THE UNINSURED: Congress Lays Out Bipartisan Plan
A "bipartisan, bicameral" health care tax credit plan introduced yesterday appears to be gaining "broad support," the Wall Street Journal reports. Sponsored by Sens. John Breaux (D-La.), Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Jim Jeffords (R-Vt.) and Reps. Richard Armey (R-Texas) and Calvin Dooley (D-Calif.), the measure would offer the uninsured a $1,000 tax credit for individual coverage and a $2,000 credit for family coverage. Supporters hope the initiative will help about 27 million workers who do not receive employer-provided coverage, but earn too much to qualify for government programs. According to the plan's drafters, it would cost about $70 billion over 10 years and would serve both middle- and low-income workers (Murray/Taylor, 1/27). "Why should the waitress or that person who works on your lawn ... have less access to health care in America than the high-paid executive? That is not acceptable. It must be corrected. I think we've got the right formula," House Majority Leader Armey said.
Tax reform advocates lauded the bipartisan proposal. In a letter to Armey, Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform wrote, "ATR supports your efforts to find a free-market solution to an issue like health care" ( AP/Worcester Telegram & Gazette, 1/27). Dr. John Goodman, president of the National Center for Policy Analysis, added, "For too long, Congress has ignored the way in which federal tax policy has been creating our health care problems. The tax system has shaped and molded our health system. In a very real sense, health reform is tax reform" (NCPA release, 1/26). But Chip Kahn, president of the Health Insurance Association of America, said the tax credits are "not practical" for low-income individuals. Families USA head Ron Pollack agreed, noting that for such a plan to work, "it's got to be enormous -- virtually the entire cost of coverage." He said the proposed tax credits do not meet that threshold (Wall Street Journal, 1/27). President Clinton will discuss his own $110 billion-health insurance package tonight during his State of the Union speech.