Health care might not top the list of concerns for current University of Wisconsin students, but if you are thinking about life after graduation, it certainly will. The very thought of finding health insurance, much less paying for it, should strike terror into the eyes of potential graduates.
But alas, if you’re looking for some solace in this pending predicament, there is a post-graduation haven for you: California.
Apart from its sunny weather and bustling urban centers, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is trying to sell the virtues of his state on another front, as he pushes for a plan of universal health coverage for all Californians.
Schwarzenegger’s plan has some enviable points for the uninsured millions, including mandatory minimum levels of insurance, subsidies for low-income families unable to afford those levels, prevention of insurance companies from denying health coverage to anyone and total coverage for all children in the state.
As typical of any political proposition, Schwarzenegger’s plan does not come without its critics, and some have already pegged the program as “socialism.”
However, the logic underlying Schwarzenegger’s plan will endear itself even to the conservatives so wildly opposed to the Republican governor, as he aims to attack the “hidden taxes” and government costs underlying the state’s health care disaster.
So, what is the “hidden tax” to which Schwarzenegger refers? Higher premiums: the cost of your insurance on an annual basis.
These premiums might seem like mundane chatter from policy makers, but when you graduate and are paying $400 annually to protect your health, the issue will hit home.
Individuals paying for insurance end up also paying for those who do not have it, as the costs for doctors and hospitals providing service to those who cannot pay must somehow be offset. Schwarzenegger estimates that these premiums are inflated 17 percent by this practice, actually penalizing those who play by the rules and pay with insurance.
Schwarzenegger combats this phenomenon by providing insurance to everyone, including the poor, and by paying doctors and hospitals for the losses they incur by treating uninsured patients or those on Medi-Cal.
The plan additionally supports citizens who planned to pay for health insurance, but were denied based on pre-existing medical conditions or risky jobs and lifestyles.
While it is harder on insurance companies to make a profit paying for medical care for unhealthy citizens, it is the moral imperative of their companies to do this and without such a commitment. These companies are able to operate independent of the demands of the society whose fate is literally in their hands.
Schwarzenegger’s plan admirably seeks to regulate the companies who fail to morally regulate themselves as a means of protecting the interests of Californians as a whole. He adeptly realizes that there is more behind health care than simple dollars and cents, as this is equally an issue of morality and practicality.
Deriding the plan as “socialism” undermines the purpose and goals of a state, which are not solely to protect its citizens’ economic prosperity, but also its citizens’ physical wellbeing. Part of this is health care, and it is high time that a Republican, even if he is one in name only, took the initiative on a plan such as this.
Schwarzenegger realizes that ignoring health-care issues only results in greater problems in the long run, as easily preventable medical problems end up in the emergency room, people with insurance end up paying for those without it, and the quality of care suffers for everyone.
All of these problems are easily cured in a society where coverage is mandatory and where people are not afraid to go to their doctors because of the enormous costs associated with doing so.
While his plan falls short of universal coverage absent of premiums, it operates as a worthy middle ground between the archaic systems we have and the modern systems abroad.
Universal health care might be far off, but for now, Schwarzenegger’s plan is an effective and meaningful compromise that firmly cements California’s title as the state where the “future happens first.”
Robert Phansalkar ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in languages and cultures of Asia and political science.