Our health care system is broken. Americans are struggling with soaring health care costs while insurance and drug companies are putting profits before people. With President Obama’s leadership, we finally have the opportunity to create an American health care system that lowers costs, allows us to keep our own doctors, gives us the choice of private or public insurance coverage, and guarantees that every American has access to quality, affordable health care.
Our nation’s health care system needs fundamental change. Costs are rising out of control. Some 50 million Americans are uninsured. Even families who are insured often find themselves denied coverage by insurance company bureaucrats. Meanwhile, private insurance and drug companies—and their CEOs—are raking in huge profits.
Our health care system is structured to maximize profits, not promote health. Good employers who want to provide quality health care to workers are discouraged by soaring insurance costs. Bad employers have ample opportunity to shirk responsibility for contributing to their workers’ health care. And private insurance companies have incentives that lead them to deny care to the sick, refuse to insure families with pre-existing medical conditions, and dictate to doctors what treatments they can prescribe.
Unless we fundamentally reform the system, which requires a public health insurance option to guarantee competition, health care costs will bankrupt America. In the long term, the continuation of skyrocketing health care costs would devastate federal and state budgets, and make decent health insurance a luxury that only the rich could afford. So we really have no choice: comprehensive health care reform is absolutely necessary to protect America’s future.
The Right is Wrong
Opponents argue that, under the progressive plan, Americans won’t be able to choose their doctors. But in fact, this is just a lie—our plan explicitly guarantees that Americans can keep their current doctors or choose others, whatever they prefer.
Opponents argue that, under the progressive plan, the government will impose bureaucratic rules that will deny coverage when they need medical care. But in fact, this is another lie—our plan gives choices to Americans, it doesn’t take choices away. In addition to providing a choice of private or public insurance, the progressive plan imposes new rules on health insurance so that profit-seeking insurance bureaucrats can’t deny care to patients who need it.
Opponents argue that the progressive plan would create a system of “socialized medicine” like the systems in Canada, Great Britain, and the European continent. But in fact, the progressive plan is not remotely similar to those. It will create a uniquely American system that combines the best of private health insurance with the power of government to address the nationwide need for quality, affordable health care for all.
Opponents argue that they can provide quality, affordable health care through tax incentives and the “free market.” But in fact, all the opponents’ legislation would do is further enrich powerful insurance and pharmaceutical companies, and provide more tax breaks for the rich. Not a single “conservative” plan has been proposed that would control health care costs or significantly aid middle-income Americans.
The progressive solution to our health care crisis guarantees quality coverage for all that every American can afford:
- You have the choice to keep your private insurance plan, switch to another insurance company, or enroll in a new public health insurance plan.
- You have a choice of doctors, health providers, and insurance plans, without gaps in coverage or access.
- You receive comprehensive benefits that meet your needs, including coverage for prevention, primary care, and management of chronic conditions.
- Your premiums are based on your income.
The progressive solution sets up a watchdog over health insurance plans, creating and enforcing rules so those plans will have to put our health before their profits. Patients will no longer be at the mercy of the private insurance companies that have gotten us into this mess. For example, our plan will impose stringent new rules that prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions and will require all health insurance to include good benefits that meet a person’s health care needs, from prevention to care for serious illness.
Join the Health Care for America Now coalition to help overcome the special interest opposition and ensure quality, affordable health care for all. If you want to stand up and fight against the right-wing lies and for quality, affordable health care for all, visit the website of our friends at Health Care for America Now (www.healthcareforamericanow.org). They’ll tell you what you can do.
Health care premiums are skyrocketing. From 2000 to 2007, the cost of employer-sponsored insurance jumped from about $6,400 to $12,100 for coverage of a family of four. Adjusted for inflation, that’s a 56 percent increase. [Kaiser Family Foundation]
Insurance deductibles and co-pays have also increased. Between 2001 and 2005, the average deductible for a conventional fee-for-service health plan doubled from about $600 to $1,200. [Kaiser Family Foundation] During the same period, patients were forced to pay larger co-pays for doctor visits and prescription drugs. [Kaiser Family Foundation]
Employers are cutting back on the health care benefits they offer. Because health benefits are expensive, only 60 percent of American businesses offered them in 2007, down from 69 percent in 2000. [Commonwealth Fund] Employers are also passing more costs on to workers—the share paid by employees for their health insurance rose 68 percent from 2000 to 2007. [Kaiser Family Foundation]
More and more Americans are uninsured. The number of uninsured in America increased from 38 million in 2000 to 46 million in 2007. [U.S. Census Bureau] New research finds that there are 52 million uninsured as of January 2009. [Center for American Progress] Much of this increase is due to middle-income families losing insurance coverage.
