Thursday, August 27, 2009

Health Care Reform: Let's Keep it Real

This post was provided by Ruth Vincent, Clarkston Georgia.

Those appearing to favor big business in the Health Care Reform discussion appear to have lost sight of the moral dilemma faced in this country with approximately 47,000 million individuals uninsured (see study, Who are the Uninsured? An Analysis of America’s Uninsured Population, Their Characteristics and Their Health dated June 2009 by the Employment Policies Institute (EPI). This study is based on 2006 Current Policy Survey data obtained by the US Census Bureau. Using more recent polling data also in June 2009, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index data revealed that one in six US adults are without health insurance.

It appears that misinformation and fear of change dominate the day. A recent example of misinformation by a national conservative daily newspaper in an article supposedly discussing ‘the truth about health insurance’ stated, “nine out of 10 people under 65 are covered by their employers”. This statement in my opinion is not only dishonest, but deceitful. reports for 2006-2007 that 53.4% of US employees were covered by employer plans.

In addition to the moral dilemma of the uninsured, we must face the fact that Medicare is going broke in the near future, the employer and employee shares of health care costs are rising at such a rate that employers can barely afford the premiums and the employee’s share has escalated to the point that the average worker sees take home pay reduced while co-pays and caps on hospital costs, professional services and drugs continue to increase.

Using CPS Microfile data from March 2007, the EPI study of the uninsured indicates in ages 18-64, 57% (21,541 million) are involuntarily uninsured because their incomes are less than 2.5 times the poverty level. This means that 43% (16,251 million) of the uninsured had some means of contributing to the cost of their insurance. Eliminating all non-US born uninsured, leaves 26,454 million US born citizens between the ages of 18-64 without health care insurance or about 9% of the total US population uninsured!
The uninsured receive some level of medical care, either through self-pay, non-profit agencies, free services, emergency rooms, and etc. Free-to-patient-services are not without costs and we as taxpayers pay for them one way of the other. A reasonable person would agree that it will be more cost effective and humane to keep people healthy by providing them with a basic level of health care.

For those of us who can afford care that is superior, say to Medicare which I consider basic care, there will be private providers who will sell supplemental policies that will upgrade any basic ‘Chevrolet’ health coverage to a ‘Cadillac’ or somewhere between. Not many with insurance now have ‘Cadillac’ coverage.

Having worked with college students, it did not take long to figure out that ‘tax credits’ are not cash on the day that tuition is due to be paid. I don’t pretend to know what health care reform must look like, but if we don’t make meaningful reform, I do know a few things:

• What we have today will cost more next year;
• If you are employed today, you may not be employed tomorrow;
• Even subsidized COBRA coverage may be unaffordable; and
• If you think leaving it up to the private sector is the answer, just look at the melt down in the financial sector: stocks, banks, capital markets, housing, student loans and insurance!

Finally, I believe in capitalism, but it seems that ethics, integrity and reasonable profit expectations are being replaced by simple greed.

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