Lombardo: We need Healthcare Guaranteed

If you believe, as I do, that healthcare is a right, you should be appalled by the fact that over 46 million Americans are without health insurance. Lucky for us, this is a change the upcoming election promises to bring, but unfortunately neither major candidate has come up with an efficient and thorough way to guarantee healthcare.

The two contrasting approaches to healthcare are embodied by the candidates' philosophies about government: one sees government as the answer and the other cites government as the problem.

In keeping with his ties to the Reagan Revolution, John McCain endorses the latter philosophy, which is why his vision of universal access revolves around removing government interference from healthcare and letting the marketplace work unrestrained. Obama is a true New Deal idealist and advocates expanding current programs while also creating new ones to ensure that everyone has coverage.

These two choices are unsatisfying, but a third option does exist that is both revolutionary and bipartisan. The plan is Healthcare Guaranteed: the brainchild of Ezekiel Emanuel, medical doctor and bioethicist, and economist Victor Fuchs. The plan provides personal control, which Republicans love, and universal coverage, which Democrats get all hot and heavy for.

Within the plan, every American would be given a voucher allowing them to choose the provider and plan that best fit them. No one could be turned down and all plans would be equivalent to the one your Congressional representative receives, with everyone given the option to pay for upgrades.

Because private companies would be competing for enrollees, this would breed higher quality at lower costs. This would be an improvement over the current system, which provides lower quality coverage than a country like Britain that has universal coverage at a lower cost per person.

An independent body would regulate quality and costs. This body would establish regional centers responsible for assessing coverage and assess new drugs and procedures to ensure their worth is appropriately priced. The regional centers would also be responsible for settling medical disputes in a manner that would be less costly and more just than current malpractice lawsuits.

The program would be paid for by a value added tax, which would largely be offset by an increase in real wages as employers don't need to pay for health insurance and a lower tax burden after the elimination of all other government-funded healthcare programs. This would also mean an end to regressive taxation policies such as the cigarette tax that funds the State Children's Health Insurance Plan and the tax exempt status of employer provider health insurance.

The current healthcare system in America is broken and the approaches of McCain and Obama are flawed because they want to operate from the same framework we already have. They both recognize that healthcare costs have become too high, with healthcare accounting for a sixth of the money spent in the economy, but Obama doesn't go far enough with regulation and McCain only has free market rhetoric.

We can only address prohibitively high costs if we change the way the game is played, and that means something as radical as Healthcare Guaranteed. This plan is not only morally justified, but is fiscally responsible as compared to our current system or any piecemeal reforms.

Dave Lombardo is a senior political science major who can make political columns read like pulp erotica.