Several States Toying With Idea of Universal Health Insurance

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Several states toying with idea of universal health insurance for all residents

Health insurance is a hot topic in the United States today and with good reason: An estimated 46 million Americans do not have individual or family health insurance. As a result, some political candidates and others are calling for universal health insurance for all Americans.

But, while national health insurance is still a topic of debate for many, there are some states that are already in the process of or are considering creating programs that will provide health insurance for all state residents.

Pennsylvania is among those states that are considering implementing universal health insurance, at affordable rates, for its citizens. Governor Ed Rendell’s proposal would allow individuals, who do not have health insurance, to purchase health insurance from private health insurance companies for approximately $280 a month. Those residents with low incomes will receive subsidized health insurance.

Those businesses who employ 50 or fewer workers are also eligible to enroll their employees in the health insurance plan. Participating employers would be responsible for paying $130 each month while employees would pay the remaining $150 each month. Again, those employees with low incomes would have their health insurance covered by state subsidies.

To pay for the cost of affordable health insurance for all Pennsylvania residents, Governor Rendell has proposed a cigarette tax increase, matching funds from the federal level, and a payroll assessment of three percent on most of the businesses in the state.

Alternately, in California, Arnold Schwarzenegger is working with legislators in the state to pass a health insurance initiative that would insure the 6.8 million Californians currently without health insurance.

A Colorado state commission, formed last year to create a plan that would help the state's residents without health insurance have access to affordable health insurance, is set to reveal its findings in early 2008.

In 2006, Massachusetts passed a law that requires all residents to have health insurance. Those state residents without health insurance, who do not purchase health insurance, will face a financial penalty. Health insurance premiums range from very little to approximately $250 per month, with subsidies that will help low-income residents, whose income falls below the federal poverty line, pay for the health insurance. Those with subsidized health insurance have no monthly health insurance premiums and a low copay for medical services, including emergency room visits. 

Unfortunately, there is still some controversy surrounding the bill that requires all state residents to purchase health insurance or else face a financial penalty, with opponents worrying that not all residents, even with a state subsidy, will be able to afford the health insurance.

To this point, Massachusetts is the only state in the United States that has implemented a law that makes health insurance mandatory for all of its residents. But, other states are already looking at similar plans while legislators at the federal level are also debating whether America should go the way of the United Kingdom and Canada and provide all Americans with universal health coverage.