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Push for action on health reform

Governor Quinn and legislators will join community leaders from across the area at a rally to push the state legislature to create a health insurance exchange to prepare for health reform’s rollout.

The rally takes place Sunday, October 16 at 3 p.m. at Temple Sholom, 3480 N. Lake Shore Drive.

Unless the legislature acts this year to set up an exchange, the state could lose more than $90 million in federal early startup grants under the Affordable Care Act, said Tom Lenz of United Power for Action and Justice, a regional network of congregations and community organizations that’s sponsoring the rally.

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Mandates and Universal Health Care

Hillary Clinton has been saying that it’s “impossible to get universal health care if you don’t have a mandate.”

She’s wrong on two counts with that statement — and it’s unfortunate that the issue is aired in the media only as an aspect of who’s attacking whom.

(Sun-Times story here, Tribune here.)

One, mandates don’t guarantee universal coverage.

In Massachusetts — the first place in the world to try mandates (which use tax penalties for people without insurance) — officials estimate that about 200,000 previously uninsured people have signed up; perhaps twice that many haven’t, the New York Times recently reported.

Under their system, people without insurance lose a $219 tax exemption; the cheapest policies cost about $1,000.

Next year the tax penalty goes up to about $500.  An awful lot of under-30 “invincibles” are going to do the math and decide to hold out.  No universal care there.

Anyway, as Quentin Young told Newstips in July, the so-called “affordable” insurance policies have so many exclusions and such high deductibles that “they are insurance in name only.”

What mandates do accomplish is driving thousands of people into private insurance where they get lousy coverage.  (If you haven’t seen “Sicko,” it isn’t about the uninsured; it’s about people with health insurance who can’t get health care.)  That may be what Clinton (and other leading Democratic presidential candidates) learned from her first health care reform drive: make sure the insurance companies get their cut.

We recently cited Russel Mokhiber‘s observation that when you hear the words “universal health care,” an insurance industry lobbyist is nearby.  That’s because it mandates universal patronage of insurance companies, not universal access to health care.

The second way Clinton is wrong is that you most certainly can get universal coverage without mandates.  Most industrialized nations in the world do it.

There’s a range of ways, but none involve private insurance companies (which make money by denying access to health care).  In Britain, it’s socialized medicine — the doctors work for the government health service.  In Canada, it’s a single-payer system — doctors mainly operate privately, but the government administers health insurance payments.

There’s a single-payer system in the United States too:  Medicare.  It provides the most efficient coverage for the populations with the most costly health needs, the elderly and disabled, providing far better coverage with a fraction of private industry’s administrative costs.

Proposals by Reps. Conyers and Kucinich in Washington, and by State Rep. Mary Flowers in Springfield, would extend Medicare coverage everyone.

You won’t hear about it in the big media, though, probably because they’ve prejudged real universal health coverage to be politically impratical.  That’s what you call a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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