Hospital Group Pitches Universal Insurance


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cannot afford it, or to buy tax-subsidized coverage in the open market.
Currently, individuals buying coverage in the open market don't receive the same tax advantages as employers.
Under the hospital group's plan, individuals would be required to sign up for a health insurance plan. If they don't, the government will do it for them and then those individuals will be assessed taxes to pay for the insurance premiums. The plan also encourages states to automatically enroll more people in public health programs like Medicaid.
In surveys, Americans often list health insurance as a top domestic policy concern. U.S. businesses and hospitals are also worried about the issue, as those without coverage flock to costly emergency rooms,driving up health care costs.
Several insurance proposals, including those from private insurers and lawmakers, are intended to push the 2008 presidential candidates to take up the issue, analysts said.
"The whole purpose is to capture people's imagination and to make this a major campaign issue," said Paul Ginsburg, president of the Center for Studying Health System Change. "I would expect all major candidates seeking the nomination to have outlined proposals to expand health insurance coverage."
Chip Kahn, president of the Federation of American Hospitals, acknowledged that the plan is intended to add to the national discussion.
Ginsburg said mandated enrollment has become more acceptable to people after the enactment of Massachusetts' uninsured plan, which includes mandatory coverage.
"Ever since, a lot of people have come out in favor" of mandating coverage, he said.
Late last year, the trade group America's Health Insurance Plans, which represents managed care companies, presented its own $300 billion 10-year plan to expand insurance coverage.