Helping the Uninsured

Political leaders have tried for decades to expand access to health insurance, allocating tens of billions of dollars to new programs like the State Children’s Health Insurance Program and to expanding government programs like Medicaid. Despite this, 41 million Americans lacked health insurance at last count, two million more than a decade ago.

It’s clear that old solutions aren’t working and that we need to try something new.

The biggest obstacle to obtaining health insurance is cost. A new approach would target subsidies directly to the uninsured to offset the cost of insurance. President Bush has proposed a system of refundable tax credits worth up to $1,000 for individuals and $3,000 for families.

These credits would give the uninsured real money to help purchase the health coverage of their choice.

Critics say tax credits of these amounts are not enough, yet the on-line brokerage eHealthInsurance did a survey of 30,000 people who purchased policies last year and found the average individual policy cost $1,871 and $3,899 for families.

Scholars have conducted research showing that a credit worth half the value of a decent health insurance policy could reduce the number of uninsured by half. Clearly tax credits would go a long way in reducing the number of uninsured in this country.




Grace-Marie Turner is president of the Galen Institute, a not-for-profit research organization that studies the health care marketplace. She can be reached at P.O. Box 19080, Alexandria, VA 22320, or at galen@galen.org

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Political leaders have tried for decades to expand access to health insurance, allocating tens of billions of dollars to new programs like the State Children’s Health Insurance Program and to expanding government programs like Medicaid. Despite this, 41 million Americans lacked health insurance at last count, two million more than a decade ago.

It’s clear that old solutions aren’t working and that we need to try something new.

The biggest obstacle to obtaining health insurance is cost. A new approach would target subsidies directly to the uninsured to offset the cost of insurance. President Bush has proposed a system of refundable tax credits worth up to $1,000 for individuals and $3,000 for families.

These credits would give the uninsured real money to help purchase the health coverage of their choice.

Critics say tax credits of these amounts are not enough, yet the on-line brokerage eHealthInsurance did a survey of 30,000 people who purchased policies last year and found the average individual policy cost $1,871 and $3,899 for families.

Scholars have conducted research showing that a credit worth half the value of a decent health insurance policy could reduce the number of uninsured by half. Clearly tax credits would go a long way in reducing the number of uninsured in this country.




Grace-Marie Turner is president of the Galen Institute, a not-for-profit research organization that studies the health care marketplace. She can be reached at P.O. Box 19080, Alexandria, VA 22320, or at galen@galen.org

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About the author