Washington To Provide Universal Health Insurance Coverage

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Washington, D.C., Council member David Catania (I) on Monday proposed a $50 million plan that would require all district residents to obtain health insurance and provide subsidized care for those who qualify, the Washington Times reports (Emerling, Washington Times, 4/1). Catania, chair of the council's Committee on Health, said the Healthy D.C. bill would provide coverage for about 25,000 uninsured residents who are ineligible for Medicaid and the D.C. HealthCare Alliance. Under the program, residents with incomes lower than 200% of the federal poverty level would receive subsidies, paying monthly premiums between $20 and $100, depending on income. The plan would take effect in July 2009, and residents would have until January 2010 to enroll before fines of $250 would be assessed.

About $21 million of the cost would be paid by the city, and CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield would contribute about $5 million. CareFirst also would make its provider network available to program beneficiaries. The plan would generate additional revenue by increasing the tax on commercial health care premiums from 1.7% to 2%, imposing a 2% premium tax on HMOs and doubling the cigarette tax to $2 per pack.

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Catania said he has anticipated problems that could lead to higher costs, such as companies eliminating their insurance plans and uninsured people moving into the city to take advantage of the plan. He said the plan would mandate that businesses disclose health care programs on their tax returns and that residents live in the district for six months before applying for the program.

Carrie Brooks, a spokesperson for district Mayor Adrian Fenty, said the mayor is "supportive of the concept" of the plan, but he has not finished reviewing the details. Barbara Lang, president of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber supports the plan but has not seen a final version and plans to review the new taxes more closely (Nakamura, Washington Post, 3/29).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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