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HIAA Board Approves "InsureUSA" Initiative For The Uninsured

May 21, 1999

EMBARGO FOR RELEASE CONTACT: Richard Coorsh (202) 824-1787 e-mail: rcoorsh@hiaa.org Friday, May 21, 1999 10am ET

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Health Insurance Association of America (HIAA) today announced that its Board of Directors has approved "InsureUSA," an initiative, if enacted by the federal and state governments, that would provide coverage for millions of Americans who currently lack health insurance.

HIAA’s InsureUSA initiative calls for financial support to provide coverage for low-income Americans and the working poor, access to coverage for people in poor health, and tax relief that would allow individuals and businesses to better afford the cost of coverage.

HIAA also released a new public opinion survey showing that more than 4 out of 5 Americans support the elements of the InsureUSA proposal, and that 7 out of 10 believe the large number of uninsured Americans is a significant national problem requiring immediate action.

"Every American ought to be concerned that more than 43 million people lack health insurance," commented Leonard D. Schaeffer, HIAA’s Chairman of the Board and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of WellPoint Health Networks (Thousand Oaks, CA). "Increasing the number of Americans with health coverage ought to be the top national health care priority. If action is not taken, within the decade, nearly 1 out of 4 people below age 65 will go without health insurance."

"The time to act is now," added HIAA President Chip Kahn. "Americans want action to reduce the number of uninsured. Also, there is broad support for HIAA’s proposal because it would make the cost of coverage more affordable for millions of uninsured Americans."

HIAA’s InsureUSA proposal calls for extending coverage to the poorest Americans with incomes below 100 percent of poverty who are not eligible for current programs. It further calls for vouchers set at 75 percent of the government payments for the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program ("FEHBP"). These vouchers would help people with incomes between 101 percent and 200 percent of the federal poverty level to purchase private health insurance.

The federal poverty level is $8,480 a year for individuals and $16,530 a year for a family of four. According to HIAA data, 57 percent of uninsured Americans have incomes that are less than twice the federal poverty level.

Enhanced tax incentives in the InsureUSA proposal would extend tax credits to small employers who buy health insurance and allow employees who work for small firms to exclude contributions toward premiums from their taxable income. Additionally, the self-employed and individuals without access to employer-sponsored coverage could take an immediate 100 percent deduction for the cost of their health insurance premiums. HIAA estimates that its InsureUSA initiative would provide health coverage to up to 28 million now uninsured Americans, and make coverage more affordable for tens of millions of Americans who have insurance, at an average annual cost of roughly $60 billion.

HIAA is the nation’s most prominent trade association representing the nation’s private health care system. Its 269 members provide health, long-term care, disability, and supplemental coverage to more than 115 million Americans.


NOTE TO MEDIA: HIAA’s InsureUSA proposal and survey data are available on the InsureUSA website at http://www.insureusa.org/.

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