Congress is now turning its attention to proposals that would have as a goal the provision of health care eligibility to all, not simply to those who can afford it or whose employer provides it. If government is to be the vehicle for a society to shape how it lives together, then this is an occasion for our government to play its legitimate role in carrying out the public will to serve the common good.
There is clearly a need for our government to shape this arena of our life together, not in place of the private system now working, but as a leveler of the playing field, a guarantor that all our neighbors might have access. The option of a public health insurance plan would seek to slow the growth in cost, eliminate the disparity in access to quality care, assure us that if we lose our job we can still have coverage, and address the scandal of over 40 million people having no health care coverage at all.
This is not bleeding-heart liberal policymaking; it is enlightened and principled reform of a system that serves us poorly. Beyond the 40 million uninsured, other problems loom. We have an unsustainable growth of medical coverage costs even for those who have coverage. We have a cost burden for our business sector that puts them at an enormous disadvantage in the global market.
I believe we should be committed to health care for all, including the poorest residents. They won't stop getting sick if insurance disappears, and their health needs will only further the chaos in the system as they seek care without insurance.
Minnesotans should have a particularly keen eye on the current movement in Washington for broad reform of our health care system because of the agony we've been through seeking a balanced state budget for the next biennium. Perhaps the cruelest cut looming to solve the state's deficit is the elimination of eligibility for health care coverage for more than 100,000 of our poorest citizens.
It is time for us to give strong support to lawmakers in Washington as the window of opportunity for change opens. We know those sectors that benefit from the current system will have large amounts of money thrown into a campaign to defeat it. The government should act on behalf of all of us, and we need to speak up and give our support to decisionmakers poised to reshape this critical arena of our common life.
THE REV. PETER ROGNESS, ST. PAUL; BISHOP OF THE ST. PAUL AREA SYNOD, EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA