Gore took the early lead in health care one year ago, when he proposed that small businesses be allowed to group across state lines to purchase health insurance as health-care purchasing coalitions. "Pooling is something that has worked well at a state level," says Bill Miller, political director for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Gore wants to provide a 25 percent tax credit for the cost of each employee that a small business covers after joining such a plan. The associations promoted by Gore, however, are not the Association Health Plans (AHPs) advocated by some small-business advocacy groups. Gore feels that, because AHPs would be exempt from state regulations, these plans would not carry as many options as traditional insurance offerings.
Bush supports the AHP concept and adopted it into his health-care proposal in April. Bush also wants to make medical savings accounts (currently a trial program) permanent and allow employers to contribute to employees' accounts.
Currently, the law limits the deductibility of long-term health care for the self-employed (60 percent until 2001, 70 percent until 2003, 100 percent after 2003). Long-term health policies have a sliding scale for the maximum amount that, like other health-care insurance, is 60 percent deductible this year. At press time, only Bush favors changing current law to let business owners deduct all of their health insurance immediately, as opposed to waiting until 2003. Gore is heavily in favor of creating a $3,000 credit for long-term care.