Tonight the president is going to talk to the nation about his health care reform proposal. Quite frankly, at this point I am not supporting the President, but not because I disagree with him, but because I really don’t know enough about what he is proposing, and the facts about it. I am not listening to the rhetoric that the GOP is spewing about what President Obama is proposing because they have another agenda. It is in the GOPs interest to see the president fail. And I am having a lot of trouble finding an unbiased explanation of the details, the pros and the cons of the President’s proposal as well as all the other health care proposals that are on the table. And I think that this is part of the President’s problem. He has not done an effective job of explaining to the American people the benefits of his plan, why he thinks it will work, and how it will be implemented. People just don’t understand it and people are fearful of things they don’t understand. This is a very large complicated issue and if the President wants our support he really needs to make us understand it. Let’s be real. If you are financially comfortable, can afford any insurance plan you can get, or are part of a group plan, and can afford all of the deductibles, co-pays, prescription costs and so on, then you have no reason to want reform. But the fact is that this is not the norm in this country. Here are the facts: (Source: http://www.healthcareproblems.org/health-care-statistics.htm)
- Nearly 50 million Americans do not have health insurance, while another 25 million are underinsured.
- The amount people pay for health insurance increased 30 percent from 2001 to 2005, while income for the same period of time only increased 3 percent, as reported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
- The typical family health insurance plan costs $12,000 a year or more.
- Healthcare expenditures in the United States exceed $2 trillion a year. In comparison, the federal budget is $3 trillion a year.
- The number of people who are underinsured has grown 60 percent to 25 million over the past four years.
- The fastest growing segment of the underinsured are middle and upper income families. The rate of underinsured for those with incomes of $40,000 or more nearly tripled, to 11 percent.
- The highest rate of underinsurance is in families with incomes under the poverty level (about $20,000), at 31 percent.
- In a study completed by the Commonwealth Fund, 45 percent of the adults in the survey reported that they had a hard time paying their bills, even with health insurance, and had been contacted by a collection agency or had to change their way of life in an effort to pay their medical bills.
- Approximately 50 percent of personal bankruptcies are due to medical expenses.
- According to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll, 28 percent of middle income families (annual family income between $30,000 and $75,000) stated that they were currently having a serious problem paying for healthcare or health insurance.
- Health care benefits are an important factor in either taking a new job or staying with a current job. Approximately 25 percent of employed individuals choose employment based on better health benefits. (Kaiser Family Foundation)
- Many co-habitating couples are getting married in order to provide their new spouse with access to health care benefits.
- Retirees will need an estimated $635,000 (per couple over age 65) to cover healthcare costs in retirement. This amount is estimated to give a retired couple a 90 percent chance of having enough money to pay for their health expenses beyond what Medicare covers. (Employee Benefit Research Institute)
- The Taiwanese health care system is recognized as one of the best - it allows choice, easy access, and only costs about 8 percent of GNP.
- The United States health care system is recognized as one of the worst - 48 million are uninsured, 25 million are underinsured, and health care expenditures are high at 16 percent of GNP.
- Prescription drug prices in the USA are about 30 percent higher than they are in Canada or Europe.
If you think our system is working and we don’t need to change anything then you are either in denial or you are a politician being paid by medical lobbyists. The fact is our health care system is not working and we need reform. A few years ago I spent time working as a mortgage loan officer. I reviewed countless credit reports. The number one reason I saw that people went into bankruptcy was because they could not pay off medical bills from a serious illness. Americans should not be forced into bankruptcy, and lose everything they have because they get sick. It is a national tragedy and something needs to be done. Eventually I left that mortgage company because I realized that I was not making enough money there. I quit my job and decided to get back in to the computer field that I had been in previously. I went on COBRA to insure my family. I had to pay $1400 a month plus deductibles and co-pays. It devastated me financially. Then one day, after nine months of being unemployed, I got a letter telling me that the company I was getting COBRA through was going bankrupt. I had one month left on my COBRA. I went to 2 major insurance agencies, HUMANA and Blue-Cross Blue-Shield. Neither one would insure me due to pre-existing conditions. The only way my family and I could get insurance was through the Illinois CHIP program. It was backed by Blue-Cross Blue-Shield and had no pre-existing conditions. It was a life saver, but it cost $1200 a month or $14,400 a year, and I was unemployed. I was lucky. I had a way to pay for this and soon after that I found a job with a group health plan. But 50 million Americans are not that lucky. 50 million Americans can’t afford health care that they desperately need for themselves and their children. Something must be done, we must support change, and we must support reform.
Note: If you would like to compare the various health care initiatives that are being proposed here is an excellent site, http://www.kff.org/healthreform/sidebyside.cfm.