Date Published: 18 January 2007

US Health care leaders announce ageement to help reduce the numbers of uninsured

Health News from the United States of America (USA).

Diverse organizations that have often opposed each other on federal health policies forge consensus, vow to work together for immediate congressional action

Most of the United States largest health care organizations today announced that they have agreed on a proposal that would significantly expand health coverage for America's almost 47 million uninsured, starting immediately with expanded coverage for children in 2007. Calling itself the Health Coverage Coalition for the Uninsured (HCCU), the group is made up of 16 influential, national organizations that have played leading roles in every federal health policy debate of the last 30 years, often on opposing sides. Despite their divergent political and ideological views, the groups today committed to immediately and jointly press lawmakers to act on their historic, two-phased consensus proposal.

The agreement includes a balance of private and public initiatives and is the culmination of lengthy meetings among the groups over approximately two years. It allows the new Congress to begin its work on health coverage from a proposal that already has the agreement of diverse advocates.

" This historic agreement transcends traditional political and ideological boundaries to break the gridlock about expanded health coverage for the uninsured," said Ron Pollack, executive director, Families USA.

" Our unprecedented agreement and coalition should serve as a model for Congress and the President to see that health coverage is expanded to as many people as possible as quickly as possible - starting with America's children this year."

HCCU participating organizations include AARP, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Hospital Association, American Medical Association, American Public Health Association, America's Health Insurance Plans, Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, Catholic Health Association, Families USA, Federation of American Hospitals, Healthcare Leadership Council, Johnson & Johnson, Kaiser Permanente, Pfizer Inc., United Health Foundation and U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

" Reaching consensus is a long and sometimes difficult process, but every participating group put the interests of America's uninsured first - even when doing so meant walking away from certain long-held positions," said Scott P. Serota, Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association president and CEO.

" With such divergent political ideologies, it is unprecedented for these groups to have a joint agreement. Helping the millions of Americans who do not have health insurance is an issue that needs to transcend politics and partisanship, and that is why we worked together to give Congress a starting point that we can all support."

With Congress scheduled to consider the reauthorization of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) in the coming months, the proposal could have an immediate impact. Its first phase is a "Kids First Initiative" to allow parents to more easily enroll their children in public programs, like SCHIP and Medicaid. It calls for a "one-stop shopping" system whereby low-income families could enroll uninsured children in SCHIP or Medicaid at the same time as they apply for other public programs, like reduced-cost lunches or food stamps.

The proposal would provide states with the additional funds needed to enroll eligible children. HCCU members believe this could help up to six million uninsured children who are eligible for, but not enrolled in, public insurance programs.

The proposal also calls for a new tax credit to help families cover some of the cost of providing private health insurance for their children. Eligible families could earn up to three times the federal poverty level (about $60,000 annually for a family of four).

 

Source: American Medical Association (AMA).

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