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“Healthy DC,” the plan put forth in March by At-Large Councilmember David A. Catania that aimed to insure every District resident, looks to be dead.
In its place, Catania announced at the D.C. Council’s pre-legislative meeting press conference this morning, the D.C. Healthcare Alliance—-which covers the District’s poorest residents—-will be expanded so that uninsured folks who earn more than the Alliance’s ceiling of about $21,000 can buy in for a premium that would be no more than 3 percent of their income.
There are a few catches: One, the requirement that all District residents carry some form of insurance goes away in the new proposal; two, the proposed funding level will only support about 15,000 of the 25,000 estimated uninsured originally targeted; and three, the benefits won’t include any mental-health or substance abuse treatment. The program is still proposed to be funded out of a $1-per-pack hike on cigarette taxes and new taxes on HMOs.
Catania hinted that the reason for the collapse of the orginal plan was a failure to get CareFirst, the District’s Blue Cross Blue Shield licensee and largest health insurer, to buy in to the plan. The company—-which, in the original Healthy DC plan essentially administered the program—-was unwilling to move forward unless the District assumed all of the risk on the deal. CareFirst had also come into some criticism for essentially getting handed the program on a no-bid basis.
“CareFirst has had, the best way to characterize it, a change of heart,” he said. Catania did say the new plan “doesn’t let them off the hook,” in that CareFirst is still required by law to engage in a substantial community benefits program.
[UPDATE, 3:40 P.M.: Catania’s chief of staff, Ben Young, disagrees with LL’s choice of words: “Healthy DC is not dead. However, we may need to take a different approach.”]
Other notes from the presser:
- Vince Gray Punctuality Watch: Things kicked off at 10:14 a.m.—-14 minutes late and 2 minutes worse than last month. But that’s OK, ’cause LL was 10 minutes late.
- Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells introduced a suite of improvements to child-welfare services contained in the fiscal 2009 budget, plus a couple of as-yet-unfunded proposals. The sexiest of them is a proposal for a tax credit of up to $2,000 for folks who mentor youth; employers who let their employees do mentoring would get a tax credit toward the costs. Wells said he’s yet to get a fiscal impact statement on his proposals, saying, “We certainly know what it costs in terms of losing our youth.” That comment drew an audible sigh from Ward 2 Councilmember and fiscal watchdog Jack Evans.
- The council’s investigation into the OTR tax scandal continues, led by the pro bono efforts of the Wilmer Hale law firm. Gray says the probe “is not at the stage where we’re ready to release any findings.” Investigators are looking to interview “30 to 35” persons about the scandal, Gray says. Discussion of the tax scandal led to a withering line of questioning from the Examiner tag team of Jonetta Rose Barras, Michael Neibauer, and Bill Myers, all of whom asked about an audit of the District’s tax system commissioned by the CFO’s office. Gray said he hadn’t read the report; though Evans had reviewed the report, he declined to comment.
- Gray will be introducing a “Sense of the Council” resolution in opposition to hate crimes. Talk about something everyone can get behind.
- The single-sales bans in Wards 7 and 8 are moving forward, and the ban in Ward 4 is likely to be made permanent.
- The noise bill will be back before the council tomorrow. Evans, who had said he would likely introduce amendments to the bill, declined to say whether he would do so.
- Ceremonial resolutions galore tomorrow, including one for your playoff-qualifying Washington Capitals. Owner Ted Leonsis will be on hand for the occasion.