Support for GOP Tax Credit Plan Grows
President Bush has proposed a 10-year, $71 billion plan to offer refundable tax credits to uninsured Americans in his $1.96 trillion FY 2002 budget, a proposal that members of both political parties say has a "good chance of approval," the Sacramento Bee reports. The plan, called Fair Care for the Uninsured, would establish a refundable tax credit -- up to $1,000 for individuals, $3,000 for families -- that could be used to purchase private health insurance. Sens. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and Robert Torricelli (D-N.J.), sponsors of the Senate version of the bill, say their plan would cost $15.8 billion in 2002, providing insurance access for 11.9 million employees and spouses, 5.7 million children and 1 million retirees. The senators added that, "with inflation," the proposal would cost $160.1 billion over 10 years. While Bush has proposed a smaller program, White House Budget Director Mitchell Daniels said that the White House would "negotiate the amount with Congress." However, many analysts say that individuals and families could purchase "little, if any," insurance with the proposed amount. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey, the average price of a health insurance policy for a family of four exceeds $6,300 per year. Rep. Dick Armey (R-Texas), a sponsor of the House version of the plan, said that insurance companies would "drop their prices if a new group composed of millions of Americans became potential customers," adding, "Our plan would enable all Americans, regardless of income, to have access to health coverage, without new bureaucracy or costly mandates." Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, disagreed, maintaining that an employee tax credit would "give employers an excuse to drop benefits" and force employees to purchase coverage. "It is bad public policy to move away from an employer-based system," he said (O'Rourke, Sacramento Bee, 4/16).
In addition to the "groundswell of congressional support," American Medical Association also backs tax credits for the uninsured, AMA President Dr. Randolph Smoak said. The group has proposed a plan that would provide tax credits to allow the uninsured to purchase health coverage and offer "broad-based purchasing power" to organizations, churches and other not-for-profit groups, allowing them to purchase insurance for uninsured individuals (Bryant, Atlanta Business Journal, 4/16).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.