There are currently 767,000 uninsured persons in this state. This statistic may soon be fixed by Gov. Ed Rendell’s “Prescription for Pennsylvania,” a proposal to expand public health care coverage.
Pennsylvania is the fifth state to present
such a plan, following Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine and California in what is hopefully the first step toward developing a national health insurance system.
“If they need anything like medicine, lab tests, or specialists, it’s very hard to get,” Donna Brian, Ph.D., a certified nurse practitioner, said of the uninsured. Brian, clinical director for PHMC Health Connection, a nonprofit health organization, said that half of those the organization serves are uninsured, but employed.
Rendell’s plan would fix this by providing
an affordable insurance plan to businesses
employing fewer than 50 employees with wages less than the state’s average of $39,000. Businesses will pay $130 a month while employees will pay only $10 to $70 a month, based on what they can afford. The plan will penalize employers who choose not to insure employees with a Fair Share tax – 3 percent of their payroll.
The plan will also allow families that make $40,000 (for a family of four) to $60,000 (for families of more than four), to be eligible to receive state-funded health insurance. Health care is like education.
Every person, regardless of how much money they have, should be given access to it. Yet, the American health care system of private insurance providers is largely based on who can pay and how much. This needs to change. Like so many other countries, the United States needs to adopt a national health insurance system.
Canada, which has a national system, actually spends less per capita than the U.S. government. According to “Yes! Magazine,” published by the nonprofit Positive Futures Network, Canada spends a little more than half of what the U.S. spends and has a higher life expectancy
and lower infant death rate.
Obviously this tax-based system works and costs people less. The U.S. government is so close to having one anyway, as Medicare, Medicaid and children’s Medicaid collectively provide income for the elderly and adults and children in low-income households. Rendell’s plan takes another step toward insuring all people, as the national government should be doing. In 2001, between 1.8 million and 2.2 million Americans suffered bankruptcy due to medical costs. More than 50 percent were due to chronic illnesses, according to a study done by Demos, a nonprofit public policy research and advocacy organization.
The average out-of-pocket cost for the uninsured was more than $6,000 more than it was for the privately insured. Private insurance expires, usually doesn’t cover specialists or optical visits and hardly ever covers dental visits. Though it may cover lab tests, private companies are selective about which. They are also selective about medications through three-tiered systems: They cover
generics, brand-name drugs and of course ones they don’t cover at all.
It’s almost unfathomable that the federal
government has not seen the flaws in our current system and that this is one of the only countries in the West that hasn’t adopted a taxed-based system. But it’s even worse that we are so close to having one of these systems, with so many people already getting government aid, and we still won’t make this change. No wonder states, like our own, had to take matters into their own hands and begin creating their own systems of coverage.
Ashley Helaudais can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.