08/10/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Health Care Reform is Very, Very Good to You

How many people are losing health insurance in your state? In my current home of Virginia, it is 330 people losing coverage every day. In Maine, where I grew up, it is 70. In Massachusetts, where I went to college, it is 430. Want to find out how bad your neighbors are getting it? The Center for American Progress Action Fund has released data for every state, detailing the need for health care reform with a state-by-state analysis.

Health care reform is not just a national issue, it is a local issue. It impacts the health and economic well-being of individual, families, cities/towns, counties, and states. Out of pocket costs are not only hurting family budgets, but also the financial health of employers. Like no other issue, health care reform is all about the common good. It is about the health of people, communities, and the nation.

Many opponents of health care reform sing the old mantra that health care should be a choice, that the free market will deliver better health care than the government. But this argument is a red herring. First, as you can see from the state-by-state fact sheets, people in most states have very little choice when it comes to health care under the current system. Even if the free market could provide better health care than the government, we don't have a free market for health care now.

But even if we had a pure free market, we would likely see more people losing coverage, because in order to maximize profits, for-profit health insurers are incentivized to not cover the sickest among us, often under the guise of not insuring previous conditions. In the end, public health is a public good and when large segments of the population suffer health problems, we all pay for it. This is what economists call externalities and it is precisely why 1) health care is a public good and 2) the free market will always under-produce public health.

That is why it is essential for government to play a role in health care. Market forces alone are simply not up to the task of ensuring good health for the nation while containing costs.