Friday, December 19, 2008

My Hope for Expanding Healthcare Coverage

I am very passionate about expanding access to healthcare and finding ways to make the US health system both more affordable and easier to navigate. I don't have any illusions about how monumental such an undertaking will be but I also don't believe that this is a challenge too great for the United States - even in light of the current economic malaise. As a matter of fact, I believe that the downturn in the economy which is certain to increase the numbers of uninsured and further strain the employer-based health system could be the impetus needed to start reforms.

I am heartened by the fact that Massachusetts' universal healthcare system (while not without faults and problems) is considered a success by virtually everyone and is now being used as a model for several health reform plans in Washington, D.C. Today, The Boston Globe published an interesting story entitled "Mass Health Plan Has National Appeal" that explains how our state has taken a leadership role in addressing expanding coverage. At work, I recently was part of a national conversation that addressed the current ills associated with the U.S. Health system and the need for reform.
Changes will come slowly in the form of an expansion of SCHIP (State Children's Health Insurance Plan) which is all but certain to be signed into law this spring. This is an important first step in expanding coverage and placing emphasis on prevention and wellness, but so much more needs to happen and I am excited by what the incoming administration might do. I think most people would agree that the current administration's decision to do nothing for the past eight years has not resulted in any market self-corrections. More people have lost their health coverage (uninsured numbers are now estimated to be an astonishing 47 million people); for those lucky enough to have coverage they are finding themselves paying more out-of-pocket each year; and businesses are straining to keep up with increases to their health plans which have typically been 3-4 times greater than inflation for more than a decade.

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