Calif. Representative Pushes for Universal Health Care

July 26, 2006 ( - The ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means health subcommittee asked legislators to consider a plan that would provide health care insurance to all Americans.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Representative Pete Stark’s program would cost the federal government about $50 billion to $60 billion a year to get the program running. It would be based on Medicare’s payment rates and low-cost administrative model and require employers to provide coverage for all workers, even part timers.

Some states have already taken measures to penalize employers not offering health care to employees. In May, the Massachusetts Senate voted to require employers with at least 11 employees who do not offer health insurance to make a fair contribution toward that coverage or pay an annual $295-per-employee fee (See Mass. Senate Votes To Fine Employers Not Providing Health Insurance ).

However, Stark’s AmeriCare Health Care Act reaches farther than proposals by some other Democratic lawmakers, who have called for medical insurance for all children, and some have suggested easing costs by cutting down on the amount of paperwork needed to process patient records, according to the Chronicle.

The newspaper reported that Stark also has introduced legislation to help states make the shift toward universal coverage; however, some states have already take steps to beef up coverage for the uninsured.

In May, the Vermontlegislature approved a health care reform bill meant to increase the number of individuals in the state with health coverage. The plan called for the state to subsidize premiums for low-income individuals or subsidize premiums and out-of-pocket expenses for individuals covered by employer plans (See VT Health Care Reform Moves Forward ). In May, Michigan’s governor introduced a plan to cover all 1.1 million residents who are uninsured (See MI’s Granholm Joins Health Reform Trend ).

Stark’s program would draw funding from several sectors, including contributions from employers, individuals and states, the Chronicle reported. The congressman said that program would keep premiums down by using the Medicare administrative structure and getting discounted prices because of the large numbers of participants.

Even though the plan is estimated to cost the government as much as $50 billion to $60 billion each year to get the plan up and running, backers of universal health care say that the plan saves money by cutting the medical bills of the uninsured, who often wait until problems spin out of hand.

A group set up by Congress to help determine what people want when it comes to health care coverage recommended in June that the government provide universal health care, but it stopped short of coming up with a way to pay for it. The 14-member group did suggest that money could be drawn from income taxes and taxes on cigarettes and alcohol (See Group Urges Federal Government to Provide Basic Health Care for All ).