NU Online News Service, Jan. 8, 2004, 3:52 p.m. EST – The Council for Affordable Health Insurance, Alexandria, Va., a group that represents insurers in the individual and small group health markets, is criticizing the health finance record of Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean.[@@]

Dean, the former governor of Vermont, has emphasized that the percentage of Vermont residents who lack health coverage fell to 8%, from 17%, while he was in office.

CAHI says Dean achieved that improvement mainly by relying on federal funds to expand Vermont’s Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program. Because Medicaid and CHIP have low reimbursement rates, the expansion of the programs forced the state’s doctors and hospitals to shift millions of dollars of costs onto the shoulders of patients with private coverage, CAHI says.

CAHI also is attacking Dean’s proposal to establish a “Universal Health Benefits Program” that would try to cover 31 million of the 41 million uninsured U.S. residents by expanding government health programs and offering tax credits for purchase of private coverage. CAHI says Dean’s estimate that the program would cost $88 billion per year is unrealistically low.