A member of one of America's wealthiest families has decried the lack of effort by the White House to promote universal access to health care for all Americans.
"We're getting no help out of the White House whatsoever," said Sen. John D. "Jay" Rockefeller 4th, D-W. Va., who participated yesterday in a forum on the crisis in affordable health care at Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health. "You can't get anything done in that town without the help of the president," he said.
Rockefeller urged President Bush to consider championing health-care programs for expectant mothers and children as starting points.
Rockefeller delivered the keynote address during the J. Douglas Colman Lectureship, an annual presentation on health care in honor of the man who formed the organization that later became Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Maryland.
The United States and South Africa are the only industrialized countries that do not have a national policy of universal health care, Rockefeller said. "Not having health care for all Americans is insane," he said, because it results in the poor using emergency rooms as their last resort, thus increasing the cost of uncompensated care that hospitals provide.
Rockefeller said a solution is to adopt the recommendations of the congressional Pepper Commission, named after Rep. Claude Pepper, D-Fla., the panel's first chairman.
Those recommendations, released last year, call for a combination of private and government health insurance programs that would eventually cover all Americans. One such program would help small businesses get insurance for their workers by offering government subsidies.
Rockefeller said there is support for a national health insurance program, but the price tag of $222 billion is too much. "There is no way in the world that Congress is doing that type of tax proposal," he said.
Yet he warned doctors and other health-care providers in the audience that rising costs might eventually push the nation into nationalizing health care.