Health Care Plan Allows States To Tailor Approach

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) on Friday during a speech to the Florida Medical Associationin Hollywood, Fla., is expected to announce a health reform proposalwhich he says would allow states to develop their own plans to makecoverage more affordable and universal, USA Today reports (Lawrence, USA Today, 8/24).

According to the Wall Street Journal,Romney's proposal will not require mandates for individuals orcompanies to buy insurance coverage, which were features of theMassachusetts health insurance lawenacted when he was governor. The plan "focus[es] on tax breaks andstreamlining regulations," which advisers say would foster a moremarket-based approach to health insurance that would allow more peopleto buy their own plans (Jacoby/Lueck, Wall Street Journal, 8/24).

The New York Timesreports that the Romney plan does not include any mandates to purchasecoverage, "premised on the belief that it is impossible to create auniform system for the entire country." Under the proposal, federalfunds currently provided to states to help cover the cost of care forthe uninsured would be used to allow states to aid low-income residentswho do not qualify for public health insurance programs to purchaseprivate coverage. In addition, the federal funds would be used as anincentive to prompt states to revise health insurance regulations, suchas benefits mandates and restrictions on HMOs, to reduce the cost ofprivate coverage.

The proposal also would revise the federal taxcode to allow U.S. residents who purchase individual health insuranceto deduct premiums, deductibles and copayments from their annualincomes (Luo, New York Times, 8/24). In addition, theproposal would revise the system used to determine the amount offederal funds that state Medicaid programs receive by turning theprogram into a block grant with fewer federal regulations in an effortto encourage states to tailor their programs and help their residentspurchase private health insurance (Thomma, McClatchy Newspapers, 8/23). Romney's proposal also includes caps on damages in medical malpractice lawsuits (New York Times, 8/24).

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Three Approaches for Helping Uninsured

Romney aides said that the proposal would help the three differentgroups of uninsured residents: 15 million residents who qualify for,but are not enrolled in, public health insurance programs such asMedicaid and SCHIP will be helped by changes to Medicaid financing andregulations; 12 million low-income residents who do not qualify forsuch programs will be helped to purchase private converge by thediversion of funds currently used to pay for care for the uninsured;and 18 million middle-income residents who decide not to purchaseinsurance will be encouraged to elect coverage through new tax breaksand premiums lowered by cutting state regulations.

Romney said,"We're going to make health insurance affordable. We're going to get ontrack to have every citizen insured. And we're going to reduce the rateof growth in health care spending" (McClatchy Newspapers, 8/23).

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