Overhaul may not be perfect, but it’s a good starting point

Health reform: A good prescription for America?

| Staff Columnist

After much deliberation, negotiation and metaphorical teeth-pulling, Congress finally passed the both lauded and reviled health-care reform bill. Whether you take this as a sign of the Second Coming or you’re raiding the supermarket to prepare for the coming apocalypse, it’s hard to deny the contentious and imperfect nature of the bill. But overall, I believe that the bill will effect overwhelmingly positive change in this country.

From a theoretical perspective, I am a fan of the recent health care overhaul. Any society that claims to be civilized ought to have basic safety nets for its citizens. Health care, which aids in keeping people productive and active both socially and economically, is just as important an issue as national security or education. The bill will increase government spending, but to the legitimate end of improving quality of life. No one complains when the government spends money to prevent terrorist attacks, despite the fact that it’s more likely to burn to death or drown, both of which are scenarios that health insurance could cover. The lesson to be learned is that people are poor assessors of risk, and increased health insurance will prevent a lot of suffering.

Regarding the specifics of the new health care bill, 32 million people will gain insurance through Medicaid, insurance-purchase subsidies and employer-based coverage. Despite the fears and grumblings of many about the admittedly intimidating cost of the bill’s provisions—an estimated $938 billion—the costs will be offset by new taxes and Medicare savings. Some of these taxes include an excise tax on “Cadillac” or expensive, employer-based insurance plans and an increase in the Medicare payroll tax on people with high incomes. While some may resent government intervention in private health care plans, citing a loss of efficiency or business rights, it is clear that the free market has been imperfect in controlling costs and expanding access. Government intervention is needed to steer access to insurance in the right direction. State interference, when correctly controlled, is not a universally bad concept. And while there will be a greater tax burden, the benefits will be worth the expenditure.

Of course, I’m most interested in provisions that directly affect college students. We are now allowed to remain on our parents’ insurance plans until age 26, a helpful provision for those making their first forays into the job market with entry-level jobs that may not provide insurance. Students and recent graduates, many of whom, let’s face it, subsist primarily on unhealthy foods like microwavable pizza, need all the help they can get health care-wise.

Obviously the health care bill is imperfect. I wish there was a public option, although I worry it would end up being too bureaucratic. I’m also sure there are plenty of questionable Where’s Waldo-style add-ins to the reform bill that inevitably benefit some special interest or another. However, I support the direction health care is headed with this bill, and I believe that most of its provisions will bring about positive change.

Read the opposing view here.