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US health care law can help close gaps in social security coverage

The national debate that has sprung up in the US around the new legislation on health care is actually quite beneficial, according to an ILO expert on social protection.

News | 29 June 2012
GENEVA (ILO NEWS) – The health care overhaul law in the United States can go a long way in helping to close the social security coverage gaps which currently affect some 30 million people in the country, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has said.

“The new legislation can certainly help people who currently have no access to health care and is very much in line with our efforts to expand social protection throughout the world,” said Dr. Xenia Scheil-Adlung, Health Policy Coordinator at the ILO’s Social Security Department.

The recent decision by the US Supreme Court to uphold President Obama’s health care law has created a heated public debate in the country.

“The US was behind many other countries for social security coverage in health, especially at a time when the economic crisis has further increased these needs,” said Dr. Scheil-Adlung.

Health protection – this is what the new US law is all about - is the first pillar of what the ILO calls the “social protection floor”, which is a nationally-defined set of basic social security guarantees.

The ILO has recently adopted a new international recommendation on social protection floors.

Dr. Scheil-Adlung said the controversy that the health care law has generated in the US is actually a good thing.

“The new ILO Recommendation makes it clear that social protection needs to be defined at national levels and should be discussed with all stakeholders including civil society. So the current debate taking place in the US around social protection can be beneficial in a way,” she said.