Today there are 47 million Americans
who cannot afford health insurance. And if you've seen Sicko, you know that even *having* health insurance in this country
doesn't mean you'll get the treatment you need.
All of the Democratic presidential
candidates are aware of what a hot topic the healthcare crisis is, and so they vie for your favor by making "healthcare reform"
a top campaigning issue. They speak with outrage and they promise solutions.
Let's look at what they call "solutions." Senator Clinton claims that the only way to achieve "universal" coverage is to REQUIRE
EVERYONE TO BUY INSURANCE.
Hillary's solution is called "individual
mandate" - using the power of government to force uninsured individuals to buy health insurance. This is a DREAM COME TRUE
for the insurance companies! They get a captive market.
Senator Obama says the reason people
don't have insurance is NOT because they don't want it, but because THEY CAN'T AFFORD IT. This certainly reflects my experience.
All Hillary Clinton's solution means
is that people will be forced to pay money to the government for the PRIVILEGE of being unable to afford to pay insurance
From the article below: "Nothing
in any of their plans...would hamper
insurers from charging what they
want." It's no secret that it's a lot easier for government to control what "the
people" can do than to control what a powerful, wealthy lobbying entity like the insurance industry can do. And while a "force
'em all to buy" law may appease the insurance companies into lowing their premiums for a little while, history speaks for
itself: My insurance premiums QUINTUPLED in the past seven years and it was STILL the best deal I
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Published on Tuesday, January 15, 2008
by The Providence Journal (Rhode
Obama-Clinton Health Debate Ignores
by Rose Ann DeMoro
The debate between Senators Hillary
Clinton and Barack Obama on health care probably looks like a small nuance in two proposals that are remarkably similar. But
the issue at the center of their dispute reflects a lot about our present health-care system and how to achieve genuine reform. What's generating the heat is a concept called "individual mandate" - using the power
of government to force uninsured individuals to buy health insurance. Senator
Clinton claims that the only way to achieve "universal" coverage is to require everyone to have insurance. Senator Obama says
people don't have insurance not because they don't want it, but because they can't afford it. Both are skipping the main problem.
It's true that no plan can be called
"universal" unless everybody is in. It's also true that skyrocketing costs have
priced millions of Americans out of access to care. A Kaiser Family Foundation
2007 survey found that average family premiums are now $12,106 - not including the additional charges for deductibles and
co-payments for everything from doctor's appointments to prescription drugs to emergency care.
Costs are the central story today,
cited by most Americans as their major worry about their health coverage, and are why health care is the leading domestic
issue in the presidential race. The trouble for most of these families is not
the lack of insurance, though; it's the insurance they already have. Consumer Reports in August reported that four in 10 Americans
are "underinsured." Half postponed needed medical care because of cost. One quarter had outstanding
debt. Only 37 percent said they were prepared to handle unexpected
It's hard to imagine how forcing
more people to buy insurance solves these problems, especially when none of the top three Democratic candidates has advocated
any cost constraints on the insurers, drug companies or other industry giants.
The individual-mandate fad started
with two Republican governors – Mitt
Romney, who made it a centerpiece
of a Massachusetts law, and Arnold
Schwarzenegger, who is trying to
make it the law in California. While some pundits laud Massachusetts,
there's an underside. Despite the Dec. 31, 2007, deadline, after which everyone who was not insured now faces tax penalties,
only about 6 percent of the uninsured who did not qualify for public assistance had bought insurance as of last month. Why?
Because of the high cost. In California, the governor and the Democrat-controlled
legislature now both support individual mandates, but are not close to finding a way to make it affordable.
Their ideological argument is that
individuals must be made responsible for their own health-care costs, rather than society as a whole. The underlying message
is you're on your own. But, if Obama is right about the fatal flaw in individual mandate, he's still off base in his failure
to take on the primary source of our health-care morass.
The major Democratic contenders are
at least talking about large-scale
reform - in stark contrast to the
Republican candidates, who seem to
think more tax breaks for the wealthy
are the solution. But everyone is
ignoring the gorilla in the room. Having insurance is not the same thing as receiving care. Nothing proposed by the
top-tier candidates of either party would end the thousands of horror stores of insurance companies denying needed care, access
to specialists or diagnostic tests, even when recommended by a
Nothing in any of their plans, other
than a vague reliance on the magic
of the same market that created the
present crisis, would hamper insurers from charging what they want - and pushing more families into bankruptcy from medical
debt - or forcing them to self-ration care because of the cost. As premiums have
ballooned by 87 percent in the past decade, insurance-industry profits have climbed from $20.8 billion in 2002 to $57.5 billion
in 2006. During that same period, health-care interests spent $2.2 billion on federal lobbying, more than did any other sector,
and as of last month, had flooded the presidential candidates with over $11 million in campaign contributions to keep the
present system intact.
There's one alternative that would
guarantee coverage for everyone, protect choice of doctor, promote cost savings by slashing administrative waste, and get
the insurance companies out of the way. It's called single-payer reform, as in an expanded and improved Medicare for all.
The candidates should demonstrate the courage to talk about this one real reform.
Rose Ann DeMoro is executive director
of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee and a national AFL-CIO vice president.
© 2008, The Providence Journal Co.