In a clear challenge to Health Savings Accounts and private insurance measures, a bill has been introduced in the Senate and House to extend healthcare coverage to all Americans from birth to death.
The provisions of the proposed bill would extend Medicare to all Americans, from birth until the end of life, according to its chief sponsors, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), and Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.),. They said the legislation would reduce costs and promote health information technology and preventive care.
"I believe this should be achieved by 2010" to provide universal care, Kennedy said at a news conference, although the bill would not eliminate the option of employer-based insurance. The plan would be financed by a combination of payroll taxes and general revenue.
According to Modern Healthcare IT newsletter, businesses would have to pay 7% of payroll with workers contributing 1.7% of their pay, but the proposal would not add to current private spending, the sponsors said. By comparison, businesses providing coverage today spend an average of 13% of payroll to cover their workers, according to a statement on the bill.
No Republicans have signed on to the bill yet. "The recruitment process has just begun," Dingell told reporters.
The Urban Institute estimates that universal coverage would mean a net additional cost of up to $138 billion, but the bill sponsors say their proposal would include reforms that would generate billion of dollars in "offsetting savings" by simplifying billings and claims, adopting a universal health record, and reducing other administrative costs.