The health care promise Obama is bound to break

by Lesley Politi on December 2, 2008

Springfield, MO) — President-Elect Barack Obama recently tapped former South Dakota Senator Tom Daschle to be his Health and Human Services Secretary. The two share a commitment of making universal health care a top priority for the incoming administration.

While some call the proposal a lofty notion that already failed in the 1990s, it does have some key elements to move forward within the first term.  For one local woman, whose become the poster child of health care reform, those changes are more important than ever.

For twelve years, Susie Wolfe and her husband have run a small business in downtown Springfield. Also during those twelve years, neither has had health insurance.

The quotes that we are quoted are anywhere from $250 to $600 a piece, per month,” said Susie.
For the Wolfes, it’s either health insurance or a mortgage payment.

“We’re in that catch-22 situation where we make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to be able to afford it for my husband and myself.” says Susie.

And that’s why the Wolfes are eager to see what happens with Barack Obama’s health care plan. The President-Elect is especially concerned with coverage for the self-employed.

“It means making health care affordable for anyone who has it, accessible for anyone who wants it and reducing costs for small businesses,” said Obama in a recent weekly radio address.
Obama proposes the creation of the National Health Insurance Exchange. It’s an insurance market place that will give individuals the choice of buying affordable health coverage either through a private company or through a government system. It would even offer subsidies to ensure that everyone is covered.

“I personally think it would not solve some of our major cost containment problems, but it would make a substantial contribution towards reducing the numbered of uninsured in our country,” said Drury Economics professor Steven Mullins. “I think, politically, there is very little chance that this is going to get much attention in Obama’s first term.”

Opponents say the plan would drive private insurers out of business and leave consumers with only one government option for insurance. But just last week, the insurance industry’s Washington trade group, America’s Health Insurance Plans, reinforced the movement for reform.

It proposed that private health insurance companies would be required to offer coverage to all applicants, regardless of pre-existing medical conditions, if all American’s were required to maintain health insurance.

“It’s going to take something like that to give people who don’t work in jobs that pay enough where their employer can provide employer-provided insurance,” said Mullins.
Local health insurance groups weren’t prepared to comment on the proposal, but did stress the need for affordability and accessibility to health care. For Susie, it’s about being able to maintain a business on top of those unexpected medical needs.

The health care plan will cost taxpayers between $50 and $65 billion a year once it’s fully running. The administration says much of that would be covered if it reinstated tax on people making more than $250,000 a year.


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