Health insurance for all: That's not too much to expect in the world's richest nation. Nor is it too much to expect of Congress, which desperately needs to shed its image of intransigence and incompetence.
The bill that cleared the Senate Finance Committee last week would leave an estimated 17 million citizens and legal residents uninsured. Eight million illegal residents would also remain uninsured .
Granted that's an improvement over the current 46 million people, or 15 percent of the population, that lacks insurance.
But it's not good enough. Universal coverage is the fundamental requisite for health care reform. Aside from the moral imperative, economics demands covering everyone.
Insurance is sharing risk. The more people who are sharing the risk, especially the more young and healthy people who don't need a lot of expensive care, the lower the cost for everyone. (What the young and healthy get is the assurance that they will be covered when they're old and sick or hurt.)
Bowing to political pressure and valid concerns about the deficit, the Finance Committee greatly lowered reform's price tag. In the process, though, Sen. Max Baucus's committee was penny wise and pound foolish.
Congress must negotiate a better plan, one that makes insurance affordable for everyone. This will require both driving down costs and subsidizing those who still can't afford premiums, so that everyone can afford to be insured. At that point there's nothing unreasonable about mandating that everyone obtain coverage.
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