Saturday, December 6, 2008

HEALTHCARE BEAT

Marie Cocco, Washington Post - With employers quickly shedding workers, is there any doubt that more health benefit cuts are coming for those lucky enough to keep their jobs? And when recovery comes, does anyone think American business is going to abandon its argument that health costs represent a competitive disadvantage in the global marketplace? They won't, because it's accurate. And that's largely because other countries have universal, taxpayer-funded health care systems.

These are the immutable truths of the health care conundrum. They haven't changed much in two decades. Costs are driven inexorably higher by continual advances in care as well as an aging population that needs more of it. Employers can't cope unless they scale back coverage, shift costs to workers or eliminate benefits altogether. States have become insurers of last resort -- but right now they face crippling budget shortfalls that threaten this safety net.

Using this compromised system as the basis for health insurance revision is folly -- more so now than it was in the Clinton era, when more employers still were covering their workers. Tightening regulation of the insurance industry and creating a new, government-based plan to make coverage available to those who cannot afford to buy it from private insurers -- the essence of Obama's campaign proposal -- would only add another layer of complexity and, eventually, cost. Only a single, government-financed system can eliminate the administrative waste, unfairness and economic burden of our current health insurance scheme. Timidity is no longer an option.

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