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Rx for the GOP: You should own universal healthcare

October 3, 2011 |  5:04 pm

Healthcare Reform 
President Obama has rolled the dice to get challenges to his healthcare reform law fast-tracked to the Supreme Court in election year 2012, and not a year later.

The political chatter figures that if the court finds the insurance mandate part of the law constitutional, the president wins big points just before the election. And if the court gives a thumbs-down to the mandatory insurance element, the Obama administration could make political hay of this  too.

Such a ruling might also mean a ripple effect through other parts of the healthcare overhaul law, effectively annulling them too: In short, back to square one –- no, square zero -– on remedying the healthcare mess.

Republicans should have long ago seized healthcare reform and universal coverage with both right hands and made it their own.

It is economically counterproductive -- even economically destructive -- that in this nation, healthcare goes with the job, not with the individual.

One of the biggest brakes I know on entrepreneurial potential here is the catastrophe of healthcare. How many people with great ideas and the know-how to start their own businesses have to stay enslaved to the corporations they already work for, in jobs where they feel frustrated and wasted, just to keep the health insurance that comes with the job –- something they can't get, or can't afford, on their own?

Americans are confident and creative and willing to bet the farm, literally, on their inspirations,  but don't ask them to risk their kids' lives, or their own as the breadwinners, and go without health insurance.

Their children may have a preexisting condition -- even something as minor as an allergy -- that either disqualifies them outright from insurance coverage or prices them out of the market.

Or a parent may have some fairly minor medical issue, or even not so minor -– an ulcer, or a bum knee -– that also makes insurance impossible to get, or so expensive as to be useless. It is shameful that medical bills are behind more than 60% of the personal bankruptcies in this country. Homeowners, college grads -- doesn't matter. Being sick can mean more than mere death; it  can mean homelessness and penury.

So people stay on at jobs they hate, and the whole country loses a good idea and a good business that never gets to go into business.

The second reason Republicans should be joined at the hip with universal health coverage is a crass political one. The GOP is doing just about everything it can to attack unions -– except this one smart thing.

Unions battle on behalf of their members, and healthcare is foremost among those battles. The supermarket workers union in L.A. just went a few rounds on that one. Universal healthcare coverage would take that issue off the table; unions couldn't use it to organize, to recruit or as a matter of dispute with management. What's not to like about that, GOP?

Republicans often invoke the past, so how about rolling the clock back 100 years, to the Republican Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, running in 1912 as a Bull Moose on a platform that called for "the protection of home life against the hazards of sickness, irregular employment and old age through the adoption of a system of social insurance."

That, as TR liked to say –- in the cheery, encouraging meaning of the word, not the current beat-up-on-ordinary-folks meaning of the word -– would be "bully!"


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Supreme Court may end fight over healthcare reform law. Or not.

-- Patt Morrison

Illustration by Kevin Kreneck / Tribune Media Services

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