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The Experiment in Universal Health Care Coverage

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The medical care system in the US has become more and more dysfunctional over time.
Two states, however, are offering universal health care for their citizens.
There are roughly 300 million people in the country.
Of this total, roughly 46 million do not have any health insurance.
Put in practical terms, this means one out of every six people are risking financial ruin if they need any significant medical care.
Given the fact a certain percentage are children and you have a fairly dire situation.
Universal health care coverage is a hotly debated topic.
There are many sides to the issue.
On one hand, it would seem logical that the richest country in the world could come up with a system that provides health care to all of its citizens.
On the other, there needs to be a financial reward to people and companies in the medical industry that research and advance the art of medicine.
At the federal level, the issue is one politicians like to talk about, but nobody really wants to touch.
For whatever reason, the last eight years have seen little federal leadership on domestic issues.
Fortunately, one state is trying something new and aggressive.
Massachusetts represents the most aggressive universal health care solution.
Under a law passed by a Democratic legislature and signed by a Republican governor, all citizens of the state are required to buy health care insurance by the end of June in 2007.
All businesses with more than 10 employees must either offer their employees health care cover or pay a "fair share" of the cost of the universal coverage.
The fair share is determined on a sliding scale, but can be as much as $295 a year per worker.
The really interesting aspect of the plan is the enforcement provision.
Any individual that does not buy into the plan loses their personal state tax exemption the first year.
The next year, they can be fined for failure to comply.
The fine is 50 percent of the premium they would be otherwise paying.
Businesses also face penalties.
In short, this is a health plan with some bite to it.
So, how has the plan worked out? Well, we don't really know.
It is simply to early as the effective start date is really this summer.
By the summer of 2008, it should be clear whether this approach works or not.
Many states are watching the experiment closely.
If it does work out, you can expect to see similar plans launched by other states as well.
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