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EDITORIAL BAND-AID BILL AMERICA NEEDS COMPREHENSIVE HEALTH CARE REFORM, NOT TINKERING.

WHEN it comes to the nation's health care system, America needs a double bypass surgery-sized reform. But what it's getting is placebo legislation that might actually do more harm than good.

The Healthcare Market Modernization and Affordability Act of 2006, S.1955 moving forward with dismaying speed in the Senate is such a placebo. Its authors promote the bill as a savior to small businesses and self-employed workers, who have been squeezed hard by rising costs for health insurance, by allowing them to pool their resources through professional and trade associations to negotiate better insurance deals.

To be sure, self-employed workers and small businesses surely do need some relief. But this bill, for all its optimism, has some disturbing implications, because the plans would only be regulated by the more lax federal government, and would be impervious to state laws set up to regulate premium and coverage. Businesses with sicker employees, for example, could find prices are even higher under this bill, according to analysis by California's Department of Insurance.

But what's more important about this bill is that despite the fanfare it does nothing to solve the larger problems facing the American health care crisis.

When insured individuals are suddenly finding their policies retroactively cancelled after they get sick, such as a number of Blue Cross patients in California recently alleged, then it doesn't matter how easy it is to get health care.

We need comprehensive reform such as the universal plan passed by Massachusetts lawmakers, which required all residents to have health insurance and set up the infrastructure to make it available.

That's the kind of bold program that senators should be talking about, not some Band-Aid bill that may or may not hurt as many people as it helps.
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Title Annotation:Editorial
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:May 7, 2006
Words:292
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