The New York Times recently ran a story about the health care system in the state of Hawaii. You can read the entire story on the Health Forward web site policy page.
Since 1974 Hawaii has required all employers to provide health care benefits to employees who work 20 hours a week or more. Is this expensive? What are the health outcomes? The Times story states that “Hawaii’s health insurance premiums are nearly tied with North Dakota for the lowest in the country and Medicare costs per beneficiary are the nation’s lowest”…and “Hawaii residents live longer than people in the rest of the country”. According to the story, the doctors, hospitals, insurance companies and most importantly the citizens of Hawaii all support this kind of insurance coverage.
In the last fifty years the United States has built a series of modern networks that are essential to our economy and our quality of life – our power grid, phone system, water systems, interstate highways and the internet. But with health coverage we are stuck in the 1940’s. We have the equivalent of scattered wells, individual generators, and county roads but no health coverage infrastructures we can rely on—no system for making sure that all people have health coverage.
As US Senator Olympia Snowe said so eloquently two weeks ago when she cast her vote in the Senate Finance Committee mark up: “When history calls – history calls!” Now is the time for Congress to find an American solution for reforming the US health system. States like Hawaii give us hope that we can find a health solution that guarantees quality health care as a “right’ for all rather than a “privilege” for some of us.