Sunday, May 29, 2005
Robert Pear has a Page-One piece in today's New York Times on the unlikely-but-promising assemblage of "24 ideologically disparate leaders representing the health care industry, corporations and unions, and conservative and liberal groups [who] have been meeting secretly for months to seek a consensus on proposals to provide coverage for the growing number of people with no health insurance." The impetus for the talks wasn't only a humane instinct to address the health-care needs of 45 million Americans. It was also to address the increasing inability of the business community to shoulder the added costs of health care that result when uninsured patients lack access to primary and preventive care.
According to Pear, the consensus group is considering the following options:
- The federal government could require parents to arrange health insurance for their children up to a certain age, say 21. If the children were not eligible for public programs like Medicaid, the parents could obtain tax credits to help meet the cost.
- If an employer does not offer health benefits to employees, the workers could designate amounts to be withheld from their paychecks, along with taxes. These amounts would eventually be forwarded to insurers to pay premiums.
- The federal government could provide tax credits to low-income individuals and families or small businesses to help them pay for insurance. The full amount of the credit would be sent directly to the insurer.
- Medicaid could be expanded to cover any adult with income below the official poverty level (about $9,600 for an individual). Each state would decide for itself whether to do this, and the federal government would provide financial incentives for states to take the option.
- The federal government would offer small grants to states to help them establish insurance purchasing pools. Individuals and small businesses could buy coverage through these pools.
The group is expected to take its recommendations to the Bush Administration and Congress later this year. [tm]