Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Ethics & the Wisconsin Gubernatorial Race

While the focus of the gubernatorial debate in Wisconsin the past couple of days has been the conviction of a lone civil servant, the race for the governor's mansion in California is emphasizing comprehensive health care reform.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has promised to make 2007 "the year of health care" for California if re-elected (those in need of care in 2006 will just need to sit tight, Arnold has a campaign to run). Democratic challenger Phil Angelides, for his part, is promising to provide universal health care for all children in the state if elected this fall.

The focus on comprehensive health care reform in California is not shocking. Just last week a bipartisan committee led by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) released a report that concludes the government should work toward guaranteeing health care for all Americans.

Of course, that's the easy part -- the tough part is agreeing how to do so. And since the federal government seems years away from formulating any sort of actual comprehensive health care policy (at least until after 2008), the duty is falling on individual states to pick up the slack.

Currently there are three comprehensive health care reform proposals sitting at the state legislature in Wisconsin. One pushes for universal coverage with comprehensive care through a publicly funded program; another proposes universal coverage with basic care through an employer/employee funded program; and the other would establish near universal coverage with comprehensive care through an employer/employee funded program.

So the framework for reform is out there -- and so is the need.

Although considered one of the top states in the country in terms of health care coverage, a recent Wisconsin Department of Health & Family Services (DHFS) report estimated that over half a million Wisconsin residents went without health insurance for all or part of 2004, while many more went underinsured. The study also found that the number of uninsured in the state is increasing significantly, which fits with the findings that young adults (18-44) are uninsured at a notably higher rate than older adults.

And the connection between insurance status and health status is stark, to say the least. Another DHFS report from 2004 found that the uninsured in Wisconsin are significantly more likely to be in poor or fair health than those who have health insurance. This is in spite of the fact that young adults, who are insured less than older adults in Wisconsin, tend to be in better health than older adults.

That's over 500,000 Wisconsin residents and counting-- many of whom are employed -- who are faced with a higher rate of health problems because they lack adequate access to necessary care.

Talk about an ethics issue.


Anonymous Dohnal said...

How many of these are professionals that choose to buy Major Medical and use HSA's to cover small amounts, how many are religous groups that do not beleive in regular health care? How many are itinerants that just drift?
Who is going to pay for these plans and why should those who have plans pay for everyone else's?
Socialized medicine, the drama of every secular/socialist in the country.
What is your source for all of these figures?

June 14, 2006  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

I'll start with the easiest one -- the source for my figures is the Wisconsin Department of Health & Family Services. I link to their reports directly in my post.

The funding for the various proposals before the state legislature ranges from public funding to regulated employer/employee assessments. The details for each are in the proposal links I provide in my post.

In terms of who is uninsured in the state, it tends to be the poor. The exact demographics are cited in the first DHFS report I cite (primarily pages 10-23); there doesn't seem to be much use in transcribing them here.

Regarding groups who don't believe in regular health care, there is nothing that says they will need to seek medical care under a universal health care plan -- just like public education isn't forced on people who choose alternatives. And if it's alternative medicine they practice, perhaps they should lobby to have those procedures covered under the universal plan.

As for paying for the system, universal care -- if implemented correctly -- can actually have the effect of reducing costs across the board. Even those who get comprehensive health care now (like myself) would pay less overall under a properly enacted universal system. I write about how here, here, here, here, here, here, and here, but just to give you the basic premise -- it comes down to administrative efficiency and negotiating power.

Lastly, I do happen to be a secularist -- although I prefer the term Humanist. But I tell you what, if I did subscribe to a particular religion, it surely would be one that supports ensuring the health and well-being of everyone in society. And, as it turns out, there are plenty of churches in this state and the country that support universal health care -- here's just one example of a coalition of faith-based groups who support it.

June 14, 2006  

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