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Utah Considers Universal Health Care Proposals

Utah Considers Universal Health Care Proposals



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Paul Nelson, KSL NewsradioThe issue of universal health care is quickly becoming one of the hot topics of the 2008 presidential election. States all over the country are looking into health care proposals, including here in Utah.

You mention the words "universal health care" and it sparks a wave of emotions on both sides of the political aisle.

As for Utah, some analysts say nearly 360,000 people don't have health insurance, and that sends costs up.

"All the insurers we've talked to, as part of this process, recognize that the system is broken. It's unsustainable the way it is," says Bill Crim, the strategic initiatives director for the United Way.

United Way is one of the groups proposing a plan for Utah. Crim says its plan would not be paid for by taxpayers.

"It can't be a government system. It has to build on what works right now," he says.

Crim says policy holders and businesses would share the costs of expanding coverage. However, won't that cost insured people more money?

"If you simply increase access in the system and don't make any more changes it absolutely costs more money. Lots of people estimate that as much as 40 percent of the costs in out current system is for care that doesn't add value," he says.

Crim says some doctors perform treatments simply to prevent lawsuits. He says if that is eliminated the costs of basic health care go down.

The proposal also suggests incentives for healthy lifestyles, but it proposes disincentives for high-risk choices. What would those be?

It also suggests the formation of a commission to define benefits, but who are these people?

Also, can they promise elective surgeries will cost more than necessary ones, as they propose?

"We haven't tried to answer all the questions, so there are lots of really good questions that need to be worked out," Crim admits.

United Way is asking for feedback from the public over the next six weeks before its plan is proposed to lawmakers. To give your input, contact the United Way. Insurers say they have a lot of questions.

Regence Blue Cross Public Policy Director Jennifer Cannaday says, "I think the great danger is thinking [that] by somehow rearranging things in the existing system we're going to fix anything."

Cannaday says health care reform needs to address why costs are going up and what can be done to keep them down.

"We may just be furthering the delay of continuing to increase the uninsured," she says.

However, even insurers say some sort of insurance reform is necessary. Some analysts say premiums will cost about half the average family's yearly income in 10 years.

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