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The health-insurance headache: Chamber's white paper offers remedies.

THE DEBATE OVER RISING HEALTH-INSURANCE PREMIUMS can give you a headache. Bad enough to make you want to take a pill.

But if you're not insured, taking that pill might add to the rising costs of health insurance.

It's a vicious cycle.

The Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce in November released a white paper, "Medicaid, the Uninsured, and the Impact on Your Business," that delineates why Colorado businesses large and small should push the legislature to come up with some prescriptions that will put an end to the cycle.

Not just find a band aid, but a cure.

Steve Durham, a lobbyist for the chamber who is profiled on page 16 of this issue, may lend his clout to the debate. Frederick C Sage, a retired health administrator, offers his solution on page 10, in the first letters section I've been able to offer readers since becoming editor of this magazine more than a year ago.

But the chamber's white paper offers more than one solution.

It suggests a dozen "options" the chamber would like to see publicly debated -- from forcing all Colorado hospitals, doctors and other medical providers to participate in Medicaid, to new state taxes to cover the uninsured.

"Failure to act," the white paper says, "may compromise our region's business climate."

Latest estimates put the number of Coloradans who don't have health insurance at more than 700,000.

But those estimates were made before large corporate layoffs boosted the ranks of the unemployed in the state. Today the numbers must be worse.

The chamber study also points out that most people without health insurance usually don't seek medical care until their health problems become serious, so their treatment often is more expensive than it would have been had they sought help earlier.

And those higher treatment costs, the study says, are usually passed on to businesses and individuals that do have insurance, through higher premiums.

I hope I'm not giving you a headache.

Mr. Sage says universal health insurance is the only real answer. If you recall, the Clintons, both Hilary and Bill, were politically tarred-and-feathered by the business community during the early 1990s for suggesting the same thing.

Yet the chamber's white paper notes that a health-insurance system in Hawaii, that gives access to all Hawaiians, "appears" to have had "very little negative impact" on business after more than 20 years.

The white paper looks at several other states as models, too.

Legislators ought to take a look at the chamber's white paper.

It's better medicine than a pill, and it might save a few of them from getting headaches of their own.
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Author:Schwab, Robert
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2002
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