Boise State President Pleads for Public Health Care Option 

Kustra relates personal, political story on health coverage

In an unscripted section of his State of the University address this morning, Boise State University President Bob Kustra talked about the recent death of his son and the need for a public option for health coverage.

“Over the course of the last 15 months, that we fought this battle, we saw close up what’s at stake in the current health care reform debate,” Kustra said. “We are living proof of how for-profit insurance companies and HMOs target people who are sick and who are ill and raise their premiums and raise their premiums until they can effectively kick them off of the rolls.”

Kustra's son Steve died of cancer two months ago. After his first bout with cancer, as his rates rose, Steve dropped his health coverage without informing his parents, Kustra recalled. When the symptoms returned, he had no doctor to visit.

“When we hear the 'public option,' and we hear the president thinking about dropping it from the plan, it worries me greatly that we would leave health care to the profit motive in America,” Kustra said.

Kustra went on to talk about how the state of Idaho has been cutting health benefits and not living up to its bargain to raise salaries. Part-time university employees will see a 47 percent jump in health insurance premiums that they must pay themselves, Kustra said.

“It doesn’t make any sense that this Faustian bargain that went awry should land in the laps of our most vulnerable citizens,” he said. "I know that I’m supposed to be skilled at politics ... but there’s no way that anyone should remain silent in the face of this injustice."

Kustra continued, still shooting from the hip, that the same people who are cutting state worker health benefits, dress in blue and orange, attend seven Bronco games a year and slap him on the back asking if we are going to beat Oregon.

“I wish just once somebody would say, 'How’s the lab technician going to handle the 40 percent increase? How’s the custodian going to handle the 40 percent increase? Will he drop his coverage, will he simply fail to pay?" Kustra said. "Beleive me, those are the important questions we ought to be asking around this place, not how the football team’s going to be doing. I don’t know how else to put it.”

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