17 January 2007

Round-up: State plans

Dean Olsen, staff writer for the Springfield Register, writes that Illinois Democratic Governor Roy Blagojevich’s spokesperson emailed this: "We don't think a uniform single-payer system would really address the complex needs of our population."

“[I]f the Chicago Democrat follows the example set by a handful of other states, Illinoisans should expect a plan that would expand subsidized health coverage for poor and middle-class residents, require uninsured individuals to buy coverage and penalize employers that don't provide it," writes Olsen

“That's also the type of plan that a state task force is expected to recommend to the governor when it meets Thursday in Chicago. The plan would cost the state $3 billion per year.“

Olsen writes that the latest economic recovery hasn't reduced the number of uninsured, 46.6 million people nationwide, because health-care costs are rising faster than inflation, and new jobs are in the service sector, which doesn’t offer good health benefits.

He gives a helpful outline of Maine’s, Massachusetts’ and Vermont’s healthcare plans:

Massachusetts Commonwealth Care (being phased in):

• Anyone who can afford insurance must buy it
• Employers must make "fair and reasonable" contributions toward employee health coverage or be assessed up to $295 per worker
• An authority to improve availability and affordability of coverage
• Subsidies for low-income people
• Insurance reforms to reduce premiums and create new options.
• Funded by state, federal, employer and individual contributions

Unanswered questions include whether there's enough money to finance the plan and whether requiring people to buy health insurance actually lead to universal coverage.

Vermont Catamount Health (begins in October):

• A new insurance product meant to be affordable and comprehensive
• Subsidies for low-income uninsured citizens with incomes up to three times the federal poverty level
• employer assessments of $365 per uninsured worker
• Funded by an increase in the tobacco tax, federal matching funds, enrollee premiums and employer assessments

Maine's Dirigo Health Plan (enacted in 2003):

• Relies on voluntary measures
• A health-insurance product available to small businesses, the self-employed and others without access to employer-based insurance
• Discounted premiums and reduced deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs for people earning up to three times the federal poverty levels
• Funded by individuals and employers, state general funds and federal Medicaid matching funds

Enrollment in Dirigo has been capped at 12,000 because of a shortage of money.

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