Total Health Care Coverage--Won't Get It Says Analyst

Yesterday, in an unusual show of camaraderie, Wal-Mart joined with the Service Employees International Union to call for universal health care coverage by 2012. The catch: They have no specific plan to achieve the goal. Presidential hopefuls in the 2008 campaign won’t get off that easy, though, especially because a large number of voters see this as a government issue.

CNBC’s Mark Haines posed the question on "Morning Call": Can universal health care be achieved without government involvement?

John Goodman of the National Center for Policy Analysis thinks so. “There’s enough money in the system right now, if we just allocate it the right way,” he says.

Goodman cites former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s plan, which calls for mandatory insurance for each person in the state, and redirects money normally used to cover the uninsured toward subsidies for private insurance.

Goodman is quick to point out that Canada, a country that has universal coverage, rations out its health care, and Americans aren’t going to want that, he says. But it’s rationed in the U.S., too, counters Elise Gould, who is an economist at the Economic Policy Institute, but here health care is rationed on the basis of income.

“We spend more than most other developed countries – all developed countries – on health care, but we have worse outcomes,” says Gould, and that’s because of a “vast inequality in access.”

Gould admits that employee plans work, and those with great health care coverage now shouldn’t have to lose that in order to switch to a government-sponsored system. But she advocates a good, reliable system for those not able to find help in the employment insurance market.

But as Haines point out, in a system such as the U.S. has, which is largely made up of employer-based coverage, how would the unemployed find insurance?

Goodman advocates portable insurance, which would allow people to take their plans from job to job. While employed, employers would cover most of the premiums incurred by workers. While unemployed, workers would have to pick up the slack.

That would still leave a lot of people uninsured, wouldn’t it, Haines asked?

“I don’t think we’ll ever get 100% of the people insured,” Goodman responded, saying that even Canada has gaps in its coverage.