Universal Health Care Plans Come From All Corners, Vary Widely
Politicians are taking up the issue of universal health care after almost a decade of "relative silence," the Dallas Morning News reports. According to the Morning News, "Unlikely coalitions of Republicans and Democrats, insurers and consumers, business and labor are proposing reforms," all of which "vary widely."
Democratic presidential contenders Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), John Edwards (N.C.) and Barack Obama (Ill.) have said the establishment of universal health coverage should be a priority of the next president. "Not about to be upstaged by the new Democratic majority in Congress," President Bush in his State of the Union speech last month recommended tax breaks to help individuals pay for insurance premiums, according to the Morning News.
Meanwhile, some states are taking action on their own. Massachusetts has passed a health care plan that will cover nearly all of the state's residents, while California, New York and Pennsylvania are pursuing similar goals. Some politicians have recommended a government-run system.
Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) has called to expand Medicare beyond the elderly and disabled, although "few analysts see the Kennedy plan as politically viable," according to the News.
Other reform ideas that focus on individual insurance and the private market, such as Bush's tax proposal, have prompted concerns about favoring the wealthy and undermining the employer-based system.
According to the Morning News, policy analysts have said "the most realistic plans will rely on both the public and private sectors and build on what exists," and the best examples are "in states already tackling the issue."
Peter Cunningham, senior fellow with the Center for Studying Health System Change, said, "The states are definitely the catalyst right now. They'll be the laboratories where ideas are tried. At some point, Washington will step in, draw from the states' experiences and shape a national strategy."
Karen Davis, president of the Commonwealth Fund, said, "For the first time in more than 10 years, I sense momentum behind this issue" (Moos, Dallas Morning News, 2/8).
- James Hoffa, Detroit News: "A viable way of achieving universal health care on a national stage would be by implementing policies similar to these proposed last month by Divided We Fail, a coalition of corporations, labor and retirees," Hoffa, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, writes in a News opinion piece. Hoffa adds that President Bush's health care plan "is absolutely insufficient," concluding, "As our health care system becomes more and more unwieldy, it's time that we all -- me, you and the president -- work toward achieving a health care system we can be proud of" (Hoffa, Detroit News, 2/9).
- Paul Krugman, New York Times: "At first glance," Edwards' health care plan "looks similar to several other proposals out there," but "a closer look reveals extra features in the Edwards plan that take it a lot closer to what the country really needs," Krugman writes in a Times opinion piece. Edwards seeks to cover the uninsured "with a combination of regulation and financial aid," but Edwards "goes ... further" by ensuring that people without employer-sponsored coverage would buy their insurance through "'Health Markets': government-run bodies negotiating with insurance companies on the public's behalf." According to Krugman, this system would eliminate marketing and underwriting -- the process insurers use to screen out high risk clients -- and would make insurance considerably cheaper by placing the purchasing power in the hands of the government instead of the consumer. He concludes, "America's crumbling health care system is our most important domestic issue, and I think we have a right to know what those who would be president propose to do about it" (Krugman, New York Times, 2/9).
NPR's "Talk of the Nation" on Thursday included an interview with Edwards. During the interview, Edwards said that as president he would seek to implement universal health insurance by 2012 (Conan, "Talk of the Nation," NPR, 2/8).
Audio of the segment is available online.