July 30, 2007

SENATOR CARDIN INTRODUCES UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE BILL

Bill Would Require All Americans to Have Health Coverage

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, D-MD, today introduced a universal health care bill that would require all Americans to enroll in a health care plan.  The legislation builds on our current health care system, but would require individuals who do not have coverage to enroll in a "qualified" health plan. The measure is similar to many state laws that require motorists to purchase auto insurance.

 

Senator Cardin's Universal Health Coverage Act would require Americans to have "qualified health coverage" such as Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP, veterans' health care, federal health employee benefits, Indian Health Service or any other qualified health coverage as defined by their state of residence.

 

"Today, more than 46 million Americans, including 9 million children, have no health care coverage.   We all pay the price with either higher premium costs or more expensive medical bills," said Senator Cardin.   "This legislation provides a simple, straight-forward solution that will ensure that all Americans have health insurance."

 

 The legislation directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to work with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) to develop three low-cost options for individuals below 400% of federal poverty level (FPL).   The FPL is currently defined as approximately $20,000 a year for a family of four.   That standard was selected because the vast majority of working families with incomes above that level have access to employer-based health insurance.

 

Those who fail to enroll for any coverage for a continuous period greater than 60 days would be required to pay a tax equal to the average monthly premium amount for qualified coverage as defined by the state in which they reside. Funds collected by this tax would then be used to automatically enroll them in a state-approved plan.

 

The Senator's proposal is based on the principle of personal responsibility: namely, that those who have the financial ability to afford health insurance must be required to have it.   It also maintains the current employer-based system and protects government-sponsored health programs.

 

Senator Cardin has been a nationally recognized leader in health care for more than 20 years.   As a member of the House of Representatives, his proposals to provide Medicare beneficiaries with preventive benefits and access to cancer clinical trials were enacted into law.

 

"We have the most sophisticated health care in the world, but our system lacks adequate access," said Senator Cardin.