UNINSURED: White House Studies Back Medicaid Expansion
The White House will present today two reports that support the expansion of CHIP or Medicaid to cover uninsured parents as a preferred strategy to reduce the uninsured population, the AP/Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The first study, completed by the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, reports that expanding children's health care programs to parents increases the likelihood that their children will be enrolled in the program (Ho, 9/5). Lead author Leighton Ku said, "Including parents is a good strategy not only because it reduces the uninsured, generally, and supports work, but also because it helps assure that children have needed coverage" (Rosenblatt, Los Angeles Times, 9/5). The report found that expanding Medicaid coverage to parents in 1994 helped Oregon, Hawaii and Tennessee increase enrollment of eligible children; from 1990 to 1998, coverage of eligible children age six and under in those three states increased from 51% to 67%, while states that did not expand their programs saw enrollment increase by only 3% to 54% overall. Since 1998, the District of Columbia and nine additional states -- California, Connecticut, Maine, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island and Wisconsin -- have approved expansions of Medicaid programs to cover more low-income families, including parents.
Tax Breaks Won't Cut It
A second report by the White House Council of Economic Advisers reviewed several studies on coverage strategies for the uninsured, and concludes that "expanding existing coverage or federal support for health care programs was superior to offering parents tax deductions or credits for health care" (AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 9/5). The report states that tax deductions would assist only 600,000 people who were previously uninsured, and because the deduction would only pay for a portion of the cost of insurance, "few people would buy it." In addition, a tax deduction strategy would cost taxpayers more than a federal program expansion: The expansion would cost $23 billion a year, while tax credits would cost $38 billion a year and tax deductions an additional $1.6 billion. The study concludes that the most efficient way to expand coverage to low-income people "is by increasing direct government coverage to all adults with family incomes below the poverty line," or about $17,000 a year for a family of four. The reports lean toward Gore's stance on the issue, the Los Angeles Times reports, as the vice president not only seeks to increase eligibility for CHIP but also to extend coverage to parents. Texas Gov. George W. Bush (R), on the other hand, has called for a $2,000 tax credit to assist health insurance purchases (Los Angeles Times, 9/5). Congress is also considering legislation to expand coverage under existing programs or through tax breaks (AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 9/5).