The Uninsured are ‘Weakest Link’ in U.S. Bioterrorism Defense
The "armies" of uninsured Americans represent "one of the weakest links in our homeland defense" against bioterrorism, Ted Halstead and Michael Lind of the New America Foundation write in a USA Today opinion piece. Halstead and Lind write, "Health experts say the early detection of illness is one of the best ways to counteract bioterrorism. But how can we do that when nearly 40 million Americans lack access to basic health insurance?" They add that uninsured workers who cannot pay for doctor visits and tests and forgo early diagnosis or treatment may become "unwitting accomplices of bioterrorism." According to Halstead and Lind, the delay in diagnosis or treatment could "delay the discovery that they -- and others around them -- are victims of biological warfare." They write, "Thanks to the anthrax attacks, the debate about whether every American should have health insurance should be over. The only question now should be how to provide universal coverage." Halstead and Lind propose a "citizen-based," rather than employer-based, universal health care system. They write that employer-based health insurance "made some sense" in the past, when many employees "aspired to lifetime jobs with one firm." However, Halstead and Lind point out that U.S. employees today have an average job tenure of only three to five years, adding that the employer-based health system has left 40 million Americans without insurance. They suggest that Americans should purchase their own health insurance in a system where the government would subsidize the cost for those "too poor or sick to pay for coverage," similar to a system in Switzerland. Halstead and Lind conclude that in an era of bioterrorism, the number of uninsured Americans represents "not only a personal disaster for those struggling to stay well without health insurance," but also a "threat to the security of all Americans" (Halstead/Lind, USA Today, 11/12).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.