America’s Health Insurance Plans and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association joined today with 14 other consumer groups and provider groups to unveil a proposal for helping the uninsured.

Representatives for the 16 groups that have joined the Health Coverage Coalition for the Uninsured, Washington, say their proposal could provide coverage for more than half of the 47 million U.S. residents who now lack health coverage.

In addition to AHIP, Washington, and Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, Chicago, major member groups include organizations such as AARP, Washington, and Families USA, Washington, as well as the American Medical Association, Chicago, and the American Hospital Association, Chicago.

The first phase of the program, which might cost about $45 billion and last 5 years, would help children, and the second phase would help adults, speakers said.

The first phase would:

- Give states flexibility to expand children’s access to Medicaid and State Children’s Health Insurance Program plans.

- Create a “one-stop” shopping program that would help children who already qualify for need-based programs such as free school lunches get free or subsidized health coverage.

- Establish a refundable, advanceable and assignable children’s health insurance tax credit for families making up to 3 times the federal poverty level.

The Health Coverage Coalition estimates these changes could extend coverage to 90% of the 7 million children who now lack health coverage.

The group has had “positive discussions” with members of Congress and Capitol Hill staffers about coming up with the cash to pay for the proposals, AHIP President Karen Ignagni reported.

Getting children insured “is truly a question of political will, and we are seeing that there is the political will to do this,” Ignagni said.

The second phase of the Health Coverage Coalition proposal, which would help adults, would:

- Create new tax credits for adults who buy individual coverage or get coverage through their employers.

- Set up a system of competitive grants for states to encourage innovation in resolving the problems of the uninsured.

- Organize a safety net provider program.

- Strengthen consumer assistance programs.

The coalition is not giving the cost of the second phase of the proposal, but Reed Tuckson, an executive at UnitedHealth Care Inc., Minnetonka, Minn., said the cost of implementing the proposal would likely be less than the cost of doing nothing.

“If ever there was a moment to do this, this is that moment,” Tuckson said.