Our Health Care System is NOT the Best in the World - But One Day it Can Be
by John Doll
Sat Aug 05, 2006 at 06:13:57 AM PDT
I am John Doll, Democratic candidate for US Congress, Kansas District 1. I want to fix our health care system by taking real action in the House of Representatives.
Kansans continue to name health care as a top priority for government at all levels, ranking it above other important domestic issues including education, spending and taxes, and fighting crime.
We are told that our health care system is the best in the world, and, therefore, we are warned not to mess with it. But, folks, it's not the best in the world.
American health care is arguably the most advanced in the world, technologically, but it is far from being equally available to everyone who lives here. With nearly 46 million people lacking insurance coverage, our wealthy nation is not living up to its potential, and is leaving millions outside of a health care system that should never discriminate based on income, job status, or other factors that marginalize vulnerable people.
* John Doll's diary :: ::
Our health care system is broken. Almost 1 out of every 6 people are without healthcare in this country. Nearly 9 million children in the U.S. and 300,000 children in Kansas are growing up without any health care. Forty-six million Americans have no health care insurance or access to medical care.
The majority of people in America that don't have health care are actually fully employed. As costs go up, fewer individuals and families can afford insurance, and fewer businesses can offer coverage to their employees. Having a job, even a full-time job, doesn't necessarily guarantee coverage. In fact, eight out of 10 uninsured Americans are in working families. Only 41% of businesses in Kansas with 50 or less employees even offers health care insurance for their employees. These uninsured and under-insured people are not on welfare or out of work - they are working! Why would the greatest nation on earth allow 16 out of every 100 Americans to subsist without health care?
Just one serious illness or injury can wipe out an uninsured family's bank account, and the problem is only growing. American seniors will spend $1.8 trillion dollars on prescription drugs over the next ten years - paying far more for some drugs than consumers in Canada and other countries.
Among the insured group, many have woefully inadequate coverage. Too many of our families have discovered this the hard way. When tragedy strikes, insured families often discover that their insurance just doesn't cover the best life-saving care, alternatives, or options. Costs have almost doubled since President Bush has been in office. Family health insurance has risen more than 70% to an average of $4,500 per family. On top of this, co-pays and deductibles have also gone up.
As many adults with chronic diseases have discovered, if they lose their job and their health coverage, no other insurance company will give them a policy. This leaves thousands of Kansans in the lurch - with no health care. In our current system, if a man has prostate cancer and loses his insurance, he will have to do without health care. If a mother contracts hepatitis C, she may never again be insurable. Many children with significant disabilities do not have access to comprehensive health services because their insurance does not cover the care they need and their parents earn too much to qualify for Medicaid. Their parents often forgo jobs in order to remain eligible for coverage of these services under Medicaid.
What kind of system is this that denies care to hardworking Americans because they have had an illness? Isn't that the opposite of what a health care system should do? We have a broken system.
In this global economy, it is critical that all of our citizens stay healthy. Not only because we need to protect and support our work force, but also because diseases among some can threaten the health of others. But, even more than that, making health care available to all Americans is just the right thing to do.
Can we really say that America has the best health care in the world? No, absolutely not. Not when Americans can't use the health care that we have.
America can be better! We must make it better.
Rather than provide real solutions to the health care concerns of Americans, our current Congress has focused on what they call "medical malpractice reform" -- a proposal that many analysts say would do more harm than good. Under the Republican approach, patients who suffer harm by a doctor or hospital would not have the rights they have today. Instead, they would face an arbitrary cap on "non-economic" damages, which disproportionately harms women, children, and the elderly. That means that a parent whose child was killed by an incompetent doctor or the family of an injured stay-at-home mom would lose both financially and emotionally. Only the insurance industry and the big HMOs would win. Their plan just protects the insurance companies and does nothing for patients.
In contrast, I believe we should bring down the cost of healthcare premiums while protecting patients' rights. I will oppose legislation passed by House Republicans to cap non-economic damages and limit patients' rights.
I believe that health care is a basic human right - and, it's the responsibility of all developed nations to provide adequate health care to its citizens. The United States, in fact, is the only developed nation that does not provide universal health care services. It's time for our country to join all of the other civilized societies of the world and see to it that our citizens have access to medical services.
I applaud Massachusetts for its recent enactment of universal healthcare. I want to see all states move in that direction with the assistance of the federal government to prevent burdening small employers and state budgets. For example, I support action from Congress that establishes a pilot program under which, in exchange for significant financial assistance, states that volunteer would be required to move toward universal health care for all of their citizens; states that apply for the pilot program would have great flexibility in how they might achieve this goal - a state might decide to pursue a single-payer system; or, use a mix of the existing public health care programs along with private health insurance; or, a completely different approach - but the bottom line is making sure every American is covered!
It's time to put politics aside and take meaningful steps toward a health care system that serves everyone. Fortunately, there are ways the government can help. I will:
# Fight for progress towards universal health care coverage for all Americans, knowing that this is the ultimate goal; towards that end, I will keep an open mind and embrace new ideas and innovations that will bring us closer to the goal.
# Speak out for small business tax credits because small businesses have an especially difficult time providing health insurance to their workers; I advocate tax credits to help small businesses offer health coverage to their employees.
# Fight to for help for working families by creating health insurance options for uninsured parents with children enrolled in Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program.
# Work to create new health insurance options for older Americans, allowing older Americans who have lost their jobs, whose employers have dropped their retiree health benefits, or who have lost their insurance coverage, to buy into the Medicare program.
# Support common sense insurance reform - not by capping non-economic damages in meritorious lawsuits and limiting patients' rights - but, instead by supporting legislation that directly addresses rising premiums through health insurance reform, combating frivolous lawsuits, and providing direct assistance to communities that have a shortage of health care providers as a result of increases in malpractice insurance premiums.
# Fight for Americans to get a fair deal on name brand prescription drugs, insisting that American consumers should not pay more for FDA approved drugs than consumers overseas do.
# Support legislation that increases citizen access to generic drugs, and increasing the government's negotiating power so the Department of Health and Human Services can obtain lower drug prices for Medicare beneficiaries.
# Fight for legislation that allows middle class families of children with disabilities to purchase Medicaid coverage, helping parents care for their children while continuing to work.
# Support new legislation that requires the enrolling of every eligible child in health insurance coverage; currently about 70% of the uninsured children in the US are eligible for, but not enrolled in, a public health insurance program - I want to make sure that every child who is eligible for coverage is enrolled.
# Advance and support legislation to establish a pilot program under which, in exchange for significant financial assistance, states that volunteer would be required to move toward universal health care for all of their citizens; states that apply for the pilot program would have great flexibility in how they might achieve this goal - a state might decide to pursue a single-payer system; or, use a mix of the existing public health care programs along with private health insurance; or, a completely different approach - making sure every American is covered.