Two months ago, Americas Health Insurance Plans laid out an ambitious initiative it said would provide affordable health insurance to every American within the next decade. It featured provisions to expand and improve Medicaid, create tax credits for low-income families and establish health accounts to pay for care with pretax dollars. The cost to the federal government: About $300 billion over the next decade.
In the wake of Gov. Arnold Schwarzeneggers bold proposal to spend about $12 billion a year to provide basic coverage to some 6.5 million uninsured Californians, a handful of big national healthcare groups with financial clout and political influence are jumping on the all-access bandwagon with plans in various stages of development and detail. They include the American Hospital Association, American Medical Association, American College of Physicians, Healthcare Association of New York State and a broad-based national coalition of groups.
It seems that healthcare has returned with a vengeance as a national political topic, rising from the ashes of the ill-fated Clinton health plan that was burned at the stake some 13 years ago. Everyone, it seems, is finally feeling the heat from the high cost of healthcare. Little more than a political afterthought in the 2004 national elections, healthcare is expected to be a pivotaland perhaps decisiveissue in the 2008 presidential campaign.
The message weve gotten is that things have to change, said Richard Umbdenstock, president of the AHA. The status quo is not going to make it.
The AHA plans to roll out its universal-coverage proposal in late July at its annual leadership summit in San Diego. It is being timed to help set the national agenda in the upcoming presidential elections, and could serve as a powerful force in shaping a proposal to expand coverage. Whats more, the AHA is also working closely with a secretive coalition of about two dozen groups to develop a consensus on the politically fractious issue. That group, now considering three major options, will outline the coalitions plans this week.