Must-Have Health Insurance

A CBS News/New York Times poll this week shows deep worries about health care. Almost two-thirds of Americans are very concerned about their medical costs.

President Bush plans to make some new proposals in his State of the Union address Tuesday. But some states aren't waiting, reports CBS News correspondent Trish Regan.

Chris Raymond is a bartender in Boston. He makes between $600-800 a week. But like 45 million other Americans, he has no health insurance.

"It's just a huge chunk of money for me to just throw into something that I may not really need," he says.

And as a 29-year-old single guy, he says, there are better things for him to do with his money.

"Skiing," he says. "I love to ski."

But state governments across the country are realizing that people like Chris Raymond, who can afford health insurance but choose to go without, are costing them billions of dollars.

Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has come up with an innovative proposal to combat that: he wants to require every citizen in the state to buy health insurance.

"What the government is saying is, 'no more can you turn and put your cost of health insurance and health care on everybody else.' You have a personal responsibility to either pay for your own health care yourself, or buy an insurance policy, but no more just showing up at the hospital and saying, 'I can't pay, make someone else pay for me,'" Gov. Romney says.

Romney says forcing people to have insurance is fair.

"In my state, you can't drive a car on our roads unless you have automobile insurance, because we don't want people getting in accidents and expecting someone else to pay for their car and for their health," he says. "Same way with our citizens that don't have health insurance."

Under his plan, you must either buy insurance through your employer, or the government. If you can't afford it, the government will subsidize a plan for you.

"My plan allows people to get health insurance for as little as $2.30 a week. Everybody can buy insurance," he says.

But, for this to be successful, it must get past a mostly Democratic legislature. They want to require employers to offer insurance – not the government. Companies that don't comply will face a tax.

"If you're not gonna have insurance for your employees, that's bad behavior and that should have an assessment on it," says Speak of the House Salvatore DiMasi.

Governor Romney insists that his plan would not require any tax increases. But over time, as health care costs continue to skyrocket, critics say taxpayers could wind up footing the bill.

  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen Smith is a senior editor for

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