This month, voters in Portland, Maine had the opportunity to vote on whether they want Maine to become the first state with universal healthcare. The referendum, which passed 52 to 48 percent and is advisory in nature (i.e. it does not stipulate consequences for failure to comply) has made Maine a leader in what should be a national movement toward providing health care for everyone.

Under a state-level universal health care system, a state government would be responsible for insuring all of its citizens. Arguments based on both economics and social justice point to universal healthcare as the only viable and responsible option for healthcare in the 21st Century.

The most important and clearest argument for universal healthcare rests upon the right of all people to receive healthcare, in the form of physician visits and pharmaceuticals, regardless of their socioeconomic status. A person who is poor should not be precluded from the benefit of healthcare simply because he or she cannot afford it.

Universal healthcare is also pragmatic in that in the long run it will reduce healthcare costs in general. If preventative care is available to everyone from birth, the result will be less-costly healthcare needs in people”s later years. Early preventative measures also lessen the magnitude of epidemics when more people are immunized and have access to treatment, disease cannot spread so easily.

It is time for the universal healthcare debate to resurge. After the obscene amount of money that private insurers invested in killing the Clinton health care plan in 1994, the calls for universal healthcare from supporters became significantly softer.

Ann Arbor should take a cue from Portland and resurrect the debate by put ting a similar resolution up for referendum. As towns and states increasingly take action in recognition of the benefits of universal healthcare, it will be possible for a strong and necessary movement to regain its strength.

According to a Nov. 16 New York Times article, “Small vote for universal care is seen as carrying a lot of weight,” “Even private health insurers are beginning to speak of the need for a system that reins in rate increases and covers everyone in some form.”

The clearest solution to this problem is universal healthcare. Critics of universal healthcare spent thousands of dollars advertising in the weeks leading up to the Maine referendum, sponsoring commercials which argued that such a system would result in higher taxes and a heightened government bureaucracy. These arguments pale in comparison to those for the right of all citizens to benefit from available medical care.

State and federal governments are long overdue in recognizing their responsibility to provide for their citizens and acknowledge that health should not be a business. By putting universal healthcare on the ballot, Ann Arbor can help lead the way.

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