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John Florez: A healthy nation is a productive nation

Published: Saturday, Oct. 12 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

What America needs are leaders who will work to renew our nation’s capacity to advance the health of all Americans. We should see the ACA as an investment in our most natural resource — our people.

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We don’t have a health care problem. We have a health problem.

Politicians don’t seem to understand: how you define a problem defines the solution. A healthy nation is a productive nation. Viewing the problem that way allows different options to solve the problem. Gov. Gary Herbert is partially right when he told the Deseret News, "I think there's a dearth of leadership in Washington, D.C." It also is lacking at the state level as demonstrated by how we hesitate to deal with the health needs of our citizens.

The passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has revealed the problems with our current health care system and the lack of moral leadership in our politicians. Moral in the sense that national and state leaders lack the courage to pass laws that promote the common good in keeping with our values. It’s as though they don’t understand how technology and globalization have made our health care system obsolete, so they end up resisting implementing the law of the land.

The current debate over health care raises the question: should employers be responsible for the health of our citizens, or is that a cost that ought to be shared by all citizens? Offering health insurance benefits started during World War II by employers as a way to attract workers and bypass the wage freeze at that time. It was a voluntary effort that quickly became a de-facto way of providing health care in America. As time went on, our economy declined, causing employers to cut employee health care benefits.

The passage of the ACA has relieved the unspoken burden employers assumed in the delivery of health care for the nation and has allowed them to have options in maintaining a productive workforce. The cost of promoting health in America is supported by all citizens rather than employers. The ACA has made advancing the health of all citizens a national commitment in keeping with our value of promoting the general welfare.

In passing the ACA, our national leaders recognized how globalization and technology have left our institutions that were created for a different era in need of renewal for today’s economy. As our nation launches a new health policy, there are politician naysayers who are unwilling to risk their political seat in supporting change — waiting for the policy to fail. It’s those leaders who keep our nation from meeting the challenges of a new world.

As the governor said, there is a “dearth of leadership.” John W. Gardner has described the malady of leadership as “a failure of confidence. Anyone who accomplishes anything of significance has more confidence than the facts would justify. … Lacking such confidence … they require that the question be put through a series of clearances within the organization and let the clearance process settle it. Or take a public opinion poll and let the poll settle it.”

Like any new venture there will be glitches along the way. It’s the price of growth. America was built by leaders who were willing to risk and inspired people to sacrifice and work together for the public good. What America needs are leaders who will work to renew our nation’s capacity to advance the health of all Americans. We should see the ACA as an investment in our most natural resource — our people.

A Utah native, John Florez has been on the staff of Sen. Orrin Hatch, served as former Utah industrial commissioner and filled White House appointments, including deputy assistant secretary of labor and Commission on Hispanic Education. Email him at jdflorez@comcast.net.

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