FACT SHEET: DEMOCRATS FIGHT TO LOWER THE COST OF HEALTH CARE

Americans should be confident that whether they are working, changing jobs, are laid off, or just nearing retirement age, they should be able to find affordable, quality health care. But after years of Republican inaction, health insurance premiums continue to rise dramatically and the number of uninsured continues to grow.  Democrats are fighting to reduce health care costs and increase access to affordable, reliable care.  As costs continue to skyrocket and small businesses struggle to make their payrolls, Republicans have done virtually nothing to address this issue.  Democrats today introduced three common sense proposals to reduce health care costs and provide affordable, quality and reliable coverage.  Together, these three bills could provide assistance to more than half of all uninsured Americans. 

43 million uninsured nationwide, and premiums continue to skyrocket. Over the past three years, 3.8 million Americans lost their health insurance - and 43 million Americans are now uninsured.   Health insurance premiums have increased almost 50 percent since the beginning of the Bush Administration, and four times faster than workers’ earnings last year.  The increase in family health insurance premiums over the past three years is triple the amount of the tax cut going to middle income families over the next four years. 

Democrats want to lower costs and expand affordable coverage for retirees. Due in part to outsourcing and layoffs, people ages 55 to 64 are losing health insurance faster than any other group. The Medicare Early Access Act, put forth by Representatives Pete Stark (D-CA) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), provides an effective and efficient solution to covering the 3.5 million people who are over the age of 55 but not yet eligible for Medicare by allowing them to purchase Medicare coverage.  They would pay a fair premium and receive all the benefits Medicare beneficiaries enjoy.  To make these premiums affordable, enrollees would receive an advanceable, refundable tax credit equal to 75 percent of the premium.  The Medicare Trust Fund would not be affected by this new program.

Democrats want to lower costs and expand affordable coverage for small businesses. The Small Business Health Insurance Promotion Act, offered by Representative Max Sandlin (D-TX), would create a 50 percent tax credit to help small businesses with the costs of health coverage.  The bill also creates state and national multi-insurer pools to provide comprehensive and affordable health insurance choices to small employers and the self-employed, regardless of whether they receive the credit.

Democrats want to lower costs and expand affordable coverage for working parents. While states have aggressively expanded insurance options for children through Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program, parents are often left behind. In addition, one of the best ways to find eligible children and is to have the family enrolled in the same health insurance program.  There are about 7.5 million uninsured parents whose children are eligible for Medicaid and SCHIP. These parents frequently work part-time or for small businesses, and do not have access to employer-based insurance.  When they do, they cannot afford it. The FamilyCare Act, offered by Congressman John Dingell (D-MI) provides new funding to expand SCHIP and Medicaid to these parents, and to simplify and streamline enrollment.

In contrast to these common sense proposals, Republican proposals raise health care costs for those with insurance and fail to help the uninsured.  Numerous nonpartisan studies have shown that Association Health Plans and Health Savings Accounts actually increase health insurance costs, undermine the group health insurance market, and contribute to the ranks of the uninsured. 
 
 Office of the House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, May 13, 2004
www.HouseDemocrats.gov / www.DemocraticLeader.house.gov /
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