seeks to remind us that we have done nothing to cover the uninsured," Long Island Newsday columnist Marie Cocco writes, noting that the Institute of Medicine estimates that the uninsured account for between $65 billion and $130 billion in costs to the U.S. economy annually. According to Cocco, "appeals to equity or to some sense of national compassion have failed." She concludes, "If we don't care enough to find a way to cover the uninsured, we should at least do something because doing nothing is costing us" (Cocco, Long Island Newsday, 5/3).
- "Cover the Uninsured Week" is a "uniquely American event" because "health care is considered a basic human right" in "the rest of the industrialized world, where universal health care is the norm," columnist Richard Schwartz writes in a New York Daily News opinion piece. According to Schwartz, establishing a single-payer health care system in the United States "would save us nearly $250 billion a year on administration alone," in part because U.S. insurers "spend ungodly sums to set up risk pools, create payment schedules and reject insurance claims." Schwartz writes that a single-payer system is less expensive and "more equitable" because "everyone gets covered." He concludes, "In a modern industrialized nation, that's how things should be" (Schwartz, New York Daily News, 5/2).