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Doctors Cite Health Risks and Costs of Uninsured, Call for Enactment of HealthCARE Act of 2003

(Washington, DC): The American College of Physicians, joined by organizations representing over a quarter million doctors and millions of consumers, urged Congress to enact Senator Jeff Bingaman's Health Coverage Affordability, Reliability and Equity Act of 2003 (HealthCARE Act) to preserve the health of the tens of millions of Americans exposed to grave health and financial risks because of a lack of affordable healthcare coverage.

"During the past two years, 75 million Americans were without health insurance at some time. These working Americans went off to work each day without the security of knowing their families have access to basic medical care," said Dr. Wheby. "We can no longer afford to ignore the problem of the uninsured because it is too complex, too partisan or too risky to make sure these families have access to affordable health coverage."

"Physicians know firsthand that, without insurance, children and adults do not have access to regular preventive and screening checkups. They often delay obtaining treatment until they are seriously ill-leading to an increase in premature deaths and unnecessary suffering," said Dr. Wheby. "Senator Bingaman's bill is a huge step forward in its nonpartisan approach to reforming the health insurance system."

ACP is joined by organizations representing primary care physicians—family physicians, pediatricians, internists, and geriatricians—several medical specialty societies, and a prominent consumer advocacy group in announcing support for the HealthCARE Act of 2003.

"Never before have so many doctors and consumers joined together to support a framework for expanding health insurance coverage," said Dr. Wheby. "Together, doctors and patients are speaking with a single voice to tell Congress that the time for inaction is over. Senator Bingaman's HealthCARE Act provides a sensible and achievable approach for breaking the logjam on the uninsured."

The HealthCARE Act is based in large part on an ACP proposal that preserves and builds on the current health care system to provide affordable health insurance to all Americans by 2010. The bill possesses important elements missing from many other proposals - it is realistic, pragmatic and capable of uniting opposing factions of the health and political system behind a single viable approach.

  • Under this plan, states would be given new options to expand the "safety net" of public programs for the poor, without imposing another unfunded budget mandate on economically-strapped states.
  • Advance, refundable tax credits will give eligible individuals the same dollar subsidy toward buying health insurance that the federal government provides its own employees.
  • Tax credits could be used to buy individual coverage or coverage through a state purchasing arrangement modeled after the Federal Employees Health Benefit program, giving recipients the ability to choose from the variety and number of affordable health plans available to members of Congress and other federal employees.
  • Small businesses would have access to same types and variety of affordable health plans through the state purchasing arrangements.
  • States would be given the flexibility and federal funding support to develop their own innovative programs to cover the uninsured.
  • An expert Commission would recommend additional measures to make coverage available to all Americans by the end of the decade.

The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization and the second-largest physician group in the United States. ACP members include more than 115,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students.

Jack Pope, (202), 261-4556, jpope@acponline.org
Marcia Bennett, (202) 261-4575, mbennett@acponline.org

Page updated: 11-03-03

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