Universal coverage up for debate

Published 11:08 pm Monday, July 7, 2008

By Staff
Richard Shelby, U.S. Senator
Numerous problems with the current U.S. healthcare system have led some Americans to look into a universal health insurance program as an answer. What many proponents of universal coverage suggest is that the United States government should provide health care to all her citizens. While a noble goal, this coverage would not be free and we, as a nation, would have to pay for this massive expansion of the federal government. I simply do not believe American people desire or deserve what government run health care would result in - higher taxes and larger deficits.  
By allowing the government to have a heavy hand in how we manage our health care, we are asking for a decrease in both flexibility and options for patients and doctors. What many fail to understand is that there is indeed a big difference between government run health care coverage and actual access to medical care. Supporters of government-run medicine often cite Canada or Great Britain as models for the U.S. In 2006, Britain's Department of Health reported that nearly 900,000 Britons are waiting for admission to the National Health Service hospitals. The Fraser Institute, an independent Canadian research organization, reported in 2007 that the average wait time for a Canadian awaiting surgery or other medical treatment is now 18.3 weeks, a 97 percent over 14 years. Simply put, government financing means government control, and government control means less personal freedom.
Instead, I support market reforms that would expand insurance coverage for working Americans. There are steps that can be taken to reform our current health care system that would build on the strengths of our present system without adding further government bureaucracy and taxes. By eliminating pre-existing condition exclusions from health plans, making insurance portable, expanding health savings accounts, emphasizing preventative care, reducing administrative costs and making insurance more affordable to small business we can efficiently decrease the costs that currently burden Americans while expanding coverage, improving quality and making health care more affordable.  
We need a system that restores the patients and doctors as the center of every health care decision rather than the government and insurance companies. Our health care system should incorporate market mechanisms such as competition, cost sharing and consumer choice as opposed to centralized government control.
As Congress addresses the health care dilemma, Americans need to be fully informed on the significant repercussions of government run health care proposals. And as the health care debate continues, perhaps the one question we should ask ourselves is as simple as this: do you want to place your health care decisions into the hands of the bureaucracy that created the U.S. Tax Code?

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