The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Finally: Health insurance for everyone

with 3 comments

[With apologies to my non-USA readers – I realize I'm talking about a political/moral challenge that has played out quite differently (often, admirably) in your own contexts.]

Some of us are privileged to spend our lives pursuing our dreams. Others – and you are one or you know one – spend their entire working lives paying off hospital bills.

Some of us enjoy terrific healthcare coverage (my employer now pays almost as much for my health insurance as it did for my salary twenty years ago!), while tens of thousands die prematurely in America from the lack of routine healthcare.

It's one of those hot potatoes that we nice Christian folk know to stay away from. I wonder why that is.
Is there any reason – other than selfishness – that rich folk see their babies die more seldom than poor folk do? Could it be that the sins of the rich or middle class are somehow less egregious than those of the poor? Or is it that people without money (money, mind you: "the love of which" we believe to be "the root of all kinds of evil") in some upside-down system of grace and law, are actually worth less than the rest of us?

Could it possibly be (dare we say it) wrong – or, maybe even evil – when a culture offers preservation of life and health to those it esteems and not to those it doesn't? I wonder how God might judge such a culture?

I was heartened and amazed to read this week of one state's plan to put away its excuses and face the problem. Here's David Batstone describing it in Sojomail of April 12:

Uncommon sense

by David Batstone

The Massachusetts legislature passed a remarkable piece of legislation last week. It became the first U.S. state to create universal health care coverage. The bill passed the legislature with ease; better news yet, Gov. Mitt Romney – on whose proposal the legislation originally was based – has said he'd sign it.

At present, nearly half a million of the state's residents do not have any kind of health insurance. That will change under the new plan. The state is already using a computer system to search for the Medicaid eligibility of hospital patients and enrolling those who are. Under the new legislation, employers also will share an added responsibility. A fine will be assessed on companies with more than 10 employees who do not offer health insurance; the penalty of $295 per employee per year is pitched to cover an individual's premiums. Those individuals who fall outside the two foregoing camps will be required by law to buy health insurance. If they fail to do so, they will be penalized on their state income taxes.

If all goes according to calculation, the financial impact of the universal health care system will be minimal. Why? More healthy people participating will drive down the cost of premiums, and more people blessed with health insurance will receive preventative care that will reduce expensive visits to emergency rooms.

"It is not a typical Massachusetts-Taxachusetts, oh-just-crazy-liberal plan," Stuart H. Altman, professor of health policy at Brandeis University, told The New York Times. Indeed, that's what is so impressive about the bill. A Republican governor, Romney, worked with a strongly Democratic legislature and Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy to design a plan that cuts across the ideological agendas that typically torpedo health care reform. After the efforts of Sen. Hilary Clinton (D-N.Y.) to re-make health care crumbled nearly a decade ago, most pundits declared it impossible to reach any consensus on health care. But Massachusetts shows that sensible and financially-sound alternatives can be crafted if the goal is to fix the problem.

Now, if we could only apply the same pragmatic approach to cure our national health care system and treat other social problems ailing us: inadequate education, fossil fuel dependence, immigration issues, and deficit reduction. I don't know about you, but I am so beyond party politics. I am looking to support policies that actually can deliver results, and do so for the most vulnerable in our society.

Amen to that.

The plan won't be perfect. But that Republicans and Democrats did it together is truly remarkable (a teenager I know said, "That's what we pay them to do!"). And, that someone has done at all it will change the argument completely. We know now that it can be done, for it has been.

Thank God.

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Written by Monte

April 12, 2006 at 5:48 pm

3 Responses

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  1. I guess I’m a perpetual cynic when it comes to government solution. Your hope refreshes. :)


    April 26, 2006 at 9:49 am

  2. Maybe so, A.M., maybe so. But I do rejoice to see someone trying to address the inequity.

    And isn’t it ironic that innovative attempts to extend fairness in matters of law to poor people almost always come from “blue” states?


    April 19, 2006 at 12:31 pm

  3. M-Man,

    Sorta slow on the uptake here. As an uninsured person, I say, Hallelujah! Who can afford health insurance these days? And what health insurance plan actually covers much at all?

    I’m afraid Massachusetts will go broke, however, despite their prognostications. I mean, the medical establishment can’t even afford itself!

    To avoid going broke, MA may just have to find some nice loopholes to leave us poor folk out in the cold again. May we die peacefully together. (That was not a call to revolution by the way. Not a bloody one, anyway.)


    April 19, 2006 at 12:15 pm

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