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Life Health > Health Insurance

Wish List Time

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One of the favorite activities after an election is making up wish lists. This is something that the winning politicians do, of course. But it’s also a practice that interest groups partake of, whether their “side” was the winner in the election or not.

One of the characteristics of a wish list is that you don’t expect to get everything on it. This leads to adding and padding of the list in anticipation of at least some of the items being whittled and/or scuttled.

One such list, which obviously had been in preparation for quite some time before the election, came from America’s Health Insurance Plans. Since AHIP is a class act, what it put out was nothing so vulgar as a wish list. Rather, it was called “A Vision for Reform,” and its message was “We believe every American should have access to affordable health care coverage.”

In a letter that preceded the actual plan, senior officials of AHIP wrote, “This new plan would strengthen the health care safety net, enable all consumers to purchase health insurance with pre-tax dollars, provide financial assistance to help working families afford coverage, and encourage states to develop and implement access plans.”

It is a grand plan containing many interesting and valuable proposals. AHIP, and before it the Health Insurance Association of America, has long carried the torch on the issue of the uninsured.

My guess is that this plan–which the group worked on for some 7 months prior to its announcement–took on an increased sense of urgency because of the anticipation that the Democrats would make big gains in the midterm elections. And with those gains, they would use the issue of the uninsured to flog the health insurance business and put forth proposals for universal health coverage.

Not to mince any words, the vast numbers of people in this country that are without health insurance is a scandal of epic proportions. It is nothing less than a national shame for the richest country on earth to condone a situation where some 45 million of its citizens are without health insurance for at least part of any given year. It is also a shame that that astronomical number keeps growing year after year.

So, AHIP is right to keep bringing–or trying to bring–attention back to gaining access to health insurance for these tens of millions of people. This is so even if skeptics and cynics would accuse it of self-interest in proposing ideas that will keep its member companies in business and flourishing. After all, not too many ideas in this direction have come out of the government in the last few years.

AHIP is also right in seeming to believe the issue of the uninsured would resonate more with Democrats than Republicans.

We reported on the individual parts of AHIP’s vision in the Nov. 20 issue, so I’m not going to regurgitate the details here, except to say that some of the proposals would seem to be DOA while others have the possibility of gaining traction in the new Congress.

The ones that will probably face the rockiest trek are those that propose new federal tax initiatives, including one proposal that would establish a Universal Health Account to be created to allow full deductibility for health insurance premiums and provide assistance to moderate and low-income families. Where will the tax money come from for such a large-scale initiative?

Time will tell what the outcome of AHIP’s bold proposals is. In any case, the association deserves a lot of credit not only for continuing to shine a bright light on the plight of the uninsured, but also for using its wish list to get the dialogue going.

Steve Piontek



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