Groups unite to devise plan



The first phase deals with improving health coverage for children.
MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS
WASHINGTON -- After more than two years of negotiations, a diverse group of business, consumer and health care organizations will announce a plan today to dramatically reduce the number of estimated 47 million Americans without health insurance.
The proposal, by a group called the Health Coverage Coalition for the Uninsured, is the latest attempt since Democrats seized control of Congress to address America's health insurance crisis. It's notable because it represents a unified action plan by organizations with varied and often competing interests -- and because lawmakers and their staffers were excluded from negotiations.
"We felt that for us to really achieve the consensus breakthrough that we were looking for that we should meet quietly and confidentially and without members of Congress participating," said Ron Pollack, director of Families USA, a liberal patient advocacy group that's part of the coalition. "Now that we've concluded the process, we are very actively talking to members in both houses and on both sides of the aisle" about legislation that adopts their recommendations.
Details of the coalition's plan for covering more children and adults have been closely guarded. But the first phase, improving health coverage for children, reportedly dovetails on efforts to reauthorize the State Children's Health Insurance Program. Known as SCHIP, the state-federal block grant program covers low-income children and is projected to have a shortfall of 930 million this year, which could jeopardize coverage for up to 640,000 kids.
Nationally, 8.3 million children were uninsured in 2005, up from 7.9 million in 2004. Nearly one in five impoverished children lacked coverage in 2005. The coalition also is expected to call for increased tax credits to help pay for coverage and for pooling large numbers of uninsured individuals to get cheaper rates.

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