A new House bill could provide big tax credits for taxpayers who buy private individual or family health insurance.[@@]

The bill, introduced Wednesday by Reps. J.D. Hayworth, R-Ariz., and Collin Peterson, D-Minn., would offer individuals who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but have no employer-sponsored coverage up to $1,000 in health insurance premium tax credits.

A married couple could get $2,000 in tax credits for coverage for both spouses, and parents could get additional tax credits of $500 per child for up to 2 children.

The maximum tax credits would be available to individuals with annual incomes under $15,000 and families with annual incomes under $25,000. The credits would phase out completely for individuals with annual incomes over $30,000 and families with annual incomes over $60,000.

Taxpayers could use the tax credits to cover the cost of up to 90% of their health insurance premiums.

The sponsors acknowledged at a press conference that the crowded House calendar and the upcoming summer break will be obstacles.

“We probably won’t see committee action or floor action on this bill,” Hayworth said.

But encounters with uninsured constituents during the break could give lawmakers an impetus to act on the issue, Hayworth said.

“We can have what really is practical and compassionate,” Hayworth said. “We have a chance to move within the means of government, but more importantly, within the means of the family budget.”

Senate Majority Leader William Frist, R-Tenn., has introduced a similar bill in the Senate, and Peterson said he hopes the companion bill can help make the vision President Bush described in his latest State of the Union address a reality.

EHealthInsurance Services Inc., Sunnyvale, Calif., a company that runs a Web-based health insurance brokerage, has been a major supporter of health insurance premium tax credits.

Robert Hurley, the company’s chief operating officer, appeared at the Hayworth-Peterson press conference to support their bill.

“This bill will absolutely make health insurance more affordable for millions of consumers,” Hurley said.

Laura Clay Trueman, executive director of the Coalition for Affordable Health Coverage, Washington, also appeared to support the bill.

“This bill targets those who need help the most,” said Clay Trueman, whose group includes medical societies as well as large insurance companies. “This legislation will work.”

Insurance companies are eager to compete for the business of the consumers who would qualify for the tax credit, Clay Trueman said.