HIAA, Families USA and AHA Announce Joint Proposal to Reduce the Number of Uninsured Americans
Putting aside several years of feuding, three "strange bedfellows" -- the Health Insurance Association of America, Families USA and the American Hospital Association -- came together at a press conference Nov. 20 to unveil a joint proposal to halve the number of uninsured Americans. The plan takes a three-pronged approach, calling for expanding Medicaid to people under 65 earning up to 133% of the federal poverty level; allowing states to expand CHIP program coverage to certain adults; and establishing tax credits for businesses to encourage them to provide coverage to workers. "As organizations representing the breadth of the health care community, we stand together to forge common ground to end the gridlock over extending health care coverage to the uninsured millions living in America today," the three organizations announced in a joint press release. Calling for an end to "partisan, ideological and interest-group boundaries," Families USA Executive Director Ron Pollack emphasized the need for cooperation in crafting proposals that would give health coverage to more individuals. "Political gridlock should no longer be an option in dealing with America's uninsurance epidemic," he said. HIAA President Chip Kahn said, "In the past, every group interested in extending coverage to the uninsured held out for their favorite approach, and their second choice always was the status quo. As a result, nothing was accomplished." Rick Pollack, executive vice president of the AHA, added, "With this step, we've laid a strong foundation we hope to build upon to improve access and coverage for all" (HIAA/Families USA/AHA release, 11/20). Although Kahn and Ron Pollack conceded that the new proposal "is not the optimum strategy for either organization," they said that "past reform battles" have taught them that "an ideal will only result in stalemate" (Health Affairs release, 11/20). Pollack, Kahn and Rick Pollack also outlined their proposal in a letter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), calling on the government to "use good economic times to address this problem" (Kahn et al., letter, 11/20). At the Nov. 20 press conference, the three leaders outlined five basic guiding principles on which their plan was founded:
- That providing universal coverage will be accomplished "neither through modest increments nor through one comprehensive package," but through a "step-by-step" approach;
- That the plan "cannot take away, or appear to take away" coverage from those who currently have it;
- That the guidelines should build on existing health coverage structures, both public and private; thus avoiding the creation of new bureaucracies and "further fragmentation of the health system;"
- That the plan should use public resources in a way that "maximizes new health coverage;"
- That the proposal should focus on low-wage workers, their families and other low-income individuals who are "least capable of obtaining health coverage."