EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the second in a six-part series by L.A.
Times Syndicate columnist Kathy Kristof on the health-care
Affordable health care has become a rallying cry for millions of
Americans dissatisfied with rapidly escalating prices and
seemingly deteriorating care.
In response, President-elect Bill Clinton has promised to
propose workable reform within the first 100 days of his
presidency. And a variety of state and federal legislators are
formulating reform plans of their own.
These plans are sure to incorporate some components that have
been investigated and debated in the past, experts say. They all
promise to have a significant impact on individuals and are
likely to require tradeoffs. Some may reduce out-of-pocket
expenses, for example, but increase unemployment. Plans that
don't impact employment could push up tax rates.
Here are snapshots of plans likely to emerge, their potential
benefits, drawbacks and estimated costs.
National Health Insurance would set up a huge health insurance
pool, administered and paid for by the federal government.
Private employers would be able to eliminate their health-care
programs in favor of the national system, which would provide
equal coverage regardless of employment status or income.
Proposals vary on what would be covered, co-payments and
deductibles. But most would cover standard procedures, emergency
care, prescription drugs and some would provide for mental health
care. In some cases, co-payments and deductibles would be limited
to a percentage of income.
The benefits: Everyone would have at least some health
insurance. Administrative costs would probably decrease because
there would be only one standard claim form and no duplicated
insurance coverage. Companies could save money by dropping their
employee health policies.
The drawbacks: Some would end up with bigger deductibles and
co-payments and more limited coverage under the national plan
than under those currently sponsored by employers. Income taxes
could rise to pay the cost.
The cost: Estimates vary wildly, from a savings (to the
federal government) of some $25 billion to an annual cost
exceeding $30 billion, according to the Employee Benefit Research
Institute in Washington D.C. The differing estimates stem from
different assumptions about savings from cutting paperwork vs.
the potential cost of caring for additional people.
Employer Mandates require companies to provide at least a minimum
health insurance package to their workers. However, most of these
plans exempt particular groups from the law. For example, one
plan would require all companies with 25 or more workers to
provide health insurance but exempt those with fewer employees. …