The Daily Targum

Report 'Prescribes' Public Option To State

The Daily Targum — Monday, October 12, 2009

By Andrew Gold
Contributing Writer

The prescription for the state may be an overall reform of the health care system.

A recent report by New Jersey Public Perspective singles out America's Affordable Health Choices Act, or House Resolution 3200, as the ideal bill for the state because it has a public option provision individuals could opt into.

"Under this legislation, the federal government will pay more money to support NJ's health care programs that serve low and moderate income residents, freeing up more state money for further expansion and improvement in our state's health care system," said Health Care Campaign Coordinator with New Jersey Citizen Action Eve Weissman.

That public option is critical in New Jersey, where there has been a particularly high increase in medical costs, according to the report, "The Right Rx for NJ: National Health Care Reform."

"It is absolutely essential that we don't just mandate coverage. We need a system that is based on people, not profit, and people need to have a nonprofit-based entity to handle health coverage," President of the Rutgers University Democrats Alex Holodak said. "No one forces you to use the post office or the VA hospitals."

Employer-based coverage in the state has been decreasing since 2000 and the number of uninsured people has been increasing at a rate higher than the national average since 1999, according to the report. A public option, advocates say, would increase competition and choice, and slow rising medial costs.

"It is impossible to create a new entitlement, decrease the deficit and cover more people," said Vice President of College Republicans Noah Glyn.

Most Republicans have opposed enactment of any kind of public option for ideological reasons as well as out of fear that private insurers will be driven out of business, ultimately resulting in less choice for consumers, said Glyn, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore.

"The only way to pay for such a plan would be through increased taxes or decreased state government spending," Glyn said. "With the unlikelihood of the latter option and New Jersey's soaring debt, the public option is the equivalent of an alcoholic in rehab attending a [fraternity] party."

The resolution was first proposed in July in the House and is sponsored by several Representatives, notably Rep. John Dingell, D-Michigan, who is one of the longest-standing members of Congress.

All the health care bills in Congress that have been proposed have some basic provisions in common, including a ban on the practice of denying coverage for individuals due to poor health and the requirement that almost all American citizens be insured.

The committee is preparing to vote on a bill sponsored by committee Chairman Sen. Max Baucus, D-Montana, but many commentators see this bill as a compromise that lacks some of the most essential elements of effective health care reform such as the public option, according to the Senate Finance Committee Web site. But many believe it is the only bill that many Republicans and conservative Democrats will vote for.

"We should let government offer basic coverage, and it will introduce and encourage competition, which will bring down cost," said Holodak, a School of Arts and Sciences senior.

If the bill were to be enacted, restrictions would have to be kept to a minimum to ensure a beneficial effect for New Jersey citizens, according to the report.

Among the most important provisions are an income limit set at 400 percent of the federal poverty level for health insurance subsidies, elimination of the Medicare prescription drugs "doughnut hole," a tax surcharge on the wealthy and a public health insurance option.

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