from experts in the field:
John Sweeney is president of the AFL-CIO ( www.aflcio.org), which
represents 10 million working men and women in the United States.
JULY DEBATE RESULTS:
Should U.S. ban
plastic grocery bags?
HEALTH CARE IN OUR COUNTRY has reached a crisis point. The American
people know we have the ingenuity to solve this problem if we are willing to take
on the powerful interests who are protecting the status quo—and they are right.
Most families can barely afford their rising health-care expenses. Many
worry about losing the insurance they have now. They are afraid to change
jobs. Or they fear losing health care if they lose a job. Nearly 47 million U.S.
citizens have no health insurance at all.
Our broken system is a problem for American businesses, too. Companies that provide good
health benefits are at a disadvantage. Many must compete in the global marketplace with foreign
companies that do not pay for health-care benefits because their governments have set up national
health-care programs. And responsible local companies have trouble competing with businesses
that provide poor (or no) health benefits.
Some people believe “the market” will solve the problem, relying exclusively on private insurers.
In March, the AFL-CIO adopted a policy outlining our principles for achieving quality, affordable health care for all Americans. We believe our federal government must set the rules and play
a central role in a fair health-care system. The federal government can establish a system of shared
financing, so everybody participates. That means companies that have been providing good benefits
would not continue to face unfair competition from companies that do not. And it means the burden would not fall primarily on working families, as individual mandates would do.
The federal government also needs to play a watchdog role to ensure that health benefits are
adequate, available and affordable. That means: 1) benefits should cover preventive and chronic care
as well as catastrophic-health-care costs; 2) no one is excluded because of their age or health status;
and 3) costs are affordable—not just the premium, but all costs, including the deductible.
At last we are entering a national debate about solving one of our nation’s most vexing problems. We believe employers and unions have a common interest in solving this problem. No business should have to choose between its bottom line and providing its employees with the security of
good health benefits. And no family in this great nation should worry about becoming ill or injured
and not being able to afford the health care they need. C
Percentage reflects votes
received by July 6, 2007.
Opinions expressed are those of the
individuals or organizations represented and
are presented to foster discussion. Costco
and The Costco Connection take no position
on any Debate topic.
from experts in the field:
Newt Gingrich is the former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and founder of the Center for Health Transformation (www.
ADVOCATING MORE GOVERNMENT control of health care implies that
our current system simply needs better management, but its foundation is
acceptable. Exploding health-care costs, poor quality and diminishing access
tell us this is untrue.
To transform health we must rein in costs, improve patient safety and
expand insurance coverage to every American. And we can accomplish this through bold solutions in
four key areas. These solutions must be driven by consumers and the marketplace—not government.
First, individuals must take an active role in becoming healthier. We must give people tools and incentives to better manage their health. For example, people at risk of developing diabetes should be incentiv-ized to exercise and manage their weight to avoid developing the tragic and costly disease. We need to reach
consumers before they become patients. Better health will undoubtedly save lives and save money.
Second, creating a culture of health that leads to responsible choices means redesigning how
public and private institutions influence individual behavior. This includes better educating consumers on healthy lifestyles; investing in and promoting active recreation in our communities;
fundamentally changing food choices in public schools; redesigning public programs like Women,
Infants and Children and food stamps; and many other changes.
Third, we must dramatically improve and modernize the way we deliver care. Utilizing models
such as pay-for-performance and increasing the use of tools such as electronic health records will
improve the delivery and administration of care.
Last, we must transform the way we finance health insurance and health care to create a truly
competitive national market for health insurance (with high-deductible health plans and health
savings accounts) where consumers have the right to know price and quality before they make a
The combination of these changes will bring down health-care costs and will allow us to
expand health-insurance coverage to every American. Government must play a limited role in
health and health care, as most of these changes can and should happen without it. C