From the June 1, 1994, issue of American Nurseryman:

A Health Care Reform Update

A House Ways and Means health panel approved a $1.25-a-pack boost in federal cigarette taxes as a key element in the financing of public-health initiatives and subsidies for small-business health insurance. The tax increase, part of the subcommittee’s health care bill, is 50 [cents] more than the one proposed by the Clinton administration and five times the current tax of 24 [cents] a pack. The increase would raise an estimated $6 billion more than the Clinton plan in the year 2000.

But the panel remained undecided over a proposed 0.8 percent payroll tax, and Congressional observers say the subcommittee disagreement could send the revenue section of the bill to the full committee, which would probably reduce the cigarette tax to the level originally proposed by the Clinton administration. The payroll tax was proposed as a temporary measure to keep the health care bill from enlarging the deficit in the year 2000. The Congressional Budget Office says the Clinton plan would add a total of $74 billion to the federal deficit between 1995 and 2000.

Like the Clinton plan, the subcommittee bill aspires to provide health coverage for all Americans. Unlike the Clinton plan, it would cut the basic benefit package to reduce costs and would expand Medicare so small businesses would tap into this government program instead of buying private insurance.

Photo courtesy: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Alternative and hybrid health care reform plans continue to flourish. “This is like going to a carnival shooting gallery and trying to figure out what’s going to pop up next,” says Benjamin Bolusky, director of government affairs for the American Association of Nurserymen.

The subcommittee rejected a Republican health-reform plan that would have expanded Medicare to cover the uninsured and required employers to help buy insurance for workers and their families by 1997.

Another plan, put forth by Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, would require employers to buy coverage for workers but would allow businesses with 10 or fewer employees to pay a 1 to 2 percent payroll tax. At press time, the subcommittee plan and the Dingell plan were still the subject of Congressional deliberation.

Still another alternative health care plan has jumped into the ring. The Health Reform Consensus Act of 1994 (HR3955) was introduced by Reps. J. Roy Rowland (D-GA) and Michael Bilirakis (R-FL) on March 3. Bolusky says the bill “picks the plums” from most current health care plans, taking the proposed health care reform ingredients that most people agree on and rolling them into one plan. At press time, the bill had seen no action.