Issue Position: Health System Reform
Today, there are over 306,000 Utahans without health insurance. This means that nearly 12% of our population struggles to provide for the healthcare needs of themselves and their families. Instead of talking about health care reform we need to be discussing health system reform. This effort needs to spread beyond our traditional notions of what healthcare reform should be. We must think strategically of ways that we can not only increase efficiencies and lower costs, but also improve care.
We must stop kidding ourselves that those who are uninsured are simply not receiving health care. They are receiving care, but they are receiving too little, too late - and typically in settings such as emergency rooms where the care is much more expensive than if it had been provided elsewhere. According to federal law, anyone who goes into an emergency room must be provided care, regardless of that person's ability to pay. However, this care is not free. It is subsidized by hospitals through charity care, and by businesses and individuals through increased premiums. One estimate is that charity care is responsible for 17% of health insurance premiums.
The purpose of this reform is threefold: 1) control health care costs; 2) increase access to health insurance and health care; and 3) encourage wellness. Today, too many people are denied health insurance. Often, individuals are denied coverage for conditions such as seasonal allergies or pre-term labor. Hardworking Utahans who would like to purchase insurance for themselves and their families are unable to do so because of restrictive rules and regulations.
For too long the lament over the large number of those without health insurance has been fragmented and unproductive. We must stop seeing this crisis as a one dimensional social issue. The large number of those without health insurance nationally and in our own State highlights a dilemma in defining the proper role of government and a critical challenge to the exercise of individual responsibility.