The National Association of Social Workers proposed Tuesday a national health insurance program for all Americans while raising the nation's health-care bill at least $40 billion.
The plan would phase out public health care programs, including Medicaid and Medicare, and institute a federally administered plan carried out by the states.If the program contained a package of basic benefits for everyone, with limited co-payments required for some services and no long-term care coverage, the estimated 1990 U.S. health care bill of $653 billion would rise to $693 billion, the association said.
Long-term care benefits would add about $46 billion. With that included, the total would jump to $740 billion, or 13 percent higher than the amount the nation currently spends on health care.
The bill could go as high as $767 billion if co-payments were eliminated.
Mark Battle, the association's executive director, said that despite the high price tag, the plan makes sense because "it will save costs in the long run." His group did not estimate the savings or factor them into their cost projections.
"The immediate return would be comprehensive health care - including prevention, mental health, vision and dental services - to millions of Americans who are either uninsured or underinsured," Battle said.
Estimates of the number of Americans who have no insurance range from 31 million to 37 million.
Health care costs in the United States have been rising about twice as fast as general inflation. Officials at all levels of government have been concerned about these soaring costs and the rate at which they are making health care inaccessible to more and more Americans.
Under the social workers' plan, people could go to whatever physician or hospital they wanted.
The plan would be financed through a progressive federal dedicated tax on personal income and an employer-paid payroll tax. The association did not say what these taxes would amount to on an individual basis.