Health Care Reform is On The Table?

This morning I noted a news item from Human Resource Executive Online, the article is titled: National Health Reform Begins. In short, the Obama Administration will begin very soon (if it hasn’t already by the time I press the publish button), and rising health care costs, as well as lack of health care for many, are on everyone’s mind. A paragraph “jumped off the page” while reading the article:

. . . along with the question of whether or not employers should be required to “play or pay” — that is, employers must either provide a certain level of health insurance or pay the government so that it can provide insurance-premium subsidies for low-income households.

Two recent reports from the Congressional Budget Office are “must read” material for employers that want to understand what might happen, why it might happen and how it might affect their health programs.

This is a serious issue, with repercussions to last many generations into the future.

It seems common knowledge that health care in the United States is more expensive than in any other country, and it’s failing to provide the best health care (a point subject to debate) and universal coverage for everyone. Don’t believe it? An older health-care cost report from from the University of Maine circa 2001 (*.doc). When reading this, remember the inflation that has occurred over the last 8 years. Another health care report from the Common Wealth Fund, circa 2006, says:

Equity: Nine measures from the two surveys gauged the extent to which patients’ income affected their ability to access care. The U.S. scored last on seven of the nine measures of low-income patients not receiving needed care and had the greatest disparities in terms of access to care between those with below-average and above-average incomes. With low rankings on all measures, the U.S. ranked last among the six countries in terms of equity in the health care system. The U.K. ranked first, with no or negligible differences in terms of patients’ access to care by income. The U.S. is the only country surveyed with large numbers of uninsured, and this contributed to its low rating for equity in the health care system. But even among above-average income respondents, the U.S. lagged considerably behind their counterparts in other countries.

Not to make too fine a point regarding my own bias, Representative John Conyers authored H.R. 676. It has now attracted 78 cosponsors.

While I haven’t read the two Congressional Budget Office reports linked in the Human Resource Executive Online news item, I fortunately see that Medicare For All (see the PDF, page 13) is mentioned:

Provide individuals with coverage under, or access to, existing insurance plans such as the Medicare program, either as an additional option or under a “Medicare-for-all” single-payer arrangement.

More information about HR 676 can be found here, should you choose to and are able to help. From their front page:

  • Every resident of the US will be covered from birth to death.
  • No more pre-existing conditions to be excluded from coverage.
  • No more expensive deductibles or co-pays.
  • All prescription medications will be covered.
  • All dental and eye care will be included.
  • Mental health and substance abuse care will be fully covered.(1)
  • Long term and nursing home services will be included.
  • You will always choose your own doctors and hospitals.
  • Costs of coverage will be assessed on a sliding scale basis.
  • Tremendously simplified system of medical administration
  • Total portability – your coverage not tied to any job or location.
  • Existing Medicare benefits for those over 65 will remain the same or be vastly improved in many cases.
  • No corporate bureaucrat will ever come between you and your Doctor to deny your care

While the Obama Administration and Congress struggle with the many problems currently facing our nation and the world, few can argue that health care is not one of the higher priorities to average folks, along with putting food on the table and keeping their homes if they’re lucky enough to have one. A Single-Payer Medicare for All (universal) plan would take some financial stress off small and large businesses alike, while improving health care access for all, including homeless folks.

It’s important for citizens to understand these issues facing us, think about them, then communicate with others, your neighbors certainly, and particularly your Representatives and Senators, as well as President Obama, regarding what you’d like to see happen in the future in regards to the health care proposals being discussed. You can bet the insurance corporations’ executives are doing so, but their past systems have failed some of us, while enriching themselves and their shareholders, creating the most expensive health-care system in the world that fails to cover all of us.

It’s time for us to take back our power as citizens and create a brighter, more equitable, and healthier future.