Stark Announces Universal Health Insurance Bill
Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) on Tuesday announced a bill that would provide health insurance for all U.S. residents through contributions from employers, individuals and states, "which would kick in to cover their poor residents," the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The AmeriCare Health Care Act would establish a program that uses the low-cost Medicare administrative structure, as well as discounts obtained as a result of the large number of participants, to maintain lower premiums, Stark said.
Under the legislation, employers would have to provide health insurance for all full-time and part-time employees. In addition, the bill, which would not establish a "single payer," would allow program participants to retain their current health insurance and continue to visit their current physicians.
The legislation would cost the federal government an estimated $50 billion to $60 billion annually for the first several years. However, supporters "estimate that over time, savings would kick in," in part through a reduction in the number of uninsured residents, who often do not seek health care until their conditions become more serious and expensive to treat, the Chronicle reports.
AFL-CIO and Consumers Union have endorsed the bill.
Stark said, "The question is whether society will provide coverage for everyone or for just a wealthy few," adding, "Everyone should benefit from this bill, with the exception of the bankruptcy bar and collection agencies" (Epstein, San Francisco Chronicle, 7/26).
Rep. Jan Shakowsky (D-Ill.) said, "AmeriCare is more than a solution for the uninsured, it is a solution for the underinsured."
In related news, a bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) on Tuesday introduced a bill (HR 5864) that would help states develop programs to provide insurance to uninsured residents. The Healthcare through Creative Federalism Act -- co-sponsored by Reps. Bob Beauprez (R-Colo.), Tom Price (R-Ga.) and John Tierney (D-Mass.) -- would establish a grant process to encourage states to develop such programs.
The legislation, which would have to remain budget neutral over five years of authorization, would establish a committee operated under HHS that would include federal and state appointees to administer the grant process (Abruzzese, CQ HealthBeat, 7/25).