UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE: Wellstone Revisits Idea
Reintroducing a concept that had been brushed under the carpet since the early 1990s, Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) will propose today a decentralized universal health care coverage plan, CongressDaily/A.M. reports. Wellstone, an advocate for the "single payer" national health movement in the early 1990s, will introduce his "Health Security for All Americans Act," which would allow states to determine how to extend health care coverage to their citizens. Initially, states would be given financial incentives to cover everyone with incomes up to 300% of the poverty level, which is $50,000 for a family of four. All uninsured residents must be covered by December 31, 2005. States would receive funding based on an "enhanced" version of their Medicaid funding formula. The coverage states choose to offer must be at least as generous as that provided by the Blue Cross/Blue Shield standard option plan for federal workers. A sliding fee scale, based on household income, would determine individual out-of-pocket expenses. Wellstone's proposal also includes measures popular among congressional Democrats, including mental health and substance abuse parity and the patient protections included in the House version of the patients' bill of rights. Wellstone's bill also calls for long term care demonstration projects and would require HHS Secretary Donna Shalala to submit to Congress recommendations for a Medicare prescription drug plan. The Service Employees International Union has already endorsed the bill and will run advertisements in its support during the Republican and Democratic conventions (Rovner/Fulton, CongressDaily/A.M., 7/19).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.