Panel Proposes Expansion of Federal Health Benefits

By Ellen Flax — December 04, 2015 1 min read

Members of a bipartisan Congressional panel on health care have unveiled a $66-billion plan to expand federal health benefits to the uninsured over the next five years. About one-third of the estimated 32 million Americans who lack health insurance are under the age of 18.

Under the proposal, a public health-insurance plan that would replace the federal Medicaid program would be phased in over five years. During the first year, all uninsured pregnant women and children up to the age of 6 would be covered.

The federal government would subsidize those with family incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $24,000 for a family of four.

Benefits would be extended to all children under age 18 during the second year, and would include both preventive services and hospital care.

Under the plan, all businesses with more than 100 employees would be required to provide health insurance or to contribute to the public plan for its employees. Smaller firms would be given tax credits and other incentives to provide health benefits for their workers.

The panel also called for a social-insurance program for home- and community-based care for all severely disabled persons.

Dissenting members of the U.S. Bipartisan Commission on Comprehensive Health Care, which was created by a 1988 federal law, criticized the recommendations for not specifying how the government would pay for these new benefits.

“This is a hoax,” said Representative Pete Stark of California, one of 12 members of the Congress .serving on the 15-member panel. “It’l; legislatively dead before it’s put into legislative language.” -E.F.