U.S. Senate Republicans Pitch Universal Health Care Proposal
A group of Republican senators on Thursday unveiled a universal health plan that would provide refundable tax credits to U.S. residents who purchase private health insurance, McClatchy/St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.
The legislation, called the Every American Insured Health Act, is co-sponsored by Sens. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and has not yet been filed.
Under the proposal, individuals would be eligible for special tax credits of $2,160 to help cover the cost of health insurance and other health-related bills, and families would receive tax credits of up to $5,400.
The proposal also would begin taxing the value of employer-sponsored health plans. Such plans currently are tax free for employers and workers.
Martinez said the tax credit would cover an employment family health plan worth up to $15,000. He added that the bill would give U.S. residents "buying power" by allowing them to find coverage that best suits their needs.
Martinez said, "It's time for a major debate on health care insurance ... Our aim is to remove inequities in our tax laws that make tax relief for health insurance available to everyone."
Burr said the lawmakers developed the proposal in response to legislation in the House and Senate that would reauthorize and expand SCHIP.
Coburn said, "Rather than forcing our children to board a sinking ship, we can allow all Americans to buy their own boat."
However, advocates for the uninsured say the plan could affect access to care for low-income families and people with chronic illnesses. Advocates also say the proposal could lead employers to completely eliminate health benefits for workers.
Kathleen Stoll, director of health policy for Families USA, said that the bill does not contain new ideas and that Republicans have been trying for some time to dismantle the employer-based insurance system. "When we eliminate that tax break for [the system], we should do that with extreme caution" (Barrett, McClatchy/St. Paul Pioneer Press, 7/27).
In related news, CNBC on Thursday included a discussion on universal health care with Michael Tanner, director of health and welfare studies at the Cato Institute, and Jonathon Gruber, a professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Griffeth, CNBC, 7/26).
Video of the segment is available online.