Universal Health Coverage Urged
January 15, 2004
The United States should provide health insurance to all Americans by decade's end or risk the social and economic consequences of letting more than 43 million people go without it, a federal medical-advisory panel said.
Washington should rapidly design a plan for affordable, continuous health coverage, the Institute of Medicine said in a report released Wednesday. In the meantime, state and federal governments should put enough resources into existing public programs to make sure that all eligible people enroll.
Uninsured people get about half the medical care of those with coverage, leading them to experience more-serious medical problems, the report said:
- Each year 18,000 people without insurance die unnecessarily.
- The United States loses $65 billion to $130 billion each year due to the poor health and early deaths of uninsured adults, and individual work losses and developmental losses in children due to poor health.
The institute didn't take a position on how universal coverage should be provided but noted incremental coverage expansions to date haven't put much of a dent in the problems of the uninsured. The report blamed the lack of progress on a dearth of strong political leadership and opposition to particular ideas from health care providers and business interests.
Many of the ideas under consideration, including President Bush's proposed $87 billion in tax credits, wouldn't result in universal coverage. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, however, said the Institute of Medicine's recommendation isn't realistic. "I don't think administratively or legislatively that it's feasible."
Source: Sarah Lueck, "U.S. Is Urged to Address Health-Insurance Crisis," Wall Street Journal, January 15, 2004; based on "Insuring America's Health: Principles and Recommendations," Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, January 14, 2004.
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