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Shannyn Moore: Health care cost strangles Alaskans

Shannyn Moore

There's a man who hates his job. Oh, there are lots of them but this guy can't quit and his boss knows it. His son has asthma and has been in and out of the hospital since he was born.

The job he hates includes health insurance for him and his family. He can't be sure that health insurance at a different job would cover them. If he interviewed for a new job, and asked too many questions about health coverage, he might scare them off -- fearful that he would drive their premiums even higher.

The man can't say no when he's told to stay late by the boss because the boss knows he's trapped.

Across town, there's a woman not sleeping, drinking the last of a bottle of wine. Her husband is out all night -- again. It happens all the time. She's talked to her friends, her pastor, family and even a counselor. The husband doesn't give excuses, he doesn't have to. Is she going to leave him? Where would she go? She doesn't have health insurance without his job, and since she had a mastectomy a few years ago she too is trapped.

Maybe it's time, when we talk about protecting family values, that we talk about health care. Health care, or the lack of it, goes right to the heart of families and their day-to-day struggles. How do average working men and women protect their spouses and children from the constantly shrinking coverage and continually rising costs? Too often the answer is sacrificing dreams and relationships.

More than 60 percent of U.S. bankruptcies are the result of catastrophic medical bills. In 75 percent of those cases, the people had at least some health insurance.

After last week's column, I got an email from a reader. Apparently Alaska needs a pipeline for all my solution-less bitching and moaning. The email asked what idea I had to improve the economy in our great state.

I do complain bitterly about our lawmakers. I'm not ashamed of bellyaching about the billions of dollars of public wealth we've handed to some of the richest corporations in the world -- in exchange for exactly nothing.

But fair enough. I'll take the challenge. What I would do differently?

Think how much more competitive Alaska would be if, instead of throwing money at oil companies, we offered preventive and catastrophic health care to every Alaskan.

The biggest stranglehold on people and businesses is the ever-rising cost of health care. These costs have been growing three times the speed of wages, and that's if you still have a job. Caring for the sick and saving lives is a for-profit industry (and that includes then "nonprofit" hospitals). But we don't call that immoral?

Many military folks have health insurance, as do many through the Indian Health Service or federal employment. But what if everyone could get similar coverage? Every worker, every child. Can you imagine how businesses would breathe a sigh of relief? Their workers insured, they could give them a raise! Talk about a stimulus plan!

When corporations shop for places to build businesses, the "Big Wild Life," with health care for all, would be a draw. Maybe we could get Xtratuff to manufacture in Alaska (we've got the testing lab right out our front door, and Lord knows we couldn't do worse than China is now).

How different would our lives be, as employers or employees, if we Alaskans decided this is what we want from our Owner State earnings. (We've already committed to pay for the health insurance of every employee of ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and BP, so it's not like we're opposed to the idea on principle.)

Maybe you don't like my idea. Maybe it needs a big study -- I'm all for that. Goodness knows we've wasted more money on the boomers' dream of a KABATA bridge.

Billions for oil companies. Guaranteed health care for Alaskans. Maybe you have a better idea. Awesome. I knew you would.

Let's hear it.

Shannyn Moore can be heard weekdays from 6 to 9 p.m. on KOAN 1020 AM and 95.5 FM radio. Her weekly TV show airs at 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays on ABC affiliate KYUR Channel 13.

Shannyn Moore