In his final State of the Union address, President Clinton called on the US Congress to make health care affordable for all Americans. “I ask you again to pass a real patients’ bill of rights,” he said. This bill, as proposed in the past, would guarantee access to care in emergency rooms and to treatment by specialists. It would also give patients the right to challenge the decisions of insurers or administrators of health maintenance organizations. The patients’ rights legislation is a governmental response to grass roots opposition to some of the policies and programs of managed care organizations.
The President’s call for affordable health care marks a return to the early days of his administration, when he attempted to devise a healthcare program that would give real access to all US citizens.
His current plan is more modest. The President proposed a 10-year, $110 billion program to lower the costs of health insurance to make it more affordable for low- and middle-income families. As explained, the plan would cover ≥5 million of the >40 million Americans who have no health insurance.
To put the plan into effect, the President also proposed spending $5.5 billion over 10 years to speed up the enrollment of uninsured children into the Children’s Health Insurance Program. This move would cover 400 000 children in families with incomes too high to be eligible for Medicaid. The program would also set up programs to cover people caught in a gap in insurance, such as elderly people who are between jobs and those enrolled in welfare-to-work programs.
The President also proposed spending nearly $400 million of the projected budget surplus to shore up the federal Medicare program past the year 2025. Included in his call to beef up the Medicare program was a proposal to cover prescription drugs—a benefit not now included in the basic Medicare program.
- Copyright © 2000 by American Heart Association