Sunday, May 29, 2005

(Not so) Secret Meetings of Urgency
Interested parties on the left and the right have been conducting secret meetings to try and agree on proposals that would expand health coverage to as many uninsured as quickly as possible.

Since the group includes reps from the insurance and the pharmaceutical industries, there's a decent chance that any resulting legislation will actually have a chance to pass; for the same reason, there's also a good chance it will be crap.

The group is considering these 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.
I like the one where workers will be able to have money taken right out of their checks to pay for their insurance directly. Woohoo--thanks!! Sounds like many new ways for people to be able to, or required to, send money to insurance companies.

Things will have to get a good bit worse before they get alot better with a reasonable universal coverage system. According to David Broder, after reading the National Coalition on Health Care report, that time may be now:
(T)he potential savings to business, individuals and government from comprehensive reform of the beleaguered medical-insurance-hospital system....are startling -- a projected saving of anywhere from $320 billion to $1.1 trillion in the first 10 years, even while insurance coverage is extended to every American and stronger quality measures are put in place.
Underlining the advantage of systemic reform are [Chairman of the Emory University Department of Health Policy Kenneth] Thorpe's calculations of the likely consequences of doing nothing to change the current system. Without fundamental change, by 2015, the United States is likely to have 54 million uninsured -- 20 percent more than today -- and be spending 19 percent of its gross domestic product on health care, compared with 15.6 percent today.
The National Coalition's website is here.

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