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Pride, Prejudice, and Health Insurance

OPINION features excerpts of pieces by columnists from the Op-Ed page and other sections of The New York Times. All columns from the last seven days are available at nytimes.com; Op-Ed pieces (by columnists and outside contributors), plus Editorials and Letters to the Editor, are at nytimes.com/opinion. Please let us know what you think of OPINION at upfront@scholastic.com.

Employment-based health insurance is in decline. Between 2000 and 2004, the number of Americans under 65 rose by 10 million, yet the number of nonelderly Americans covered by employment-based insurance fell by 4.9 million. The solution—national health insurance, available to everyone—is obvious. But to see the obvious we'll have to overcome pride—the unwarranted belief that the U.S. has nothing to learn from other countries—and prejudice—the unwarranted belief that private insurance is more efficient than public insurance. It's a fact that America's health-care system spends more, for worse results, than that of any other country. Yet the U.S. has lower life expectancy and higher infant mortality than many advanced countries. Why does American medicine cost so much, yet achieve so little? We treat access to health care as a privilege rather than a right. This is inefficient and cruel. The economic and moral case for health-care reform in America is overwhelming.

—Paul Krugman [11/07/05]