Health insurance is a touchy issue these days what with 47
million Americans having no coverage whatsoever. Universal health insurance has
so far remained a pipedream encouraged by politicians, but rejected by the
However the situation now seems to have reversed, as the
health insurance industry seems to have woken up to the fact that universal
coverage will prove to be viable for their businesses as well.
Ever since Gov Mitt Romney successfully implemented a plan
that sought universal coverage for all people in
Massachusetts, other states are trying to
come up with comparable plans to take care of the soaring health expenditure.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, many
states have tried to provide some sort of coverage to the uninsured population
and have come quite close on several occasions.
passed a law requiring employers to provide coverage for all workers who logged
in 20 hours per week. However, this law has met with minimal success at best
since more than 10 percent of the state's population remains uninsured.
Vermont tried to provide
universal coverage in 1992 but both states met with failure since the language
used in the bills concerning the universal coverage was repealed.
tried a law in 2003 that did succeed in broadening the base of the insured, but
not in complete coverage. In the same year,
California tried to introduce more employer
contributions, but that provision was withdrawn the following year after a
Health care is fast becoming the top concern for Americans
and recognizing that the time for change is now, 16 business, medical and
consumer groups asked the Congress to allocate $45 billion to provide coverage
to the maximum number of uninsured children in
America. The groups have asked
Congress to spread this budget over the next five years.
Even President George W. Bush is pushing for health
insurance reforms. In his State of the Union address on Saturday, Bush revealed
that he had plans to give tax breaks in order to make health insurance more
attractive to people.
"Our challenge is clear," Bush said. "We must
address these rising costs, so that more Americans can afford basic health
insurance. And we need to do it without creating a new federal entitlement
program or raising taxes."
However Bush is pushing for private-health insurance rather
than expanding the government-owned bodies. Democrats on the other hand want to
extend the reach of Medicare and Medicaid as a remedy to the lack of health
According to figures released by the Office of the Actuary
in the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, health care spending in
is expected to reach $4.0 trillion and 20.0 percent of GDP. This is a huge
slice of the GDP and without health insurance, many states can ill-afford such
That is why health insurance is back in focus after it was
shoved away during President Bill Clinton's tenure. Karen Ignagni, president of
Health Insurance Plans, has called on the Congress to first focus on children
and then expand coverage to uninsured adults. Tax breaks and expanded federal
programs are the proposed means through which universal coverage should be given,
"On this issue, the polls show that Democrats,
Republicans and independents want progress," Ignagni said. "The most
expensive course is to do nothing."
Earlier this month California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
took the first step toward making health insurance mandatory by announcing that
the $12 billion required would be partially funded through fees on employers,
hospitals and doctors.
President Bush seems to have caught on and hence his
advocating tax breaks. "Today, the tax code unfairly penalizes people who
do not get health insurance through their job," Bush said. "It
unwisely encourages workers to choose overly expensive, gold-plated plans. The
result is that insurance premiums rise and many Americans cannot afford the
coverage they need."
However problems do persist. One is that labor unions may
feel that job-based health insurance could be weakened. Many health experts are
predicting that the 2008 Presidential elections are going to be fought and won
on health coverage platform.
If that is so, then it is surely good news for 47 million
Americans, who have no health insurance to speak of.