CNHI News Service

JOPLIN, Mo. — It is heartening to see the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry highlight health care as one of its top priorities for the coming legislative session.

Lawmakers, we contend, must address the issue from two angles:

1) The rising cost of health care.

2) The fact that millions more Americans — including nearly 200,000 in Missouri — have been added to the list of those without health insurance.

Health care has been a political issue for decades, as Congress and state legislatures wrestle with the idea of whether the nation should adopt a Canadian-type, universal care system or rely solely on the private sector.

The first has raised fears of burgeoning bureaucracy and ever-rising taxes to pay for a system where quality continually declines. The latter, clearly, leaves a growing number of Americans one illness away from financial disaster.

Neither seems an acceptable solution.

Many are watching what happens in Massachusetts after lawmakers there mandated that, in a move similar to enforced auto insurance, every resident carry health insurance or pay a higher state tax.

We suspect the ultimate answer will come from an amalgam, an expansion of basic publicly funded plans such as Medicaid, help for small businesses to offer health insurance to their employees and allowing more loosely connected groups of individuals to band together for private insurance.

Health care is a top business concern. For employers who have traditionally offered coverage, they have seen their costs rise faster than other sectors, influencing what they can pay their workers and, ultimately, their profits. For workers, they have seen more and more of their paycheck go to higher premiums and higher deductibles.

The business community needs to make its voice heard in this critical debate.

— The Joplin (Mo.) Globe, Jan. 3

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