Should Pay for Health Care?||
Who should pay the bill when you go to the doctor? That is a question that
promises to come up a lot in the next few months, as Democrats vie for President
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In a report released Wednesday, the Institute of Medicine, an organization
sponsored by Congress, recommended that the government consider universal health
insurance, insurance that would cover all Americans regardless of their employment
status or financial situation.
Currently, most Americans must be employed
to receive partially covered health insurance. Employers choose an insurance plan,
paying a certain amount per worker, and then workers do not have to pay full price
for doctor visits or medicine.
who do not have jobs must either pay for private insurance, which is very expensive,
cover their own medical bills, which can rise into the hundreds of thousands of
dollars depending on the treatment, or simply go without care because they can't
According to the Census Bureau, 43.6 million Americans had no
health insurance in 2002, an increase over the 39.8 million people who had none
"I believe we're reaching the point where the system is unsustainable,"
said Dr. Arthur Kellermann, an Emory University School of Medicine professor who
helped write the Institute of Medicine report.
The report called for major
reform of the health care system and said the government should consider universal
coverage by the year 2010.
offer different health care proposals|
So far, some of the Democrats campaigning for president, such as the Rev. Al
Sharpton and Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, have said they support universal health
Kucinich has called for "Medicare for All." He would eliminate
private insurance and create a government-run health care system.
over a trillion dollars in the health care system from local, state and federal
sources," Kucinich said. "Today, Americans are paying for universal
health care. They're just not getting it. They're not getting it, because insurance
companies are guaranteed to be able to jack up the price of health care with the
paperwork transactions they have."
Candidate Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt's
program would guarantee health care for everyone who has a job, while Sens. Joe
Lieberman of Connecticut, John Kerry of Massachusetts, John Edwards of North Carolina
and retired Gen. Wesley Clark have focused on providing health insurance for all
Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean's proposal calls for universal
health coverage for all people under 25. It would also ease health insurance costs
for small businesses who can't afford to pay the high price of group health plans.
Dean's plan includes the importation of prescription drugs from Canada,
where they are cheaper - a feature very unpopular with American companies that
manufacture medicine. It also penalizes large businesses if they refuse to pay
for health coverage for their employees - a feature business leaders say restricts
their ability to make profits and could harm the economy.
here for more information on each candidate's health care plan
politics of health care|
Critics of universal health care say it simply costs too much, and with tight
budgets, there isn't enough money to cover all uninsured Americans. Meanwhile,
health insurance companies have strong connections to both parties in Congress
and would fight any attempt to regulate or eliminate their business.
and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson called the plan "unrealistic."
just don't think it's in the cards," he said. "I don't think that administratively
or that legislatively it's feasible."
In the early 1990s, President
Clinton called for a complete overhaul of the American health care system, but
Congress rejected the plan saying it would be too expensive.
plan for increased health care coverage includes offering $89 billion in health
care tax credits to people whose employers do not pay their insurance.
response to the Institute of Medicine report, White House spokesman Trent Duffy
said the president is working toward "a host of measures, without creating
a government-run health care system that rations and may ultimately be counterproductive
to the high quality of care that Americans enjoy today."
would pay the bill?|
Many European countries have universal, government-run programs, but they come
at the cost of higher taxes. Such systems also result in varying health care quality.
Britain, for example, all residents are covered, but many people complain of lower
standards of care and lengthy waits - of sometimes years -- to see certain doctors.
a recent survey conducted by the American Hospital Association showed that some
Americans said they would be willing to pay higher taxes.
in ten respondents go so far as indicating they would be willing to pay more in
federal taxes to assure that every American citizen has health care coverage,"
said AHA President Dick Davidson. The survey, randomly polled 800 registered voters
across the country.
President Bush is expected to comment on health care
coverage during his State of the Union address on Tuesday.
Kristina Nwazota, Online NewsHour