The American Hospital Association is considering endorsing a healthcare reform proposal that would allow workers who aren't covered under employer plans to choose a bare-bones insurance package. The package would be structured like the insurance program for federal employees, and variations of it would be offered by private insurers.
The plan already has received a preliminary go-ahead from the AHA board and will be taken to the association's regional policy boards beginning this week, said James Bentley, AHA executive vice president of policy. If accepted by the policy boards, the measure would go back to the AHA board for approval.
After that, the AHA would have to translate the proposal into legislative language and find a sponsor on Capitol Hill.
The proposal was developed this year by Lynn Etheredge, co-founder of the Jackson Hole Group, and Stanley Jones, director of the George Washington University Health Insurance Reform Proj-ect. The AHA showed interest in the proposal and brought it to its board of trustees.
If the AHA endorses the Etheredge-Jones plan, it will mark the association's first significant venture into healthcare reform since the debate over the Clinton healthcare reform plan.
The Etheredge-Jones proposal would create an insurance product with a benefit package based on the Medicare package but expanded to include prenatal and children's coverage.
The plan, which would be similar to the one offered to federal workers under the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program, would be offered by private insurers. Insurers would be prohibited from imposing waiting periods or pre-existing condition limitations on plan enrollees.
According to the authors' estimates, such an insurance plan would cost about $1,200 a year for an individual and $3,250 for a family. They expect that as many as 10 million of the more than 40 million uninsured workers would choose the plan.
To make the plan more affordable, low-income workers would be given a tax credit for the purchase of insurance. Those subsidies would cost the federal government about $2 billion a year, the authors estimate. Getting the program running would require an extra $30 billion in start-up costs over the next five years.