- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 18, 2007

1:04 p.m.

Advocacy groups of all stripes united behind a plan today that calls for tax breaks and an expansion of existing government programs in an effort to reduce the number of uninsured Americans.

The groups, representing doctors, insurers, employers and patients, have been working behind the scenes for nearly two years.

The new Congress has spawned a flurry of legislation and news conferences — all designed to tout an array of bills and ideas that would reduce the ranks of the uninsured, which is now projected at 46.6 million.

However, today’s proposal stands out because the groups involved are so influential and because they are so different. Their ranks include the AARP, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Medical Association.

Their first priority is to focus on children. The public strongly supports covering children, and they are less expensive to cover because they typically have fewer health problems, said the Health Coverage Coalition for the Uninsured.

The coalition envisions a “one-stop shopping” center that would let uninsured children be automatically enrolled in other means-tested programs such as discount school lunches and food stamps. Lawmakers will be asked to appropriate more money for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. The program covers about 5 million people who live in families with incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid but not high enough to afford health coverage on their own.

The initiative also creates a new tax credit designed to make it easier for families with incomes below 300 percent of poverty to pay for insurance for both children and adults.

The coalition also seeks an expansion of Medicaid for adults whose incomes are below the poverty level. Federal funds would be increased to help pay for the expansion.

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