Both parties put forth plans to cover uninsured

As part of Cover the Uninsured Week, Republican and Democratic members of Congress put forth their ideas for reducing the number of uninsured. The U.S. Senate Republican Task Force on Health Care Costs and the Uninsured put out proposals to cover 17 million to 25 million people, relying on tax credits, deductions for premiums paid for health plans sold in conjunction with health savings accounts, efforts to boost Medicaid and SCHIP enrollment, legal reforms to promote information technology, and wider funding of community health centers.

The proposals carry an estimated price tag of $93 billion over five years and reportedly would deliver $110 billion in savings to the federal government over the same time period. They would generate overall health system savings of $137 billion annually, Senate staffers estimate.

Meanwhile, House Democrats offered three proposals they said would cumulatively cover about 21 million uninsured people, targeting three fast-growing vulnerable segments of the uninsured population — low-income families, the near-elderly, and employees who work for small businesses or are self-employed.

The FamilyCare Act of 2004 would give states access to $50 billion in new federal funding to cover parents of children in Medicaid or SCHIP if the family has income below 200% of the federal poverty level. The Medicare Early Access Act would allow individuals between the ages of 55 and 65 who lack access to group or public health insurance to buy into Medicare. And the Small Business Health Insurance Promotion Act would give small businesses and the self-employed a tax credit equal to 50% of the cost of coverage they purchased.