Thursday, December 6, 2007

Health Care and Universal Health Coverage

Lately there has been a huge amount of buzz created by politicians who want to re-create the American health care system from the ground up. Health care is becoming the single most hotly debated topic in political circles, second only in comparison to the discussion about the Iraq War. Health care is a topic that everyone talks about, but no one has come up with a solution that doesn't involve government intervention. Politicians this year are now considering themselves experts on how to handle doctor visits, medicine, co-pays, and all things medical. They rant and rave about the cost and the terrible way people are mistreated who are uninsured, and the politicians continue to complain about how terrible the conditions are in hospitals and clinics. They focus on patient abuse and incompetant medical staff and spiraling expenses that are "out of control."

The most commonly feared new word that has found its way into the American language is "Hillary-care"--a phrase that causes most Americans to shudder because of what it represents. Originally conceived during the early years of the Clinton administration in the early 1990's, a National Task Force on Health Care Reform was established with Hillary Clinton leading the charge for universal health care. For an overview of this campaign and its history since then, Wikipedia has information available online under the heading: "1993 Clinton health care plan." Pushback came from all corners, including Democrats who have over the last several years since then have offered variations on the same them versus going to a single-payor system, similar to socialized health care in countries like the UK and Canada. Most often, the criticism was about having government telling us what doctors to visit and when to go for treatment. In the history of our nation, no one has ever liked the government telling us what to do when individual liberties or matters of personal choice are on the line.

Several states now have a version of universal health care for uninsured residents. Massachusetts under Governor Mitt Romney, now a presidential candidate, passed a plan that has had over 300,000 people sign on. However, this state-mandated health insurance plan has a penalty tied to it if residents don't sign up for enrollment. Help, or penalty? And who is subsidizing those who cannot afford to pay the premium? That's right--the taxpayer, as if residents in that state don't pay enough taxes. And other states are watching the outcome there to see if they want to do their own version of the same trick. The state requires you to participate on a personal choice.. I am wondering about the Constitutionality of forcing state control on individual liberty.

In California, the argument is raging like the wildfires that have scorched the state. According to the Small Business Review online this year, the current debate in Sacramento over how to cover the uninsured and rein in premium costs could set a pattern for the rest of the nation—and have major ramifications for small business owners. Governor Schwarzenegger is pushing for one variation, and their state legislature wants another. Over 12% of the nation's population are California residents, and the saying "As California goes, so goes the nation" means that this controversy once settled with a mandated insurance plan by the state may very well be the tone set as a template for the rest of the states. I pray for wisdom by those legislators to not bankrupt their state and come up with legislation that makes sense.

Sure..there are plenty of Americans who are uninsured. At last count according to the U.S. Census, about 47 million people don't have insurance of any type. But when the raw numbers are crunched on who can afford it and who can't, the surprising fact is that many Americans have personal income that can support insurance. However, for whatever reason they choose not to purchase coverage. Rather than the government cramming health care down my throat as a way to further intrude on my lifestyle, I would just as soon make that choice myself. Fortunately, I currently have very good health insurance, and it is expensive. But it's still my choice.

In 2007, the conversation about universal health care has heated up to a fever pitch. Current presidential debates are almost comical as all the participants in the contest, both Democrat and Republican, are jostling for position as the "top dog" when it comes to their positions in this category. These are viewable on many sites for everyone to see who wants what for national health care. A snapshot of each player's opinion on this topic is available for you to find out which one of the candidates has the best platform.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

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