Proposition 101, Medical Choice, has been defeated by the narrowest of margins.
This is a positive step, as passage of this constitutional amendment may have led to costly court battles over its potential implications.
Although nothing will change in the short term, the defeat of this measure enables us to think in broad terms about what we want for our health care system, statewide and nationally.
Our financial crisis is not an excuse to put aside this conversation. In fact, it should be an essential part of what we, as a state and nation, decide about our future.
Why is this so? Consider the dire straits of our three major auto manufacturers, one of which may be facing bankruptcy. Many factors led to this situation, but a major one is the high cost of employee health care, making cars produced in the U.S. much more expensive than those produced abroad.
This is because we have no national health insurance, as enjoyed by every other developed country.
Our financial health rests to a large degree on solving the problems of health care access, cost and quality.
We need to improve our health care system for many reasons.
The number of uninsured, now approaching 1 in 5 Americans, is sure to increase as a result of rising unemployment. As reported recently in The New York Times, hospitals are seeing more and more patients unable to pay their bills and using hospital care as a last resort.
This will lead to hospital closings or increasing costs to those with insurance, affecting all of us.
Costs are expected to increase, leaving more people underinsured and at risk for bankruptcy.
The quality of our health care, compared with that in other nations, is declining.
In the short term,some steps that will be taken on a national level will affect us here in Arizona. The State Children’s Health Insurance Program will be expanded to cover more uninsured children – and possibly their parents as well.
There are proposals to allow people over 50 to buy into Medicare.
And one of President-elect Barack Obama’s proposals is to allow citizens to buy into the federal health plan.
These are all incremental steps that will help in the short run, but we need to look more broadly at how to provide affordable health coverage to all Americans.
The defeat of Prop. 101 illustrates that the majority of our citizens understand that.
Dr. Eve Shapiro is a pediatrician in practice in Tucson. She is chairwoman of Healthy Arizona, an organization dedicated to improving health care access for Arizonans.