Rep. Fortney "Pete" Stark (D-Calif.), chairman of the House subcommittee with jurisdiction over Medicare, has introduced a national health insurance plan covering all Americans except for Medicare beneficiaries, who would continue to be covered by that system.
"It is bizarre for a wealthy nation to guarantee access to health care only to those in jail," he said. "As many as 65 million people lack health insurance at some point during the year."
The new plan, which Stark calls MediPlan, would be patterned on the Medicare program. It would replace private health insurance and provide benefits similar to those in the Medicare package, but enlarged to cover the needs of pregnant women and children.
Stark said his plan would enable Americans to pay for hospital, doctor and other general medical bills using government insurance benefits but without nationalizing hospitals or forcing doctors to become salaried government employees.
Stark's plan would be financed by a 2 percent federal income tax on gross income, even that currently tax-exempt. Every working adult also would pay a special premium through the income tax system that would come to $200 a year. Low-income people would be exempt.
In addition, for employed persons, the employer would pay a payroll tax of up to $800 a year.
Stark said lack of health insurance "often means that proper care is delayed until the problem is serious." He said his proposal "builds upon the demonstrated success of the Medicare program."
The basic MediPlan proposal is primarily for acute-care services.
Stark has introduced a second bill providing for long-term nursing home and home-care needs for people of all ages who are chronically ill. It would include payments for nursing home care after the patient paid the first two months' costs, plus home and community services for persons not institutionalized. It would be financed by a 2 percent tax on income, levied on individuals and corporations, except for low-income people.