PORTSMOUTH, N.H. - The lack of federal action in finding solutions to the multitude of problems that have led to the national health care crisis has frustrated states suffering from the results of that crisis. Nowhere is that more evident than in New Hampshire, where no less than 250 individual pieces of legislation were filed this year in an attempt to address various aspects of the problem. They range from a bill that would establish a committee to study just what is driving the cost of health care up in the state, to extending insurance coverage for the use of midwives, to establishing an electronically controlled drug prescription monitoring program.
However, the strongest indication of the bind the state finds itself in as a result of the inactivity of federal lawmakers may have been the passage of House Concurrent Resolution 5, which endorses the National Health Insurance Act put forth by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich. The resolution passed the New Hampshire House on March 21 by almost a 2-to-1 margin.
"It's very exciting," said Portsmouth physician Thomas Claremont, who was the impetus for the resolution. "It will open up the debate, because now when these (presidential candidates) come to speak before the Legislature, they will know where that body stands on health care."
Conyers' legislation establishes a new American national health insurance program by creating a single-payer health care system. The bill would create a publicly financed, privately delivered health care program that uses the already existing Medicare program, aiming to expand and improve the program for all U.S. residents.
The reasons for the overwhelming New Hampshire support for Conyers' legislation were listed in the body of the resolution. They included:
- The fact that approximately 135,000 New Hampshire citizens lacked health insurance in 2006, and those insured now often experience burdensome medical debt.
- An estimate that half of all personal bankruptcies in the state are due to illnesses or medical bills, among other issues.
State Rep. Jim Splaine, D-Portsmouth, said he and state Rep. Paul McEachern, D-Portsmouth, sponsored HCR 5 "because we wanted to make it clear that a single-payer, national health care system is what New Hampshire and the nation need."
"There were some concerns about cost," he said of the House State-Federal Relations and Veterans Affairs Committee, which considered the bill. "But most saw the eventual savings a single-payer system would result in." The committee voted 9-6 to recommend passage of the resolution.
The cost of Conyers' bill has been estimated at $1.86 trillion a year. However, it is estimated that Conyers' plan would save more than $150 billion on paperwork alone in the first year and another $50 billion by allowing Medicare to negotiate a bulk purchasing discount for medications.
Splaine said the HCR 5 must now go to the Senate for passage. He said he is optimistic about its chances there.
As a lead-up to the visit by Illinois Sen. Barack Obama Tuesday for a "Community Meeting on Health Care," an article on this issue will appear each day in the Portsmouth Herald. We invite readers with stories to tell to contact Shir Haberman at 570-2230 or email@example.com.
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