Low-Income Coverage Program Needed To Be Delayed
The Washington, D.C., councilmember who proposed a plan that would provide health insurance to thousands of uninsured district residents said on Tuesday that he wants to delay the program by at least a year to allow the district to create a $20 million cash reserve amid the recent economic downturn, the Washington Post reports (Nakamura, Washington Post, 10/29).
The Healthy D.C. bill, sponsored by David Catania (I), 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 (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 4/1).
Catania said a cash reserve must be created to prepare for an expected decline in revenue, which would increase the number of people seeking coverage under the Alliance, a safety-net for low-income residents. He also has been critical of revenue estimates made by D.C. CFO Natwar Gandhi, who last month said that the district faces a $131 million revenue shortfall for fiscal year 2009. Catania said that estimate is too low because financial conditions are likely to worsen. Gandhi disagreed with Catania's estimates and notes that the $700 billion bailout of Wall Street firms passed by Congress will help stabilize the economy.
Catania said, "No one looks forward to making reductions," but the downturn "means we have to take action that is more aggressive than we'd like but that the times require." He said other initiatives, such as a planned increase in Medicaid provider reimbursements and a proposal to add medical doctors to public schools, also would have to be delayed. Mayor Adrian Fenty on Tuesday said that he will issue an executive order to reduce spending throughout the district government by $52 million (Washington Post, 10/29).
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