Lieutenant Governor Beverly Perdue released her health plan yesterday – under the radar and without much fanfare at all. That’s strange, because her suggestions are the most significant changes in health care access in North Carolina in, quite literally, decades. It looks to me like she took some baseline proposals from the NC Institute of Medicine and expanded on them. Basically she proposes:
1. Universal coverage for all children in NC. To do this she would beef up the Kid Care program for parents between 200% and 300% federal poverty level enacted by the General Assembly last session, allow parents of any income to buy the plan by paying the full premium cost, and expand outreach efforts for kids eligible but not enrolled in Health Choice and Medicaid.
2. Extend coverage to 125,000 parents of kids we already cover. A basic health plan through Medicaid would be offered for parents below 150% federal poverty level ($25,755 annual income for a family of three.) Benefits would be more limited than under the Medicaid program.
3. Expand coverage options for small businesses. This is the least detailed of her proposals, but it looks like she is envisioning some sort of basic preventive care-focused coverage policy that would be offered to small businesses where the state, employer, and employee would each pay one-third of the cost. She also generally proposes tax credits but there is no detail there.
4. Expanding the focus on preventive health services to control costs. However, there is not much detail here either.
Overall, she estimates about 400,000 children and parents could be covered from her expansions. She doesn’t offer numbers on the small business expansion – either estimates for coverage or costs. In fact a weakness in the plan is she isn’t clear about where financing for these proposals will come from. She does quote the Institute of Medicine’s numbers on insuring parents under her plan – $78 million.
Along with Treasurer (and candidate for Governor) Richard Moore’s plan released last week to insure all kids, Perdue’s plan makes it clear that any credible candidate for Governor in North Carolina is going to have to tell people how they are going to start to address the problem of rising healthcare costs and the 1.4 million people without coverage. And that can only be a good thing. Let the debate begin.