NU Online News Service, July 18, 2003, 5:18 p.m. EDT – The House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee is considering H.R. 2698, a bill that would give low-income and moderate-income people certificates that they could use to buy their own health insurance or pay the employees’ share of the cost of employer-sponsored health coverage.

The government would give the certificates to individuals earning less than $18,000 a year and families earning less than $34,000 a year.

The maximum value of the certificate would be $1,000 for individuals and $2,750 for families.

People who were using the certificates to pay the employees’ share of the cost of employer-sponsored coverage would get less than people who were using the certificates to buy individual or family coverage on their own, according to the bill text.

The bill also would increase federal funding for the state-organized risk pools that help provide health coverage for people with health problems.

The bill was introduced by Rep. Michael Bilirakis, R-Clearwater, Fla.

Robert Greenstein, executive director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Washington, a think tank, testified at a recent Health Subcommittee hearing that the certificates would be too skimpy to help most recipients buy health insurance on their own.

The provision making certificates available to workers with access to employer-sponsored coverage might encourage employers to cut their share of spending on health benefits, Greenstein said, according to a written version of his remarks.

But Dr. Donald Young, president of the Health Insurance Association of America, Washington, said boosting risk pool funding and issuing certificates would be a good way to help people get health coverage without disrupting the private health insurance market.

“If we are ever to make significant headway towards making health care coverage affordable for all Americans, we must provide a meaningful subsidy to those who do not have the income to buy it on their own,” Young said.

Links to the text of H.R. 2698 and other information about the bill are available at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d108:h.r.02698:

Links to the remarks of witnesses who participated in the Health Subcommittee hearing are posted at http://energycommerce.house.gov/108/Hearings/07172003hearing1015/hearing.htm