A few weeks ago, Sen. Barack Obama told a healthcare advocacy group that he was determined to have universal healthcare coverage in America by 2013. Among other presidential hopefuls calling for universal healthcare coverage are Sen. Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (who represents my House district). Universal healthcare coverage likely will be a hot topic during the presidential campaign—or at least during the primaries.
But no matter who succeeds George W. Bush, if universal healthcare coverage is on his or her agenda, he/she will face an uphill battle. Political compromise for the greater good seems to be a lost art in current American politics, and such an ambitious expansion of healthcare coverage would require broad support from lawmakers (and their supporting interest groups) on both the left and the right. Such consensus doesn’t seem likely after what probably will be a very contentious presidential race.
Yet there are some encouraging efforts to make healthcare coverage more widely available—perhaps not to every U.S. citizen, but at least to more of us—and this might signal greater political acceptance of universal coverage. For example, several states have taken steps to ensure that their residents have healthcare coverage. Massachusetts's and California's efforts have received the most attention from the popular press, but Maine, Pennsylvania, and Vermont are tackling this issue as well. In addition, U.S. employers are urging lawmakers to address the high costs of healthcare, and they likely would welcome a system of universal healthcare coverage that takes some (or all) of the burden off them. Even some of the talk about “socialized medicine” has seemed to disappear as the reality of America's healthcare crisis becomes more evident.
So maybe universal healthcare coverage has a chance at becoming reality soon (no matter who is living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue). Strong presidential support will certainly help any proposal move forward. If Obama can stir up support for universal healthcare coverage like he can whip New Hampshire Democrats into a frenzy, he just might meet his goal.
Douglas J. Edwards, Editor-in-Chief