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House Subcommittee Discusses the Uninsured

The House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Employer-Employee Relations held a July 9 hearing to discuss ways to expand health care access to uninsured Americans. Noting that there were 39 million uninsured Americans in 2000, Subcommittee Chair Sam Johnson (R-TX) said, “Fifty percent of the uninsured worked in small businesses. Many were offered coverage and turned it down because of the cost.”

The subcommittee heard testimony from Members of Congress, the administration, and advocacy groups on a number of proposals aimed at expanding health insurance coverage.

Rep. Ernie Fletcher (R-KY) urged the subcommittee to consider a bill (H.R. 1774) that would create Association Health Plans (AHPs) for small businesses and the self-employed. “Lacking the bargaining power of large corporations, many of these businesses are priced out of the health insurance market….AHPs address this problem by allowing small businesses to band together nationally into associations that can provide insurance to their members at lower cost,” he said.

Rep. John Tierney (D-MA) discussed a proposal (H.R. 1033) he has introduced that would provide federal grants to states to implement demonstration projects to “provide universal, comprehensive, cost-effective systems of health care coverage, with simplified administration,” he said. “The bill allows states to explore their innovative ideas,” he added.

Dr. Mark McClellan of the Council of Economic Advisers detailed several of the administration’s proposals, including loosening restrictions on Medical Savings Accounts and Flexible Spending Arrangements, creating AHPs for small businesses, providing tax incentives for individuals to obtain health insurance, and improving health care options in Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. “Together, these proposals will provide health security and additional health insurance coverage for many millions of Americans, while preserving the best features of our highly innovative health care system,” stated Dr. McClellan.

The subcommittee also heard testimony from Harry Kraemer of the Healthcare Leadership Council, Joseph Rossmann of the Association Health Plan Coalition, and Ronald Pollack of Families USA.

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