Vote for your health

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Unemployment soars. Food and gas prices skyrocket. Many people cannot afford health care even if their jobs offer it, because premiums are too expensive.

Health Care for ALL Oregon, a nonprofit organization advocating just what its name states, reports that “more than one in six Oregonians has no health insurance, and one in four of them is a child.” They plan for a statewide universal health care proposal to be on the 2008 ballot.

So far, only one state has been revolutionarily bold enough to mandate universal health care. Massachusetts just celebrated its two-year anniversary of the April 6, 2006 state law requiring all residents to purchase health care. Since then, 340,000 of Massachusetts’ estimated 600,000 uninsured have gained coverage. Health care is free to anyone below the poverty line, and subsidies are offered to those who make up to 300 percent above the poverty line. For Massachusetts’ residents deemed able to afford insurance but refuse, they are subject to hefty fines and loss of tax exemptions.

Articles printed in The New York Times and various journals say that the system is failing because clinics and hospitals are swamped, but they neglect the larger picture. Massachusetts serves as an example of the large number of people who need to visit a doctor but don’t because they don’t have health care.

Preventative care is much cheaper than sick care. The influx of patients infiltrating understaffed doctors’ clinics and hospitals can be viewed as newly created demand for essential high-paying job opportunities, hopefully curing the sick at the same time as boosting our economy. Massachusetts proposed a bill for medical school loan forgiveness, which averages $120,000 at public schools and $160,000 at private schools.

Massachusetts avoids increasing state income taxes by instead imposing a cigarette tax increase of $1 per pack. Also, businesses with more than 10 full-time employees are required to offer insurance or they are annually penalized $295 per employee. “Already, 748 employers have failed to meet that threshold and have paid $6.6 million to the state,” according to the Associated Press.

An individual state must be cautious about squeezing businesses too hard. Otherwise, the state risks the businesses packing up to move to a less demanding state. Then, losing their jobs, the citizens would need to turn to their local government for unemployment benefits and insurance.

National health care would solve this predicament, but the federal government would also need to prevent corporations from outsourcing. The best way to do this would be to heavily tax corporations who wish to operate overseas to compensate for the unemployed Americans that would have jobs and health care if they were still located in the United States. Hopefully, this would distribute America’s wealth more equally between the rich and the poor, so that the middle class could re-emerge from poverty.

Universal health care is one of the important deciding factors in this presidential election. Republican John McCain has said he is against universal health care. Democrat Barack Obama is quoted as saying, “If you are one of the 45 million Americans who don’t have health insurance, you will have it after this plan becomes law. No one will be turned away because of a preexisting condition or illness.” And Democrat Hillary Clinton plans to provide affordable universal health care for all Americans, as well as a $300 million a year increased donation toward breast cancer research.

April 29, 2008 is the last day to register to vote for the Oregon primaries. In order to vote for either Obama or Clinton, you must be registered as a Democrat by this date. People registered as independent cannot vote in the primaries on May 20, 2008, but can participate in the presidential election this fall.

Even though PSU’s Center for Student Health and Counseling (SHAC) offers inexpensive insurance for students, it’s important to ensure that your future health will be covered through your votes. People shouldn’t have to suffer high insurance premiums. Health care is a basic human right that should be available to everyone.

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