In 1993, President Clinton and the last Democratic-controlled Congress dropped the ball on universal health care, stranding the country with the patchwork system of employer-provided benefits and limited federal and state coverage that we have now.
It stinks. It's expensive, it's confusing, it makes life difficult for doctors and patients both and, worse, it misses people. There is a significant number of people who have no health care at all.
This health care system is also slowly choking our economy. If you ask any business owner what his/her higest costs are, you'll find that most will tell you that it's benefits, namely health care.
So what do we do? Other countries (like, for example, every other Western industrialized nation) have national health care systems which work pretty well, all things considered, but our American distrust of the federal government and the fact that even the members of Congress who might be inclined to push for universal health care are gun-shy on the issue following Clinton's incredible failure means we won't see such a system for at least a generation. Thanks, Bill.
Which is too bad. As has been said elsewhere, a single-payer system like the one Canada has would be cheaper and more efficient than what we have now.
Therefore, if we want universal health care of some sort, we're going to have to enact it at the state level. In fact, there's a bill in the general assembly right now that would do just that.
Here's some of the testimony from Dr. John Battista about that bill:
...[I]t is possible for a Connecticut single payer system to fund comprehensive health care for our entire Connecticut population while saving money for the vast majority of our residents and businesses. When a single payer system for Connecticut was studied under the Weicker administration, savings of over a billion dollars per year were predicted- a finding confirmed by the Office of Health Care Access. Every prospective state and federal study on single payer supports this conclusion, which is consistent with the experience of single payer systems throughout the industrialized world. (Battista)
This plan would both save us money and make us more economically competitive. If you run a business with high health-care costs wouldn't it make sense to relocate to a state where those costs could be reduced and you could compete more effectively?
Why aren't we doing this again?
Seriously, is there a reason why this doesn't make sense? I know that the knee-jerk reaction is that it's socialist, it's European, it's a "big government" program... but the patchwork of private and public sector that we have now is a failure, and an all-private system wouldn't cover nearly everybody. Also, systems like England's and Canada's certainly allow private health care, as well. It's like the public school system: a baseline of coverage for everybody, with the option of opting out for better/different care.
At this point, with the number of uninsured and the cost of health care for everyone both going up, it's sensible to try something else for a while.
I hope the General Assembly seriously considers this bill: I think it would be a boon to both the citizens and the economy of our state. And, let's face it, it'll be a long, long time before we see it's like at the federal level.
Battista, John. "Human Services Committee Testimony In Support Of Single Payer Bill No. 482." 7 March, 2006.