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AHIP Proposal Includes Child Health Expansion

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America’s Health Insurance Plans has released what it is calling a “comprehensive set” of “targeted policy proposals” for helping Americans who have no health insurance.

The set of proposals call for Congress to let all consumers buy health insurance with pretax dollars, provide financial assistance for working families, encourage states to develop access proposals, and expand eligibility for public programs, including the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.

AHIP recommends expanding the state CHIPs to include all uninsured children from families with incomes under 200% of the federal poverty level.

“No one piece of our initiative takes precedence over another,” AHIP spokesman Mohit Ghose says.

But because Congress will be engaged in talks about renewing SCHIP, anway, “it’s a logical starting point” for discussions with Congress, Ghose says.

AHIP wants “a federal-state and public-private partnership to provide health care for all children in 3 years and 95% of adults in 10 years,” Ghose says.

Shortly after AHIP released its proposals, the Senate Finance Committee’s health care subcommittee scheduled a hearing on the states’ views of SCHIP.

In addition to pushing for expansion of SCHIP, AHIP says it wants to:

- Improve and expand Medicaid to make eligible all uninsured adults, including single adults, with incomes under 100% of the federal poverty level.

- Establish a universal health account to allow all individuals to purchase any type of health care coverage and pay for qualified medical expenses with pretax dollars.

- Establish a health tax credit of up to $500 for low-income families that secures health insurance for their children.

- Establish a $50-billion Federal Performance Grant to assist states in expanding access to coverage.

“The leaders of the nation’s health insurers are united in a strong belief that every American should have access to health care coverage,” says AHIP Chairman J. Grover Thomas Jr. “This bold program would expand coverage to tens of millions within a framework that is fiscally sound and promotes individual responsibility.”

AHIP estimates that full implementation of its proposals would cost the federal government about $300 billion over a 10-year period.

AHIP has traditionally supported what it has called narrow efforts to reach specific groups of uninsured Americans, rather than efforts to reach all uninsured individuals with a single program.

The UHA component could run into opposition from Democrats, because the UHA would be a successor to the HSA.

In the past, Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., the frontrunner for the post of chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, and Rep. Peter Stark, D-Calif., who may be the chairman of the panel’s health subcommittee, have opposed the HSA program.

The AHIP UHA proposal would let UHA owners use the UHAs to pay for health insurance premiums. UHA owners who bought high-deductible insurance could use the UHAs to cover the cost of qualified out-of-pocket health care expenses, such as physician or hospital charges.

The UHA proposal also would create a matching incentive, or “health saver’s credit,” for contributions by moderate-income taxpayers.

In related news, AHIP released results of a national poll it commissioned.

The poll, conducted by Ayres, McHenry & Associates Inc., Alexandria, Va., and Glover Park Group, Washington, found that 80% of adults want Congress and state legislatures to do more to extend access to health coverage.

“Americans across the political spectrum are saying that government should take action to improve access to health care coverage, but they do not support a one-size-fits-all approach,” according to Whitfield Ayres, president of Ayres, McHenry.


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