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Kennedy, Dingell Offer Universal Coverage Bill

By CQ Staff

April 25, 2007 -- Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., and Rep. John D. Dingell, D-Mich., announced Wednesday the introduction of a bill that would cover all Americans by opening up the Medicare program to Americans under age 65.

Under the "Medicare for All" plan, Americans could either keep their current coverage, enroll in Medicare, or join any of the plans offered through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, the lawmakers said at a midday press briefing. The costs of private coverage would be shifted from businesses and individuals to the federal government, adding $600 billion a year to federal spending. According to Kennedy and Dingell, that cost would be fully covered by payroll taxes and general revenues and would not add to the federal deficit.

Employers and employees would pay sharply higher payroll taxes to fund the plan. "A preliminary estimate of the payroll tax financing necessary will be a payment of 7 percent of payroll by businesses and 1.7 percent by workers," said a summary of the proposal released by Kennedy's office.

The lawmakers estimated that the administrative efficiencies achieved through their plan would save $308 billion a year. "The best plan for the nation is to build on a program that all Americans know and respect by creating Medicare for all," Kennedy said.

"Not only will covering all Americans improve millions of lives, it will actually save money by reducing emergency room costs and increasing access to preventive services and earlier treatments," Dingell added.

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