News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion
FRIDAY, APRIL 28, 2006


It's time for solution to health care for uninsured

Don't get sick, but if you do, don't seek help.

For a growing number of Americans it's a scary reality.

The percentage of working-age Americans with moderate to middle incomes who lacked health insurance for at least part of the year rose to 41 percent in 2005. That's a dramatic increase from 28 percent in 2001, according to a study released this week.

The burgeoning number of uninsured rely on expensive hospital emergency rooms to treat routine ailments or they postpone treatment until it becomes a high-cost crisis.

In the end we all pay through higher hospital bills and insurance premiums.

Frustrated by the lack of leadership in Washington, one state adopted a government solution.

The new law in Massachusetts requires people who don't have health insurance to buy it by July 1, 2007, or forfeit their individual state tax exemptions. Private insurance companies, working with state officials, will develop low-cost plans that people can buy through a new state-run insurance exchange. State officials hope the price will be about $200 a month.

The nation will watch to see if the plan succeeds or if it bankrupts the state, but give credit to Massachusetts for showing leadership.

Critics who offer no solutions are like those heartless people who yell at hobos: "Get a job!" Only they are yelling: "Get a job with medical benefits!"

Indeed, it may be difficult for working Americans who receive medical coverage from employers to care about those who can't afford it.

But it's everybody's problem and we need leaders who appreciate the immediacy of it.

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