Time to finally fix our broken healthcare system?

Are we finally getting closer to universal healthcare?

First, so we’re all clear on what we’re talking about, Wikipedia defines universal healthcare this way:

Universal health care is a state in which all residents of a geographic or political entity have access to some type of health care by means of provision of health insurance or direct provision of health care … Universal health care is not tied to any particular health care system, though it is the motivation for the socialized medicine…

The journey to universal healthcare in the United States has been mostly an exercise in foot-dragging, but according to Reuters, efforts for a “market-based” universal healthcare solution may be picking up steam:

Aetna Inc., Safeway Inc. and 35 other U.S. companies facing soaring health-care costs released a plan on Monday to lobby Congress for a market-based approach for providing universal health-care coverage. They also said individuals must take more preventative steps to avoid expensive health crises down the road as Congress looks for ways to expand coverage to the 46 million uninsured Americans.

“We believe there’s a real sense of urgency in solving this problem and we intend to be active participants in this debate,” Safeway Chief Executive Officer Steve Burd told reporters. “We do not have a monopoly on good ideas.”

The group said the system for providing coverage was broken and that next year the average Fortune 500 company will have a health-care bill that exceeds its net income. Health-care costs were 16.2 percent of U.S. gross domestic product in 2005. The health-care system “responds to treatment after people get sick and does little to identify and prevent illness,” Neil Golub, head of Price Chopper Supermarkets, said in a statement. “It’s time we build a health-care system that focuses on keeping people in good health.”

Whether the ultimate solution involves government management or a market-based approach, at least more people are taking the problem seriously.

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