Reform means universal coverageDuring a three-year...

The Forum

August 12, 1994

Reform means universal coverage

During a three-year intensive study, League of Women Voters members examined the delivery and financing of health care in the United States.

They found a system in crisis: 37 million Americans without health insurance; one of every four Americans expected to be without coverage at some point over the next two years; 20 million more Americans with inadequate coverage; and skyrocketing health-care costs, rising at twice the rate of inflation.

Americans are spending $1 out of every $7 we earn on health care. The health care crisis is so far-reaching that it can only be solved by comprehensive reform.

The league's consensus solutions are three: universal coverage for all U.S. residents, regardless of ability to pay; a benefits package that assures a basic level of quality care; and stringent containment of health-care spending.

Universal coverage is critical to the success of health-care reform. The current crisis is based in part on the lack of universal access. Individuals without health care coverage are more likely to seek care at the wrong end of the health care system, when a problem has become acute and needs emergency treatment.

The cost of such uncompensated care is passed along to the insured in the form of higher prices in what is called "cost-shifting." By providing access to health care for all U.S. residents and emphasizing preventive health care and health education, a good health-care reform package will save costs and lives.

The basic package of health care benefits should include the following health care services: primary care, acute care, mental health care and long-term care.

The league believes that reducing administrative costs, setting caps for health-care spending, using managed care and promoting the equitable distribution of services will go a long way toward containing health-care costs that presently are spiraling out of control.

The league's preferred method of financing was a national health-care insurance plan financed through general taxes in place of individual insurance premiums the so-called "single-payer" approach.

In addition, league members indicated that an employer-based system was acceptable. Because health care is a form of compensation and because it assures a healthy and productive work force, it is appropriate for employers to pay for health care. Because it builds on the existing system, an employer-mandate system can achieve universal coverage without large disruptions the health-care delivery system.

The league also supports increased taxes to finance a basic level of health-care reform. We would look very carefully at a variety of factors when evaluating the acceptability of taxes used to finance care for all U.S. residents, but we would be particularly concerned that the tax is fair, equitable and progressive.

We could support increases in so-called "sin taxes" as part of a reform package that encourages Americans to lead healthy lifestyles. We could also support a general income tax increase. The league strongly opposes a value-added tax or national sales tax to pay for health-care reform.

Health-care reform has been described as the most sweeping domestic policy initiative since the Social Security Act of 1935. Health-care reform would overhaul one-seventh of the U.S. economy and its impact would be felt by every person in the United States.

League members, along with a broad majority of the American people, have come to the same conclusion: The health-care crisis can be solved only by comprehensive reform.

Agnes B. Edwards

Baltimore

The writer is chairwoman of the health care committee of the League of Women Voters of Baltimore City.

Fans from Ohio

Being from the Cleveland area didn't seem to be anything extraordinary while visiting Baltimore recently, but it was.

We enjoyed the similarities of our cities in hopes our harbor would also be so beautiful.

Our visit was a last-minute getaway and we enjoyed your fabulous Aquarium, the USS Constellation, watching the crew from the tall Argentine ship "Libertad," even the little boat that kept the harbor clean each morning.

The Stouffer Hotel was very beautiful and to our surprise, as we checked in, so did the Cleveland Indians.

But our trip was made very special by an unknown, distinguished looking gentleman from Baltimore, as we walked to Camden Yards on Tuesday, July 26, with a little conversation about our being Indians fans, which was obvious with our Tribe shirts.

We told him we were from Cleveland and couldn't get tickets for the evening game that day. He then asked if we would want his tickets.

Skeptical, we said yes, and he proceeded to give us bleacher seat tickets. When we offered to pay him for them, he repeatedly said no, and that he wanted them to be used by someone who would "enjoy the game."

We would like to say thank you once again in hopes that he will see this letter.

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