One of the nation's leading economists says health care reform is "affordable" and "within reach." Writing an Op-Ed for the New York Times today, Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman analyzed the Congressional Budget Office's report on the latest proposal from the Senate committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP):
Krugman claims insuring the 45 million Americans without health insurance should not be as daunting as it appears. He points out that most of the uninsured are young adults, whose medical costs tend to be low. And he says since the cost of caring for the uninsured is already passed down to rest of the population, getting them coverage should not be that much more of a burden.
About the plan itself, Krugman writes:
The HELP plan achieves near-universal coverage through a combination of regulation and subsidies. Insurance companies would be required to offer the same coverage to everyone, regardless of medical history; on the other side, everyone except the poor and near-poor would be obliged to buy insurance, with the aid of subsidies that would limit premiums as a share of income.
Employers would also have to chip in, with all firms employing more than 25 people required to offer their workers insurance or pay a penalty...
And those who prefer not to buy insurance from the private sector would be able to choose a public plan instead. This would, among other things, bring some real competition to the health insurance market, which is currently a collection of local monopolies and cartels.
The budget office says this will cost $597 billion over the next 10 years. But when you add in the cost of expanding Medicaid to help the poor, the bill goes up to between $1 trillion and $1.3 trillion.
That's a lot of money. But Krugman points out it's less than 4% of the $33 trillion the U.S. government predicts we'll spend on health care over the next decade:
So fundamental health reform — reform that would eliminate the insecurity about health coverage that looms so large for many Americans — is now within reach. The “centrist” senators, most of them Democrats, who have been holding up reform can no longer claim either that universal coverage is unaffordable or that it won’t work.
This is a historic opportunity — arguably the best opportunity since 1947, when the A.M.A. killed Harry Truman’s health-care dreams. We’re right on the cusp. All it takes is a few more senators, and HELP will be on the way.