A shove from Mr Universe31st January 2007
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's plan for universal healthcare has been tried before, but not in such a densely populated state with such a high proportion - 19.4% - of uninsured, writes The Washington Post.
The logic behind it is that putting more healthy people back in the insurance pool will bring down premiums overall and reduce reliance of emergency room treatment.
However, "you can't require people to buy insurance without subsidising those who can't afford it," the paper says in an editorial. Schwarzenegger's plan to take 'dividends' from healthcare providers to cover the cost of that subsidy ignores the fact that doctors and hospitals already recoup money lost treating the uninsured by charging the insured more.
"Last time we checked," the paper comments, "'dividends' are what companies disgorge after profits have materialised." It quotes a think-tank as saying that healthcare costs for the average Californian family are inflated by around US$1,000 a year by the current system.
Plans to force employers to fold in an additional 4% into wage packets to cover healthcare costs are likely to backfire, too, because employers will simply pay their workers less than before, it adds.
But the paper concludes that California's governor still deserves credit for his plan.
"For reasons of equity and efficiency, health coverage in the United States must become universal. Perhaps a shove from a former Mr Universe will help the nation to get there," it says.
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