A national health care system in the United States of America is long overdue.

The lack of such a system is making our nation uncompetitive in the industrialized world. The playing field is not level, our factories cannot successfully compete, when competitors in other countries have government-provided health care for their workers. International companies pay close attention to that bottom line. When General Motors finds it cheaper to have cars made in Canada than in Detroit, the United States of America is the loser.

A national health care system would boost the economy in another way. Under our current system, when the only way many people can get health insurance is through their job with a larger than average company, we have in effect a rationing of health care. Small companies can't afford to provide health insurance for their workers, and individuals are simply priced out of the market. Many workers stay in jobs that do not fully use their talents simply because they need to keep their employer-paid health insurance for their families.

A national health care system would break that job link. People would be free to pursue jobs that better use their talents. The productive energy unleashed in that scenario would have both an immediate and a long term positive impact on our economy.

The solution is a national health care system. The usual terminology is "universal single-payer health care." The Canadian system is one model that would work here. Another, one I proposed 10 years ago while running for office (see below), is more consumer-based, which some people have found problematic. But we need to get ideas on the table.

Whatever the final version, the first step is to get a Congressional consensus that a national health care system is essential. Once we agree on that, then we can discuss the various ways to do that. The American people, in poll after poll, have told us they are behind this concept. It is time we got the job done.

Olympia Snowe has been getting some attention lately for her bill that would allow the reimportation of prescription drugs from places such as Canada. It is just the latest example of Snowe getting credit for fixing or trying to fix a problem that she was instrumental in creating.

This is part of an Economic Security Plan that I proposed during my 1996 campaign for U.S. Senate.

My dad had an astonishing amount of medical treatment the last two weeks of his life. But he did not get enough health care to suit me. - Bangor Broadside, November 2002 - Maine Media Women 2003 First Place Award, Personal Column