The American College of Physicians strongly supports a new Senate bill that would provide affordable health coverage to more Americans.
In the midst of a crop of health plans being proposed by Democratic presidential hopefuls, Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), who is not running, on May 8 introduced legislation that combines ideas put forth by Democrats and Republicans.
The ACP assisted Bingaman in crafting the proposal, which also is endorsed by the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Geriatrics Society and Families USA.
"Physicians know firsthand that, without insurance, children and adults do not have access to regular preventive and screening checkups," says ACP president Munsey Wheby, M.D., in a written statetment. "They often delay obtaining treatment until they are seriously ill--leading to an increase in premature deaths and unnecessary suffering. Senator Bingaman's bill is a huge step forward in its nonpartisan approach to reforming the health insurance system."
The Health Coverage, Affordability, Responsibility and Equity Act, or HealthCARE Act of 2003 (S 1030), would build on the current system to provide health coverage to all Americans by 2010.
States would be given options to expand public programs for the poor, such as the Medicaid and the state Children's Health Insurance Program. Multiple eligibility requirements could be replaced with the single criterion of household income for individuals and families up to 100% of the poverty level. Families with piecemeal coverage from Medicaid, SCHIP and premium subsidies could unify their coverage into one program.
Uninsured people with incomes up to 200% of poverty could obtain insurance through purchasing pools operated by the states or in the individual market. Small businesses also would be allowed to buy insurance through these pools.
Bingaman's plan calls for advanced, refundable tax credits that would provide the same dollar subsidy toward purchasing insurance that federal employees receive. The choice of health plans also would be similar to that offered by the Federal Employees Health Benefits program.
"This legislation helps to narrow the gap in public programs between eligible children and enrolled children, capturing the millions who fall through the cracks," says William Moskowitz, M.D., a member of the AAP federal government committee.