An additional 25 million Americans are underinsured. The number of people who have insurance that does not adequately protect them from high medical expenses has risen dramatically. Between 2003 and 2007, the number increased by 60 percent. [Commonwealth Fund]
Health care costs are high in part because there is little competition among insurers. The vast majority of health insurance markets in the U.S. are dominated by just one or two insurers. The only way to bring down costs is to guarantee meaningful competition—which requires the creation of a public health insurance option. [American Medical Association]
Insurance companies continue to reap record profits. Just before the recession hit, insurance companies were raking in huge profits, with the top five health insurance companies grabbing a combined profit of $10 billion in 2007. [CNNMoney/Fortune] They accomplished this by cherry-picking healthy patients and denying needed care to unhealthy patients. In five years, insurance company profits rose an amazing 1,000 percent. [AFL-CIO]
The health insurance industry spends hundreds of millions of dollars to influence government policy. Insurers spent more than $380 million on lobbying in 2006 alone, and another $460 million on campaign contributions since 2000. [Center for Responsive Politics]
Americans overwhelmingly favor having the choice of a public health insurance plan. In designing health care reform, 73 percent of Americans (including 77 percent of Democrats, 79 percent of Independents, and 63 percent of Republicans) want to ensure that they have the choice of a private or public health insurance plan. [Lake Research Partners]
Americans overwhelmingly agree that our health care system requires fundamental changes.
“Which of the following three statements comes closest to expressing your overall view of the health care system in the United States? (1) On the whole, the health care system works pretty well and only minor changes are necessary to make it work better. OR, (2) There are some good things in our health care system, but fundamental changes are needed. OR, (3) Our health care system has so much wrong with it that we need to completely rebuild it.”
Minor Changes 12%
Fundamental Changes 49%
Completely Rebuilt 38%
CBS News/New York Times poll, April 22-26, 2009
Nearly three-quarters of Americans favor federal government action to reform health care.
“In general, would you favor or oppose a program that would increase the federal government’s influence over the country’s health care system in an attempt to lower costs and provide health care coverage to more Americans?”
CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll. Feb. 18-19, 2009
Americans agree that we should increase taxes on the wealthy to help pay for health care reform.
“The Obama Administration has proposed increasing federal income taxes for households making more than $250,000 a year. Some of the money raised by these new taxes would be used to help improve access to healthcare and provide tax cuts for households making less money. Do you think this proposal is a good idea or a bad idea?”
Good idea 74%
Bad idea 23%
CBS News/New York Times Poll, April 1-5, 2009
Americans overwhelmingly favor the choice of a public health insurance plan.
73% of Americans want a choice of a private or public health insurance plan, including Democrats (77%), Independents (79%), and Republicans (63%).
Lake Research Partners, January 8-13, 2009
When Steve and Leslie Shaeffer's daughter, Selah, was diagnosed at age 4 with a potentially fatal tumor in her jaw, they figured their health insurance would cover the bulk of her treatment costs.
Instead, almost two years later, the Murrieta, Calif., couple face more than $60,000 in medical bills and fear the loss of their dream home. They struggle to stave off creditors as they try to figure out how Selah can keep seeing the physician they credit with saving her life.
"We're in big trouble," Leslie said.
Shortly after Selah's medical bills hit $20,000, Blue Cross stopped covering them and eventually canceled her coverage retroactively, refusing to pay for treatment, including surgery the insurer had authorized in advance.
The company accused the Shaeffers of failing to disclose in their coverage application an undiagnosed bump on Selah's chin and physician visits for croup. Had that been disclosed, the company said in a letter, it would not have insured Selah.
The Shaeffers say they weren't trying to hide anything. When they applied for coverage, Selah did not have a tumor, at least as far as they – or any physician – knew. The doctor visits occurred after Leslie filled out the paperwork, and they seemed routine, the Shaeffers say. They believe Blue Cross was looking for any excuse to dump their daughter and dodge her bills. [Los Angeles Times]