UNINSURED: House Committees Mull Relief Proposals
The House Commerce Committee's health and environment subcommittee is expected today to take up proposals for a "legislative vehicle" to reduce the number of uninsured Americans, said committee Chair Michael Bilirakis (R-FL). Noting that the House Education and Workforce employer-relations subcommittee "would not be the only one to move a bill" (see story 4) on the uninsured, Bilirakis said his subcommittee's markup session will likely tackle "so-called HealthMarts insurance pools and federal subsidies for state high-risk pools." Subcommittee ranking member Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) said he had concerns about the proposals that could inadvertently help healthy participants only until they became sick. He called instead for more incremental programs, such as a Medicare buy-in for those aged 55-64. Rep. Greg Ganske (R-IA) suggested that instead of focusing on the uninsured as a whole, the panel should take a look at individual groups to devise strategies, suggesting that the subcommittee address state regulations, uninsured noncitizens and insurance barriers for college students. Meanwhile, the House Ways and Means Committee heard from a half-dozen House members about health and retirement security, after which Rep. Jerry Kleczka (D-WI) said that passing even a few of the proposals would "more than take up the (Social Security) surplus ... they would take the entire (budget) surplus." Ways and Means Chair Bill Archer (R-TX) agreed, predicting that while Congress can shore up Social Security and Medicare and still offer a tax cut, it would be strained to also finance additional proposals to "purchase health insurance, promote personal savings and strengthen employer-based pension systems" (Wegner/Lehman, 6/16).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.