PA's Rendell Unveils Universal Health Program

January 18, 2007 ( - The Keystone State is the latest site for a universal health care proposal offering affordable basic health coverage to small businesses and the uninsured through the private insurance market.

Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell’s Cover All Pennsylvanians (CAP) will allow employers to participate if they have not offered health care for their employees in the past six months, according to materials posted on Rendell’s Web site.

The companies also have to have fewer than 50 employees who earn less than the state average annual wage (approximately $39,000). Employers that choose to join the program will pay approximately $130-per-employee/month and their employees will pay on a sliding scale, ranging from $10 to $70, depending on income.

Rendell  also said that there would be an assessment on all companies that do not insure their employees that would be used to help pay for the cost of the CAP program with employers with fewer than 50 employees exempt in the first year.

In announcing the initiative, Rendell said all uninsured Pennsylvanians will be able to purchase health insurance through CAP. Every uninsured adult who earns more than 300% of the federal poverty level can participate in CAP by paying the full cost of the premium, which will be approximately $280 per month.

Rendell said uninsured adults who earn less than 300% of the federal poverty level and employees of small businesses whose average wages are lower than the  Pennsylvania average will get help paying CAP premiums through discounts and subsidies. For example, a family of four who earns up to $60,000 a year will be eligible for assistance.

“Cover All Pennsylvanians focuses urgent help where it is needed the most – on small businesses and on the uninsured,” Rendell said, in a statement. “The majority of uninsured adults in  Pennsylvania are employed and most of the uninsured workers hold full-time jobs. By bringing down the cost of coverage, we can make it easier for businesses and employees to obtain desperately needed health coverage.”

In the announcement, Rendell said he plans to phase in a mandate requiring health insurance for those with incomes more than 300% of the federal poverty level ($60,000 for a family of four) and require that full-time, four-year college students and graduate students have insurance coverage.

Specific components of the Rendell initiative will require legislative and federal approval. If officials give those approvals, Rendell said the program is expected to begin operating in January 2008.

For more information, go  here .