Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Healthcare & the General Welfare

Even before the current economic crisis began, Americans were already straining under the burden of shrinking health care coverage and rising health care costs. Over the last decade, millions of Americans have joined the ranks of the uninsured, and millions more have become underinsured. At the same time, health insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs have risen steadily, and the number of families who are facing unmanageable health care costs has grown.

The effort to reform the nation’s healthcare system and to establish for the first time a federal government obligation to make some kind of health insurance available to every citizen has ignited a furious debate across the country. Whatever legislation is signed into law will be only the first step in reforming a healthcare system that accounts for 16 percent of the gross national product and affects the lives of some 300 million Americans. Few disagree about the need for change, but the country is sharply divided about expanding the federal role in healthcare. Right now, the U.S. spends more on healthcare than any other country and yet ranks behind many other industrialized nations on important measures public health.

The federal government is already the largest provider of medical coverage in the U.S. with programs like Medicaid, Medicare and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. But, a government option, which is not deficit neutral, would cost taxpayers $1 trillion over the next ten years. And if nothing is done about the spiraling cost of health care, total spending on healthcare could reach in excess of $4 trillion a year in ten years.

On Friday November 6 The Exchange, the Center’s national student program, will enter the healthcare debate by focusing on competing plans to overhaul the nation’s healthcare system, the growing number of uninsured and underinsured, and ask the question: Should the government make sure that every American has affordable health insurance?

Anyone wishing to watch the webcast should log on to www.constitutioncenter.org/exchange between 1:00 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. EST on November 6, and click on the provided link. For additional information about participating in the program or to order a free classroom poster, please contact the national student programs manager, Jason Allen, at jallen@constitutioncenter.org.

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