Last week New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof had this bold idea for prodding Congress into passing health care reform:
"Let me offer a modest proposal: If Congress fails to pass comprehensive health reform this year, its members should surrender health insurance in proportion with the American population that is uninsured."
Boy did that idea sound familiar. Just five years ago, the Anchorage Daily News was kind enough to publish this Alaska Notebook I wrote:
(It appeared Friday Oct. 15, 2004 on page B-12, if you want to look up the original):
Health care popped up several times in this week's presidential debate on domestic policy.
It was one of the few issues where President Bush didn't try to change the subject and tout his so-called education reform, the No Child Left Behind Act.
Roughly 45 million Americans have no health insurance. Going bare means they risk bankruptcy in the event of a serious illness. And they are more susceptible to serious illness because many of them can't afford routine preventive care or have pre-existing conditions that private insurers don't want to touch.
Neither the Republican-controlled Congress nor the president seems remotely interested in creating any kind of universal health care coverage. And why should they? When you're a politician in Washington, D.C., you don't have to worry about health care. If members of Congress aren't already millionaires coming in (as many are), they get paid more than $158,000 a year. They can buy into the federal employees' health insurance system, a huge pool with great coverage, for a couple hundred bucks a month.
The country's inequitable, patchwork health insurance system will no doubt continue as long as the people who make the rules are so comfy. So here's a modest proposal: Let's make sure the health care coverage given to members of Congress and the president truly represents what Americans have. Let's randomly assign our political leaders the same kind of coverage (or lack of it) that ordinary citizens have.
Some 45 million Americans are uninsured? Every year, we'd randomly pick that proportion of Congress members -- about 16 percent -- and they would be denied all health coverage. They'd have to pay for their own, beg for charity, or go without. Put the president in the same pool and give him the same odds of being stripped clean of all health care coverage.
Smart managers know that aligning incentives for the people involved is a good way to increase the odds of success. This modest proposal would give Congress and the president the incentive to do right by the millions of Americans who must risk their physical and financial health because they don't have health coverage.
-- Matt Zencey
Now, I'm not accusing Mr. Kristof of plagarism. (I doubt he reads the ADN.) And I'm not claiming to be the first who ever wrote about this idea. But it is pretty cool to see the idea get some national attention, even if it took five years.