Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., helped mark the battle lines separating the Democratic presidential contenders and the Republican contenders on health finance issues last week when she released her American Health Choices Plan.
Clinton’s proposal would let Americans without employer-sponsored coverage choose between buying traditional Medicare coverage and buying private coverage through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.
The proposal would require most large employers to provide coverage or contribute to the health finance system some other way, and it would require individuals to buy their own coverage.
Clinton’s proposal also would:
–Strengthen Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.
–Require insurers to sell health coverage on a guaranteed issue basis, and limit carriers’ ability to use members’ health as a reason for increasing rates and dropping members from plans.
–Create a tax credit to help small businesses pay for coverage.
–Cap the employer tax exclusion for health insurance premiums for individuals earning more than $250,000 per year.
–Limit health insurance premium payments to a designated percentage of taxpayers’ income.
“If you’re one of the tens of millions of Americans without coverage or if you don’t like the coverage you have, you will have a choice of plans to pick from and you’ll get tax credits to help pay for it,” Clinton says in a statement about her proposal. “If you like the plan you have, you can keep it.”
Fellow Democratic contenders Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and John Edwards are grumbling that many of the same ideas have appeared before-on their own Web sites.
Meanwhile, the leading Republican presidential candidates are offering much shorter health finance proposals that tend to emphasize steps such as easing access to health savings accounts.
Mitt Romney, the former Republican governor of Massachusetts, signed into law a state program that shares some elements in common with Clinton’s proposal.