Unusual Health Alliance Reaches Deal on Uninsured
"It would make a difference," Uwe Reinhardt, PhD, a Princeton health economist, tells WebMD. "It's the way we have to go, although it's not a complete or elegant solution." He notes that the plan appears to hit the middle ground between the coverage measures put forth by presidential rivals Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush. Gore's proposal focused on Medicaid expansions, while Bush's centered on tax incentives.
The plan could potentially cover about 23 million currently uninsured Americans -- those at 200% or below of the federal poverty level.
The groups said that they didn't have a cost estimate for their plan, although documents describing the plan anticipated a "significant public investment." HIAA President Chip Kahn noted as a "rule of thumb" that it costs about a billion dollars to cover a million uninsured individuals.
Reinhardt says that a "reasonable" coverage plan would cost at least $30 billion annually.
Next year, the issue of helping those without health insurance will have to fight for air against the question of providing Medicare prescription coverage, which was a far more dominant election issue.
Some are optimistic about the prospects. "The fact that these three respected organizations agree ... is an excellent sign that bipartisan cooperation and progress are possible on this important issue next year," Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) said.
All political observers agree that bipartisan compromise will be necessary to break Washington gridlock in the months ahead. Nearly two weeks after Election Day, the presidential race is still too close to call. Meanwhile, both houses of Congress will continue under Republican control, but the party margin is very slim.