2009-07-15 A face of the uninsured, a state of denial

From Issuepedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

On the Durham bus, meanwhile, a sleepy Rhonda Robinson silently rehearsed the speech she'd written for the North Carolina town hall meeting scheduled for after the rally. She wondered if U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, then on the fence regarding the "strong public insurance option" that Robinson and her fellow riders supported, would attend to hear it.

As it turned out, Hagan did come, and she did hear Robinson's story, albeit not in a way that anyone planned.

Within a week of meeting Robinson, Hagan announced her support for the "public option," giving it a major lift when it looked to be in trouble.

The caravan to Washington happened as Congress was beginning to debate the issue of universal health insurance and how to achieve it. This is a critical domestic policy objective for the Obama administration as it tries to rein in the skyrocketing medical costs that are eating away at the national economy. The battle is expected to continue through the summer, with the outcome still very uncertain.

The organizers, a coalition of more than 100 labor unions, social justice and community groups calling itself Health Care for America Now (HCAN), included many advocates of a single-payer, or national governmental health care system such as exists in most other industrialized nations, including Great Britain, France and Canada. In all of these countries, health care costs far less than in the U.S.

But President Barack Obama was leading in a different direction. He argues that the U.S. is too deeply committed to an employer-based system of private health insurance to simply rip it up and replace it with single-payer.

A proponent himself of single-payer when he was but an Illinois legislator, Obama now counsels that the way to achieve universal coverage is by reforming – or "building on" – the private insurance system while bolstering the public insurance sector. That sectior is now limited to Medicare for the aged and disabled, Medicaid for the poor and the V.A. for veterans.