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Revolutionary plan could end profit-driven health care

When I first read the President's health care reform plan I wasn't so excited. Because of my work this semester with a D.C. lobby group, I had early access to the proposal and my first reaction to the plan was pretty pessimistic. I questioned everything from the hypothetical financing scheme to the limitations on particular benefits. However, slowly but surely, I have come to realize that the American Health Security Act of 1993 (okay, probably 1994) is a revolution in the making. That is, of course, as long as it's not dead on arrival.

Already the political commentators are commenting, the President's opponents are opposing and Rush Limbaugh is lambasting. I also like to think I know what I'm talking about, and my first reaction was exactly that of the media's: this is wrong, that is wrong, this won't work, and neither will that. However, after reading the plan and meeting with my lobby group, my perspective is changing. If given the chance, the American Health Security Act just might revolutionize our perception of health care.

Logically enough, I began my reading of the Presidents' proposal with the overview. It begins: "The American Health Security Act guarantees comprehensive health coverage for all Americans regardless of health or employment status. Health coverage continues without interruption if Americans lose or change jobs, move from one area to another, become ill or confront a family crisis."

Sounds nice, I thought, and kept reading. Then came the two hundred plus pages of technical jargon that, as an over-anxious public policy student, I got excited about. I read about the proposed national quality management program, the tax incentives for private long-term care insurance and the new definition for eligibility for long term care. My reaction was: I don't know, I don't think so, absolutely not.

However, in the midst of my point-by-point analysis, I made the mistake I think much of the media is making: I forgot the big picture. I got so caught up in the details, I missed the point. While proposing the specifics of a new health care system, President Clinton is also proposing an entirely new way of thinking. Rather than a privilege, he says access to health care is a right.

Since the formation of the health industry in the United States, the provision and delivery of care has been based on a simple principle: those who can afford it get it, and those who cannot do not. Under this profit-driven system, it makes sense that 37 million Americans have no health insurance (75% of whom are full-time workers or their dependents). It makes sense that countless Americans can't switch jobs because their new insurance plans wouldn't cover pre-existing conditions. It makes sense that last year Ford Motor Company spent as much money on health care as it did on steel.

I've said that under the current system all this makes sense; but does it really? Does it really make sense? The answer to this question depends on your perception of health care: right or privilege? Clinton says it is a right and, thus, our current health care system doesn't make sense: a revolution in the making.

When I first read the proposal, this was certainly not my line of thinking. I made the mistake of skimming the cheesy stuff and jumping head first into the details. Like much of the media seems to be doing, I got so caught up in the intricacies of the plan that I lost sight of its meaning. It took a trip to D.C. late last week to remind me. While I went to countless meetings with countless lobbyists who criticized details of the President's outline, they were all preparing public statements of support. You might think, typical double-sided politics as usual, but I realized these politics were not so usual.

While these lobbyists certainly had problems with particular aspects of the proposal, they recognized the momentous opportunity they and all of America is being given. If the President's proposal is taken seriously, we will all be participating in the careful formation of a health care system based on the premise that every American has a right to health care.

Tomorrow night, in his State of the Union address, Clinton will begin the process of reform by officially introducing his proposal. Then Congress will begin the arduous process of debating the details of the proposal. This is where the battle over the specifics can and should occur.

Learn about the proposal and criticize the details, but don't make the same mistake I did. Many of us may not agree with everything in the proposal, but we must make sure not to discard the opportunity it presents. The American Health Security Act just might be a revolution in the making.

Mark Grazman is a Trinity senior.

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