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A Tale of Two Health Care Plans

by Jerry Flanagan, 11:00 a.m. PST - (415) 633-1320

Senator Edward Kennedy announced a health care plan yesterday modeled after California's new law requiring employers with more than 50 workers to provide health care or pay into an insurance pool. The plan provides a stark contrast to the hodge-podge of industry backed priorities that President Bush announced in his State of the Union address on Tuesday evening. Senator Kennedy's approach could dramatically increase access to health care since the majority of the 43 million uninsured Americans are working.

However, a mandate that requires employers to buy health care must contain comprehensive cost controls on insurers, hospitals and physicians or rates will continue to spiral upward.

Kennedy said the costs of the expanding health coverage to the working uninsured would be counterbalanced by money saved through preventive care and better information technology.

But middle class families -- the group which experienced the greatest increase in uninsured rates in 2001 -- know that while insurers are allowed to raise our premiums at will health care will remain unaffordable to many.

Something else is similar in the two plans: on the same day that Senator Kennedy announced his plan in Washington D.C., California Senate pro Tem John Burton introduced a new bill to provide for reimportation of prescription drugs. In his speech, Kennedy said reimportation of prescription drugs from Canada and the European Union should be legalized.

Reimportation could save consumers, employers and the federal government billions of dollars but much more must be done to control the cost increases that have led to a record number of uninsured Americans.

Failing to implement an aggressive crackdown on profiteering and waste system wide could mean that the millions of Americans struggling to afford their health insurance will join the ranks of the uninsured.