slow? or STAT?
slow? or STAT?

I just finished doing my favorite new lunch break activity– shutting the office door and watching the previous night’s Rachel Maddow Show via iTunes, and after wanting to write about health care for a while now, I finally know what I want to write about.

Rachel showed clips of several Republican leaders clearly using what has been an agreed-upon talking point.  Each expressed concern that Democrats are trying to “rush” health care reform, and what we really need to do is slow down.  Quotes taken from the transcript:

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MINORITY LEADER: This is too important to be rushed. We need to take our time and do it right.

MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIRMAN: It is urgent and it is indisputable, but the problem I have with it is the rush that is underway here.

SEN. JIM DEMINT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: This doesn’t take effect for four years, Matt. We don’t need to pass it in two weeks.

SEN. JON KYL (R), ARIZONA: The president and some Democrats insist we must rush this plan through.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: But I wish he’d say three things. I wish he’d say, first of all, we’re going to slow down.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), MINORITY LEADER: It is pretty clear that they’re going to rush ahead.

Of course, as Rachel pointed out, with video, we’ve actually been trying to achieve health reform for SIXTY ONE YEARS.  Yep.  She had a clip of Harry Truman asking Congress to pass a health plan.  So, this isn’t a “rush.”

But even if it were, it SHOULD be.  Every day that we delay on health reform, the deeper our nation sinks into debt, the more people lose jobs, health insurance, and homes, the more people get sick and even die for lack of health coverage.  We need health reform and we need it STAT.

Here are some reasons:

  • “Nearly 46 million Americans, or 18 percent of the population under the age of 65, were without health insurance in 2007, the latest government data available.” And with unemployment rising so precipitously in the past 2 years, we can assume the total is much much higher, both because of people losing the jobs that provided their insurance or because they lost the job that allowed them to pay for their private insurance.  (NCHC)
  • “The number of uninsured children in 2007 was 8.1 million – or 10.7 percent of all children in the U.S.” (NCHC)
  • “Lack of insurance compromises the health of the uninsured because they receive less preventive care, are diagnosed at more advanced disease stages, and once diagnosed, tend to receive less therapeutic care and have higher mortality rates than insured individuals.” (NCHC)
  • “About 20 percent of the uninsured (vs. three percent of those with coverage) say their usual source of care is the emergency room.” (NCHC) This drives up costs for the rest of us because EDs are NOT money makers for hospitals.  In order to remain profitable, hospitals must collect what they lose in the ED by increasing prices on all other services. Also from the NCHC: “Hospitals provide about $34 billion worth of uncompensated care a year.”
  • “The increasing reliance of the uninsured on the emergency department has serious economic implications, since the cost of treating patients is higher in the emergency department than in other outpatient clinics and medical practices.” (NCHC)
  • According to Elizabeth Edwards on last night’s Rachel Maddow Show, “Sixty-two percent of bankruptcy is being caused by medical costs; 50 percent of home foreclosures.”  And if you don’t think home foreclosures affect YOU, think again.  If the house next to yours is foreclosed, or a house in your neighborhood, it hurts YOUR property values.
  • Health care costs are rising faster than we can even begin to keep up: “In 2008, total national health expenditures were expected to rise 6.9 percent — two times the rate of inflation.” (NCHC)
  • “Although nearly 46 million Americans are uninsured, the United States spends more on health care than other industrialized nations, and those countries provide health insurance to all their citizens.” (NCHC)
  • The rising costs are HURTING our businesses and our economy: “Health insurance expenses are the fastest growing cost component for employers. Unless something changes dramatically, health insurance costs will overtake profits by the end of 2008.” (NCHC) How many companies could be expanding and creating jobs, but can’t, because of the burden of health care?
  • And because this list is already long enough, I’ll just point out that the QUALITY of our healthcare is nowhere near what it should be for the amount we spend.  You can read more here.  I know that fear mongerers love to point out cases of people “dying in Canada” or wherever because of evil socialized health care, but there are people and babies dying right here in the USA thanks to our system.

Hopefully you can now see why this situation is so urgent.  We can’t listen to Republicans telling us to slow down, when really, they are just hoping to kill health reform altogether.  So get educated.  Read about the major provisions of the proposed reform in the House bill.

It seems the biggest point of contention is the public health option, similar to the health insurance provided to federal employees.  Did you read that last part?  It’s a government-run health insurance program.  Anyone who tells you that this is “socialized medicine” is flat out lying.  It’s absolutely the KEY piece of the puzzle in the reform process.  Why?  Because health insurance only works by creating large pools of people to spread risk around and share costs.  The bigger the pool, the lower the premiums, because the risk is spread across many people paying in to the system.  It is very hard for new insurance companies to get into the health insurance business, because they can’t get enough people together to form a large enough pool to make a profit.  Thus, though there is a “free market” the tendency is toward mergers and monopolies, not conducive to the kind of competition that really governs a free market.  Via Talking Points Memo I learned of a report

released by Health Care for America Now (HCAN), [which] uses data compiled by the American Medical Association to show that 94 percent of the country’s insurance markets are defined as “highly concentrated,” according to Justice Department guidelines. Predictably, that’s led to skyrocketing costs for patients, and monster profits for the big health insurers. Premiums have gone up over the past six years by more than 87 percent, on average, while profits at ten of the largest publicly traded health insurance companies rose 428 percent from 2000 to 2007.

In other words, people who claim to be concerned about public-private competition will drive private insurers out of business should know that in most places, there’s no such thing as health insurance competition, and competition is necessary to keep costs and premiums down. If you have private insurance now, you can keep it! But the mere existence of the public plan may help drive YOUR costs down.  The only entity big enough to create a pool large enough to inject real competition into the health are industry is the government, period.

Also, the government plan would have to adhere to stricter rules, helping to ensure coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, and to prevent people with serious illnesses from being kicked off their coverage due to costs.  In order to compete, private insurers would also have to adopt these standards, which would truly be a victory for everyone.

Finally, the government plan would be large enough to enact real changes in terms of compensation structures to health care providers, helping to encourage preventative care to keep everyone healthier, and to ddrive down costs.  Hopefully doctors and groups like the AMA which represent them will grab a seat at the table to help make sure these changes are equitable and in patients’ and providers’ best interests.

So. I finally wrote a health care post.  It’s by no means comprehensive, and I am by no means an expert.  I’m just the daughter of an ER doc an APN and an RN, and I’m married to a pediatrician.  I’m someone with a healthy interest in health care and a lot of time to read and get informed.  I urge you to read and get informed too, and to get involved in the process.

Image via Flickr user Hermes, under a Creative Commons license.

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