Wednesday, July 1, 2009

"The fight for comprehensive, universal health care is the civil rights struggle of the moment" ~Sanders, Independent from the land of Ben & Jerry's

There are (at least) 47 million Americans without health insurance, and this number is only going to go up with the current recession and climbing unemployment rate. Cheery thought, non? We heard the mantra all through the campaign; it was consistently rated as a top issue with voters across the country and across demographics. However, politicians are…shall we say, reticent? to put forth comprehensive plans. Clinton’s epic fail in the 90’s, the terrifyingly wealthy pharmaceutical companies and the federal government’s decided lack of funds have made heath care the most talked about, but least acted on, issue. Until now.

Obama has big plans- he wants a comprehensive plan on his desk by October. (This is why we love him. Dream big, right?)

First option: Create a government-funded program that would provide active competition for the private companies, to keep prices down and coverage more complete. The problems? Would a program with the power and funds (however depleted they currently are) of the federal government behind it create an uneven playing field? Is it actually unfair to the companies already trying? (Do we care?)

Second: Privately owned companies would come together to form a co-op, to do essentially what the governmental program would do- provide competition to keep the market fair. This co-op would be funded initially through federal funds (estimated cost between 3 and 4 billion) but then be self-sufficient.

As of right now, the Republican proposal prevents any government funded, public option from competing with the privately owned companies currently in power.

And what about Medicaid? One plan makes employers responsible for their low-income workers. Employers would be responsible for paying half the cost of Medicaid for its workers. The serious danger in that is that it creates a big disincentive for employers to hire low-income workers. Bad news bears.

Here’s the even bigger question. Both of these plans would cost somewhere between 1 and 1.6 trillion dollars over the next ten years. It just begs the question “Where’s the money?”

But here are the big three things that Obama wants the bill to include: 1) require people to carry insurance, 2) federal subsidies for those who cannot afford it, and 3) require most employers to help pay for coverage.

House and Senate Dems are currently divided and the debates are just heating up. Check out NYtimes for really good coverage of the issue. That’s why I got most of this! ☺