Use Surplus for Universal Coverage
With the "huge budget surplus" a reality and the number of uninsured growing, now is the time for Congress and President Bush to "revive the idea of universal health care," Robert Reich, former Labor secretary in the Clinton administration and current national editor of the American Prospect, writes in a Los Angeles Times op-ed. However, Reich says that "nobody in Washington is talking" about the issue at a time when insured Americans are paying more in co-payments, deductibles and premiums, and a slowing economy threatens to increase the number of uninsured. Reich states that both President Bush and congressional Democrats' proposals to help the uninsured are inadequate. Bush's proposed $2,000 tax credit "wouldn't be much help to the typical middle-income family that now pays more than $6,000 a year to guarantee its health care," Reich says. As for Democrats, Reich states that the failure of the 1993-94 Clinton health plan has left the party unwilling to "utter the words 'universal health care'" for fear of "losing electoral support in 2002." However, Reich says that these "fears are misplaced," as the failure of the Clinton plan arose from its complexity, not from a lack of support among the public for universal health care. He adds that the Democrats' current proposals to increase Medicaid and CHIP spending "would still leave a huge health gap." Finally, Reich says that Bush's proposed tax cut and the Democrats' emphasis on debt reduction constitutes a misplacement of "simple priorities." He states, "There's no more reason to use the surplus to pay down the federal debt than to use it all on a tax cut for the wealthy. Give all Americans affordable health care instead" (Reich, Los Angeles Times, 4/2).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.