Health Plans Touted by Foundations


The presidential candidates aren't the only ones with proposals to reform the American health care system.

While the designs are different, more and more players in the health care arena are unveiling their own detailed plans to provide health care coverage for all or most Americans.

For instance, the Commonwealth Fund recently outlined a proposal called “Building Blocks” that seeks to cover 44 million of the 48 million Americans estimated to be uninsured in 2008. At the center of the proposal is a national health insurance connector that would allow small businesses and individuals without large employer insurance to shop for a health plan.

The connector would feature both private plans and a “Medicare Extra” option. The Medicare Extra plan would offer premiums of $259 a month for individuals and $702 a month for families, 30% lower than the average premium charged to employers today, according to the Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation that supports research on health policy reform.

The plan also calls for expanding Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Plan to cover all adults and children below 150% of the federal poverty level. And the plan would include individual and employer mandates for health coverage.

Using modeling from the Lewin Group, officials at the Commonwealth Fund estimate that the proposal would add $15 billion to current total health spending in the United States during the first year and about $218 billion over 10 years. But the plan could actually save $1.6 trillion over 10 years if it is combined with other reforms such as changing Medicare payments to hospitals and physicians and investing in better health information technology, according to the Commonwealth Fund.

In the meantime, the Healthcare Leadership Council, a coalition of hospitals, health plans, and pharmaceutical and device manufacturers that aims to improve the quality and affordability of health care, has brought forward its own market-based proposal aimed at covering all Americans. Called “Closing the Gap,” the proposal calls for subsidies and tax breaks to help individuals afford coverage, improving health care quality through health information technology and care coordination, and realigning the financial incentives in the health care system to pay for value.

For example, the plan calls on the government to provide premium subsidies to help employees afford their employer-sponsored insurance premiums. The plan also calls for applying the same tax breaks to individually purchased health insurance as would apply to employer-sponsored coverage. However, the group did not endorse the idea of individual mandates for health insurance. The plan also calls for moving toward a system that rewards evidence-based care and prevention.

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