How To Expand Health Coverage To Uninsured US Residents

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Two newspapers recently published opinion pieces examining ways to provide care for more uninsured U.S. residents in the absence of large-scale government overhaul. Summaries appear below.

* Ricardo Guggenheim/Diana Verrilli, Denver Post: "We have an uninsured crisis in our country that is creating great imbalances in the health care delivery system," so it is "in the best interest of health systems to pay for outpatient care for uninsured patients with chronic diseases that are already using the hospital for medical care on an ongoing basis," Guggenheim, vice president of care management S=strategy at McKesson Health Solutions, and Verrilli, vice president of Business Development and Marketing Strategy at McKesson, write in a Post opinion piece.

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According to the authors, although "paying for outpatient medical care for uninsured patients is not a typical hospital mission, and it is certainly not a core business practice," the "net financial impact can be significant, and the medical and moral value is unquestionable." They conclude, "Ultimately our society needs to find a real solution for the uninsured," but, in the meantime, an outpatient care management program "may do a lot of good for some very ill, uninsured patients and bring true financial relief for struggling health systems" (Guggenheim/Verrilli, Denver Post, 11/5).

* Bryan Liang, Philadelphia Inquirer: "[B]ecause of the economic downturn, underwriting major [health care] reforms will be difficult and unlikely," but "three approaches to covering at least some of the uninsured may be feasible for the next president and Congress," according to an Inquirer opinion piece by Liang, director of the Institute of Health Law Studies at California Western School of Law and co-director of the San Diego Center for Patient Safety at the University of California-San Diego. Liang writes that lawmakers must take steps to enroll all eligible, uninsured U.S. residents in public health insurance programs by simplifying application processes and removing other enrollment barriers, such as proof-of-citizenship requirements.

He adds that the number of uninsured U.S. residents also could "drastically" be reduced by "allowing businesses to auto-enroll employees in health insurance," while allowing workers to opt-out of the coverage. In addition, Liang writes, "Lawmakers should extend a tax credit to small businesses to cover a substantial portion of their insurance expenses," and states "should encourage pooling arrangements that allow small businesses to group together to purchase insurance plans" (Liang, Philadelphia Inquirer, 11/5).

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. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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