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Health care for all

Empty campaign promise or possible?

February 22, 2008
By Connie Cartmell,
Some Washington County residents do not have insurance to pay for health care.

For Lower Salem resident Linda Luke, 37, it’s a simple issue of cost.

“I can’t afford it,” she said. “I never had health insurance before. I pay (for health care) as it comes along.”

She’s still paying on treatment she received after breaking her collarbone in three places. Luke also has a 15-year-old daughter who also isn’t covered by a health care plan.

Luke thinks the idea of the federal government making sure every citizen has access to affordable health care might be a good one, depending on what she would have to pay for it.

“I work in the health care field and make too little to pay the $300 I would have to pay every paycheck for health insurance,” Luke said.

Twenty-eight industrialized nations, with Canada the closest to the U.S., have a single-payer universal health care system, funded by the government.

Advocates say such a system would not be “socialized health care,” where the government owns and operates health care facilities. Instead, the government would collect and allocate money for health care, according to the National Health Care for the Homeless Council (, an organization that advocates for universal health care. Delivery of care would remain largely private, says Physicians for a National Health program (

The issue has been discussed in America for decades.

Amanda Marshall, agent with State Farm Insurance Co. of Marietta, said there have been few specific details discussed about a “universal health insurance plan” for the United States.

“Plans that have been proposed are pretty broad,” Marshall, 32, said. “I am looking forward to seeing more details.”

On a personal level, Marshall is positive on the issue.

“There is a diversity of need. Affordable health insurance coverage for everybody, at a certain level, is how I look at universal health care,” she said. “It’s a good thing.”

For her industry, there would be changes, Marshall said, but adoption of universal health care would not make a huge impact.

“I think that we, as an insurance industry, should embrace it and go on from there,” she said. “There are so many different avenues this can go, I don’t even know if it is possible.”

Marshall is impressed by the Swedish universal health care model, but hasn’t studied other plans as closely.

“There are good things about the Swedish plan. I like it that nursing mothers get to stay home for a whole year after their baby is born,” she said. “It sounds too good to be true.”

The United States is the only industrialized nation in the world that does not guarantee access to health care as a right of citizenship, according to Connecticutt Coalition for Universal Health Care.

“Universal health care is something we have always envied from other countries,” Marshall said. “I never thought I would see it happen here. I don’t know if we ever will.”

Marshall compared the concept to homeowner’s insurance.

“Extra things would be added on,” she said. “Insurance companies could provide the additional coverage, customizing for people who wanted extra.”

Gray areas might include infertility treatments, certain dental procedures and plastic surgery, just to name a few.

“What I see, in universal health care, is a foundation,” Marshall said. “Every person will have affordable coverage at a certain level.”

When the subject is universal health care, Howard Smith, 61, of Belpre, has a straightforward opinion.

“It’s not going to work,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, there is no free ride for anybody. Somebody has to pay for it.”

Smith, who is now retired, had knee surgery last year and the bill for his medical care came to about $20,000, he said.

“I have health insurance. I can pick the best for my income, and that’s fine for me,” Smith said. “I paid $2,000 of the bill for my surgery and didn’t think that was unreasonable.”

Smith said if he hadn’t paid for it, somebody else would have had to pay.

“With universal health care, everybody thinks that they will get everything. It doesn’t work like that. Universal health care is just a politician’s word and what it really is depends on who you talk to,” he said.

Vicki Winstanley, 55, of Marietta believes everybody should have health insurance coverage.

”I know senior citizens who have no coverage,” she said. “I know many younger people who don’t have health insurance. I think that it’s gotten worse in the last two or three years.”

Winstanley, who is employed by Washington County Job and Family Services, said health care should not be politicized, but that’s what is happening.

Positions on health care for all Americans can be found on the campaign Web sites of Democratic presidential hopefuls Senators. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama and likely Republican nominee Sen. John McCain.

For Vietnam War veteran Joe McMahan of Marietta, funding a national universal health care program is the major issue.

“I don’t like to see kids or elderly without health care,” said McMahan, second vice president of American Legion Post 64. “There are so many people in Washington County who have health coverage through the Department of Job and Family Services.”

With school districts and the federal and state governments making so many cuts in funding, he doesn’t see how Social Security will take care of itself much longer.

“The golden answer is where’s the money coming from? If you want national health care, then tell me where the money is coming from,” he said. “Only then I will decide.”

Article Photos

MITCH CASEY The Marietta Times
Dr. Jesse Ada, right, checks on the progress of Lee Bryant’s arm Thursday at First Settlement Orthopedic, 611 Second St. Bryant recently broke his arm.

Fact Box

Democratic debate
¯ Presidential candidates discuss policies on health care, immigration and more, Page A10.
Facts about U.S.
¯ The United States ranks 23rd in infant mortality, down from 12th in 1960 and 21st in 1990.
¯ The U.S. ranks 21st in life expectancy for men, down from first in 1945 and 17th in 1960.
¯ The U.S. ranks 20th in life expectancy for women, down from first in 1945 and 13th in 1960.
¯ Outcome studies on a variety of diseases, such as coronary artery disease and renal failure, show the U.S. to rank below Canada and a wide variety of industrialized nations.
¯ The U.S. spends at least 40 percent more per capita on health care than any industrialized country with universal health care.
¯ About 30 percent of Americans have a problem accessing health care due to payment problems or access to care, far more than any other industrialized country.
Source: Conecticutt Coalition for Universal Health Care,



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