The Student Congress of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill recently expressed its support of legislative efforts to provide universal health care in North Carolina.
"We publicly support the passage of a bill, such as HB 1396, by both houses of the North Carolina General Assembly during the 1999-2000 session so that the question of a constitutional amendment on the right of health care may be posed to the people of North Carolina during the general election in November 2000," reads a resolution passed by the congress.
State Representative Verla Insko, D-Orange, introduced HB 1396 in late May. The bill would amend the state's constitution to provide universal health care in North Carolina. If passed by legislators, the bill would be put to a voter referendum this fall. If approved by voters, the bill would require the state to devise a plan that provides all state residents with health care by May 31, 2004.
"The main concern will be how much it will cost," Insko told a Carolina Journal reporter. "And I think in order to answer this question we need to look at how much it will save through increased productivity, through the reduced use of emergency rooms, and early interventions."
The lack of detail in HB 1396 evoked criticism from Republican legislators, but the congress pointed to this as one of the measure's strong points. Consider the following excerpts from the Student Congress bill:
"WHEREAS, HB 1396: "Would not require that the state become a health care provider or insurer "Would not prescribe any particular mechanism to meet the obligation of providing access to health care for all "Would not expose health care providers to lawsuits just because they refused to provide care for a specific individual who demands it "Would not require that the state provide health care to illegal aliens, and "WHEREAS, HB 1396 would put the proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot giving the citizens of North Carolina the chance to express their will on this issue in November and if passed require that the General Assembly provide a plan to ensure access to appropriate health care on a regular basis for all residents of North Carolina...and, [therefore, be it resolved that Student Congress support such a bill]."
Some legislators have compared Insko's proposal to the failed attempts at "Hillary care" in North Carolina years ago."It wasn't very well accepted in North Carolina the first time and I doubt it will have a favorable response in this form," said House Minority Leader Richard Morgan. "The business women and men in North Carolina who are attempting to provide jobs and keep our North Carolina economy strong may get the wrong message - that government is responsible for health care rather than private industry."
But student congress contends otherwise. "A majority of citizens in the United States and in North Carolina believe that every citizen should have access to health care on a regular basis," states the resolution. "... [T]he United States is the only industrialized nation in the world that does not provide health care for all its citizens.... European countries, including the countries that have a multi-payer system spend less than 10 percent of their Gross Domestic Product on health care, compared to 14 percent by United States citizens.... fifteen percent of North Carolina's population, or over a million people, are without health insurance and this number has increased 57 percent over the last seven years which is a growth rate two to three times greater than the national average," the resolution goes on to say.
Student Rep. Anthony Larson, the bill's prime sponsor, could not be reach by press time. Student Congress will send the resolution to Gov. Jim Hunt, Lt. Governor Dennis Wicker, and members of the North Carolina General Assembly.