Why are so many Americans worried that a single accident or illness could put them in the poorhouse?
Today, the inability to get adequate health insurance is no longer a problem for only the poor and unemployed. Rising health care costs and increasingly restrictive insurance policies have left millions of working Americans uninsured. Of the 33 million Americans without health insurance in 1989, over 28 million were working people and their families.
WHAT SHOULD BE DONE
In response to this growing crisis, a number of far-reaching, ambitious proposals have been offered. Most, unfortunately, ignore addressing who pays the bill. In the current budget climate, this virtually assures that critically needed health insurance legislation will not pass.
It is time to take responsible action without losing sight of our fiscal limits.
THE SABO PROPOSAL
I firmly believe that all Americans are entitled to affordable health insurance. On April 25, I introduced a bill that builds on the working parts of the current system, while making some important changes.
My legislation provides access to affordable health insurance coverage for all Americans. The bill, the Comprehensive Health Care Improvement Act of 1991, has three main requirements:
1. It requires all businesses with ten or more employees to offer their workers health insurance at group rates. The question of payment would be left open to negotiation between workers and employers.
2. It requires each state to establish an insurance pool. Businesses, employees of small businesses, or individuals who are otherwise uninsured could purchase group plans from the pools.
3. It requires each state to establish a low-income assistance program to help individuals and families who are unable to buy insurance.
Both the state pools and the low-income assistance programs would be funded by extending the 1.45% Medicare payroll tax to all unearned income (income from stock dividends, trust funds, interest and other investments). Under current law, this tax is taken out of every dollar the average American worker earns. Unearned income is not taxed. I think that is unfair.
This change will raise an estimated $10 billion a year that would be distributed to each state on a per capita basis to support state pools and low income assistance programs. It would provide all Americans with access to affordable health insurance, and it would help hold down costs through shared risk.
CATASTROPHIC INSURANCE FOR SENIOR CITIZENS
Rapidly escalating health care costs are hitting some of our senior citizens the hardest. For some, the available health insurance does not cover the cost of care following a catastrophic illness or a serious accident.
The legislation I have proposed would also establish a fund to support a national catastrophic health insurance program for senior citizens. This program would be funded by applying the 1.45% Medicare payroll tax to earned income in excess of $125,000. Currently, earned income over $125,000 is exempt from this tax.
HEALTH INSURANCE FOR ALL AMERICANS
By bringing equity to the tax structure, this proposal allows us to make needed improvements in the current health insurance system. Through state pools, health insurance will once again fulfill its original function: to reduce individual risk by spreading it across a large group of people.
I have introduced health insurance legislation each session since I was first elected to Congress in 1978. As we approach the 21st century, I will continue working to make affordable health insurance available to all Americans.
– Congressman Martin Sabo