Los Angeles Times Calls for Combining Tax Credits, CHIP Expansion
The goal of expanding health coverage to the uninsured is "excruciatingly close" to being realized, with a variety of proposals to do so through tax credits, expansions of public health programs, monetary incentives to employers or a combination of these measures, a Los Angeles Times editorial states. The editorial notes that as negotiations over next year's budget draw close, two proposals are "front and center" on the federal stage. The first -- creating a Medicare prescription drug benefit -- is likely to be dropped, as "virtually no one agrees on how Medicare should be restructured to allow such a benefit." The other priority, expanding coverage to the uninsured, is more likely to be achieved, the editorial states. The editorial explains that President Bush's proposal to spend $70 billion over 10 years to give low-income families a tax credit of up to $2,000 a year to purchase private health insurance "would do little to help the uninsured" if offered alone. "A more sensible plan," the editorial says, would be to offer tax credits in addition to expanding the federal children's health insurance program to include low-income working parents. The editorial notes that Oregon Sens. Gordon Smith (R) and Ron Wyden (D) will introduce a bill this week that would give states a fixed sum of money and allow them to use it either for providing tax credits or expanding public health insurance programs. Another proposal would offer incentives to employers to provide insurance to their employees, "addressing the GOP concern that public health insurance expansion might erode private employer coverage."
The editorial states, "Giving states the ability to expand the federal children's health insurance program is key to any successful reform," as the program would be able to "stretch the money further" than tax credits alone. However, the editorial notes, this proposal could be "derailed" by "obstinate partisans," including Republicans who "staunchly defend" Bush's tax cut proposal and Democrats who "insist that at least $80 billion" be funneled into expanding public health programs without creating tax credits. The editorial concludes, "Democrats should realize that an expansion of health insurance that does not include tax credits is politically doomed. GOP leaders should agree with moderates in their own party who call for reducing the overall tax cut to free up funding for the nation's most urgent health care needs" (Los Angeles Times, 4/4).