There have been a number of stories this week concerning Health Care at the state level. From Massachusetts, we begin to see problems associated with their public/private, forced health insurance plan. The misguided "Health Coverage Coalition for the Uninsured" will begin lobbying the federal government to make "phased" changes to our health care system, starting with the state-based Child Health Insurance Program. A State of the State's report shows how individual states are trying to fix the problem of the uninsured, because the federal government is unwilling to do so.
From Jeffrey Krasner, of the Boston Globe, we read of one of the first, unexpected troubles with the Romney "Universal Health Care" plan, which mandates that every citizen of that state have health insurance.
The state's landmark healthcare reform, which seeks to provide universal health insurance coverage, is creating an unexpected financial crisis for many clinics, nursing homes, and other healthcare providers...
Last fall, the state started providing free health insurance policies to those earning less than the federal poverty level, $9,804 a year for an individual. On Jan. 2, subsidized policies for those earning up to three times that amount were made available. But employees of firms that offer health coverage must purchase it through the company, no matter their income.
Sandy Albright , director of Kit Clark Senior Services in Dorchester, said one-third of her 150 employees are now enrolled in a healthcare plan through the center. It pays 50 percent of their premiums. If another 50 employees sign up in response to healthcare reform, Albright said, she expects her annual healthcare costs to more than double to $450,000. The center provides meals, transportation, home visits, and other services to seniors and others in Boston.
"We don't know what we would do under those circumstances," she said. "The best way to put it is this is an unintended consequence of the healthcare reform law."
State officials said they realize healthcare reform is likely to create financial hardships for many businesses, but that there are no provisions in the law to provide them with immediate relief.
This is one result of a plan that relies too heavily on profit-based insurance companies. Had the provision that "employees of firms that offer health coverage must purchase it through the company, no matter their income" not been added to the law, then these low-income workers could have qualified for the free state-based policy, or for a lower-cost policy through another insurer. From the PNHP, Don McCane's OpED in the USA Today:
The big winners in the Schwarzenegger and Massachusetts health plans are private health insurance firms. The new insurance mandates will hand them billions in wasteful administrative fees that do not occur in government insurance programs such as Medicare. Private insurers will continue their cream-skimming, enrolling primarily the low cost, healthy workforce and their families, while leaving the costs of the unprofitable sick and elderly to the taxpayers.
The Health Coverage Coalition for the Uninsured, which is a coalition including the AARP, American Academy of Family Physicians, Families USA, Kaiser Permanente, Prizer, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released their "Historic Agreement (PDF)"
WASHINGTON - After more than two years of negotiations, a diverse group of business, consumer and health care organizations will announce a plan on Thursday to dramatically reduce the estimated 47 million Americans without health insurance.
The proposal, by a group called the Health Coverage Coalition for the Uninsured, is the latest attempt since Democrats seized control of Congress to address America's health insurance crisis. It's notable because it represents a unified action plan by organizations with varied and often competing interests - and because lawmakers and their staffers were excluded from negotiations.
...But the first phase, improving health coverage for children, reportedly dovetails on efforts to reauthorize the State Children's Health Insurance Program. Known as SCHIP, the state-federal block grant program covers low-income children and is projected to have a shortfall of $930 million this year, which could jeopardize coverage for up to 640,000 kids.
Nationally, 8.3 million children were uninsured in 2005, up from 7.9 million in 2004. Nearly 1 in 5 impoverished children lacked coverage in 2005.
The Historic Plan, seems weak on Historic and strong on Plan. The plan revolves around tax cuts and subsidies to further the Crazy Quilt of coverage that we now rely on in this country. When we need a bold new direction in health CARE, this plan provides a way out for those interested in seeing the continuation of health INSURANCE. Too little, too late. From Ezra Klein, of TAPPED:
This is what I'll call an unacceptable plan. It uses the cover of universality -- and I'm not even sure it achieves that -- to sacrifice the necessary, more fundamental reforms needed to make our health system better, fairer, more affordable, more efficient, more humane, and less damaging to personal freedom and autonomy. It is the industry's way of pretending to be part of the reform conversation, and it signals their fear of more substantive changes. That AARP and Families USA jumped on board to offer cover is incomprehensible -- those organizations know better, and they should act better.
The State of the States 2007: Building Hope, Raising Expectations (PDF) reports on the ways in which individual states are addressing the problems of Health Care in America (from the Press Release).
State of the States 2007, Building Hope, Raising Expectations details a variety of factors motivating states to address this thorny problem, including the continued rise in the number of uninsured, steep declines in employer-sponsored health insurance, improved state economies with increased state revenues, and the lack of a national solution.
The loss of coverage among the middle class is perhaps the most dramatic illustration of the growing problem of uninsurance. According to U.S. Census data, from 2002 to 2005, the number of uninsured Americans rose 7 percent to more than 46 million; among those with incomes of $50,000-$75,000, it rose 24 percent. Nearly 4 in 5 Americans that lost coverage during this time had annual incomes in excess of $50,000.
“States are facing a ‘perfect storm’ with health care,” said State Coverage Initiatives Acting Director Enrique Martinez-Vidal, “and that has provided governors and state legislators with the political will necessary to tackle the problem. States have been fertile testing grounds for new reforms and have proven that bipartisan compromise is possible.” But, he cautioned, “They don’t take the place of a national solution.”
According to Martinez-Vidal, “the real test will be in how these reforms perform and whether they are able to make meaningful progress to reduce the uninsured. It will take some time before we can fairly assess their impact,” he said, “but in the short term, policy leaders are likely to look to these new coverage programs for guidance. It’s all they have.”
This report offers hope that the state's will continue to serve as an incubator for new ideas in Health Care for All, while at the same time providing further evidence that phony Universal Health Care plans, based on "bipartisan compromise" will be at the forefront of that movement.
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