The Quest for Universal Health Care Coverage Starts Now . . . for Real
The race is on! Not since 1992, when President Bill Clinton turned over the task of building a universal health plan for all Americans to Hillary, has anyone in the know felt that a major health care access and restructuring plan was forthcoming. Given the results of last month’s election, though, once again the pundits believe that real change is coming.
Our newly-anointed Congressional leaders are promising affordable health care for all Americans, and newly re-elected Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has proclaimed his intent to do the same for California residents as well.
It would also seem that anyone with a proposal can deal themselves into this game, or so they believe anyway. Not surprisingly, the insurance industry is the first major stakeholder to step onto the playing field.
Last month, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) released its proposal to expand access to health insurance coverage. Its proposal would cost about $300 billion over 10 years and would do the following:
- Provide incentives to states to expand access to health insurance coverage to all children within three years and to 95 percent of all adults in 10 years.
- Provide tax credits and subsidies to low and moderate income families who buy health insurance.
- Provide incentives to states to cover low income populations through public programs.
- Create a new Universal Health Account to shelter premium payments for individuals.
To make this work, the AHIP proposes the following stakeholder roles and responsibilities:
- States should provide coverage through Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) for all adults living at 100 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) and children at up to 200 percent of the FPL. Wherever possible, states should secure federal matching dollars, create incentives to encourage the purchase of insurance by both individuals and employers, allow product flexibility, and develop strategies such as high risk pools for the medically uninsurable.
- Employers should continue to provide health insurance coverage and seek to expand coverage for workers and their dependents.
- Financially capable individuals should purchase and maintain coverage, and those who are eligible for subsidies should be encouraged to purchase coverage through the existing market.
- Health plans should offer a variety of affordable products, reward quality and promote the use of evidence-based medicine. They also should work with states to reduce administrative burdens, improve transparency, and encourage the use of electronic record keeping and communication.
- States should improve the insurance market by avoiding new and expansive administrative processes, and support joint efforts by health plans and medical providers to improve quality, increase transparency and enable consumers to make more informed choices.
Okay, we’ve heard from the insurance industry. Who’s next?(Thanks go to L.A. Care Health Plan for assistance with summarizing the AHIP proposal.)