Health care is an issue that provokes passionate debate, and that debate is certain to intensify as the legislative session gets underway. Gov. Rell fired the first shot with a proposal that would encourage insurers to provide a low-cost plan to those who need it--but that idea has been attacked as being too expensive for the very poor at a proposed $250/month, and too reliant on the will of insurance companies.
Yet the will to pass real universal health care seems thin. Take these comments from Speaker James Amman, for example:
Although many Democrats have talked about adopting universal health care, Amann cautions that this is a lofty goal for such a complicated issue. Since solving the entire problem is unlikely, the legislature should instead focus on solving one part of the problem, he said.
"If you think we're going to conquer the world next year and get everybody covered, it would be a miracle," Amann said before Rell announced her plan. "I'm sure the governor would love to sign that bill. I think if we concentrate on the kids with a program we have called HUSKY, which is one of the best in the nation, improving that and creating more access and more prevention, we can at least conquer that [this] year." (Keating)
Amann may simply be keeping expectations down, but proponents of universal health care should take this as a signal that they may not, in fact, see any type of universal coverage this year.
Yet I believe it can be done. I've suggested in the past that a single-payer system might be good for Connecticut and for the country (although I have concerns about what the collapse of the insurance industry would do to Hartford, and single-payer systems have problems of their own), but realistically, American governments are not going to pass such a plan any time soon. Such a system was a dramatic failure in 1993, and only 39% of Americans support replacing the current system with a new, government-run health care system (see the Nov. 9-12, 2006, poll on this page). So we're not there, yet.
Therefore, let's deal with what's possible. Amann wants to expand HUSKY to include all children, and I think this is a laudable goal. But I believe we can do better than that. I propose implementing a hybrid plan which would help the poorest afford basic, state-subsidized health insurance, while working with insurance companies to provide a better and more affordable range of options for everyone else. We can cover many people by expanding Medicaid, and the rest can be dealt with through new state programs. We can base our plan on that of Massachusetts, which now requires health insurance for all residents, and provides a subsidy to low-income residents to help them pay for it. One of the options available could be Rell's $250/month plan.
Therefore, Connecticut residents could choose either a state-backed (and possibly partly state-funded) plan, or go with the health plans provided by their employers. As for funding, I suggest that we revisit some of the plans proposed during the gubernatorial race, especially those of Dan Malloy.
We can debate whether actually requiring people to have health insurance is the way to go. But I believe that this sort of hybrid plan, which combines subsidized health care for the truly needy with a wider range of private health insurance choices would extend access to health care to everyone who needs it and help to keep costs level or bring them down for many Connecticut residents.
Better yet, it's actually possible to do. We can create a plan that would make sure all of Connecticut's residents have access to health care. It's complex, but not such a monumental task as scrapping the current system and replacing it with a new one would be. I urge the Speaker and the legislature to create and passing such a plan this year. Connecticut deserves it.
Keating, Christopher. "State Faces Daunting Issues In Legislature." Hartford Courant 1 January, 2007.
Gallup Poll. Nov. 9-12, 2006. N=1,004 adults nationwide. MoE ± 3 (for all adults). (http://www.pollingreport.com/health3.htm)