Time to stampede, Bulls!
Click here to read more about USF Week events, including a pool party, Bullstock and Rocky’s Birthday Bash. 

Mandatory health insurance a good idea

For a long time, it seemed like a distant dream. Now, plans for universal health coverage are finally reaching the stage where they might become reality. In fact, they already have in Massachusetts.

With a near-unanimous backing from the state’s two legislative bodies, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is the last person needed to approve the bill, for which he was a staunch supporter and driving force.

The MassHealth law, passed on Tuesday, aims to cover 95 percent of all of the state’s uninsured residents by 2009 by requiring all residents to obtain health insurance by July 1, 2007. Among the provisions of the law are clauses mandating companies with 11 or more employees to offer health insurance, fining businesses that do not offer insurance and expanding the help provided to those who cannot afford insurance.

The bill will also expand the number of children eligible for free coverage and establish a state-run program for individuals and small businesses.

Despite the obvious benefits of the plan, one of the most positive things to come out of the debate concerning the law is that both parties came together to negotiate an efficient plan advantageous to all citizens. Of course, hard to dismiss is the fact that the state was facing a loss of $385 million of federal Medicaid money if the Legislature did not reach an agreement by the deadline. Still, the cooperation of Democrats and Republicans, as well the plan itself, should serve as a guide to not only other states, but the federal government as well. Not often do the two parties so overwhelmingly agree on a single issue, yet that is exactly what America needs right now, during this time of war and economical instability.

The passage of the bill blurs not only the lines between the parties, but also the lines between wider political views. In an interview with the New York Times, Romney said, “There really wasn’t Republican or Democrat in this. People ask me if this is conservative or liberal, and my answer is yes. It’s liberal in the sense that we’re getting our citizens health insurance. It’s conservative in that we’re not getting a government takeover.”

If the plan succeeds, let’s hope other states take cue from Massachusetts. Universal, government-sponsored health plans have worked in other countries for decades, but a nation as big as the United States cannot handle the issue federally. The initiative needs to come from the states, and one has already stepped up to the plate.