For the sixth year in a row, the percentage of uninsured Americans is on the rise. Just in 2006, 2.2 million Americans joined the ranks of the uninsured. Back in 2002, The Institute of Medicine released its second installment of a six part report on what happens to thousands of Americans who lack health care coverage in America. The result was shocking, 18,000 Americans die every year because they lack health care coverage.
The study did not even include the 10 million uninsured children or the elderly on Medicare at the time. The group researched 30 million uninsured Americans, roughly one in seven in our country who did not have coverage. Consumer health expert Ray Werntz had this to say about the findings:
“The report documents the immense consequence of having 40 million uninsured people out there,” says Ray Werntz, a consumer health expert with the Employee Benefit Research Institute. “We need to elevate the problem in the national conscience.”
Calculating the cost in human suffering, he says, “is one way to get there.”
That was six years ago. Tens of thousands of Americans have since died and nothing has been done.
Back in 2002, it sure wasn’t the time to be talking about health care reform. 9/11 happened and the Bush Administration was pounding the war drum. I doubt many in the media even covered the report. Heck, the media won’t even cover the health crisis when the polls show health care is the top concern of Americans. The 2nd report issued by the Institute of Medicine researched over 130 studies on the uninsured in America. They analyzed what factors contributed to the likelihood of a person being uninsured. It’s quite simple folks. If you’re poor, you’re less likely to have insurance. However, what’s really disturbing about the numbers of the uninsured, is that the majority of these people are employed and cannot afford treatment. I found this report interesting because it didn’t just focus on the fact that the poor are more likely to be uninsured. It also examined how 70% of the uninsured come from households that have one or more full time worker. I know this isn’t rocket science folks, but we have to realize how wrong it is that full time workers can’t afford coverage in America. Here are a few more of the findings reported by USA Today:
* Uninsured people with colon or breast cancer face a 50% higher risk of death.
* Uninsured trauma victims are less likely to be admitted to the hospital, receive the full range of needed services, and are 37% more likely to die of their injuries.
* About 25% of adult diabetics without insurance for a year or more went without a checkup for two years. That boosts their risk of death, blindness and amputations resulting from poor circulation.
This is unacceptable. When Americans don’t have access to preventative care services, they don’t catch diseases like cancer early enough to have a good shot at beating them. Treatable injuries end up being fatal for some Americans because they don’t have access to treatment. Every American should have access to every tool available to battle diseases. Every American should be treated if they’re injured even if they’re too poor to pay. If America wants to be a just nation than we have to value all of our citizens equally, no matter their economic status. Letting these people die when they could be saved because they’re poor, is the ultimate shame of our nation.
What are we going to do about it?
Last week at Daily Kos, we spent a lot of time arguing about mandates and which proposal put forth by the candidates is the right one. Many of us agreed that the best option is single payer health care. We posted hundreds of comments arguing with each other, some got nasty, some got defensive (myself included) yet we didn’t even address how we’re going to achieve our goal. No matter our disagreements, we’re in this together. We need to figure out how to mobilize and put out the best message, which candidates we should support, and how to best prepare to battle the biggest PR fight of the decade.
Organizing One Voice
We’ve seen results when we band together. The truth is, we don’t want to have to fight for their lives one by one. We want every single American to receive the best treatment available, and that’s why we need mobilize like we’ve never done before. If we elect a Democratic President, we have to join with every union, progressive organization, human rights organization, the doctors, nurses and health care workers in the fight to get UHC for all Americans. When a good UHC bill heads into committee, we need to back it with everything we’ve got together. I know we’ll email and phone our Reps and Senators until they can’t stand us, but we need go much further than that. We need to organize days where we all hit the streets to pass out fliers and properly inform Americans about the bill pending in Congress. We need to write letters to the editors of our local newspapers and email every local and national news organization possible. We need to organize protests and marches to our state capitols demanding that our state legislators support the legislation. We need to put pressure on our Governors to come out in favor of the reform. If you’re in college or high school, try to organize students to help inform the fellow student body by passing out fliers etc. These are just a couple things we as citizens can do to try and win the upcoming battle. I know it may sound overly dramatic to call it a battle, but folks this is a battle for survival for thousands every year.
Supporting H.R. 676
How many times have you seen someone say, “H.R. 676 is the really the best plan?” H.R. 676 was introduced by John Conyers back in 2005 and is slowly gaining co-sponsors. There are now 88 co-sponsors and hopefully some of our incoming freshmen Democrats will sign on to the bill as well. The United States National Health Care Act introduced by Conyers is a single payer health care system that abolishes the for profit system we currently have. It operates on a sliding scale so those with less money can afford and receive the same care as the wealthy. The national health insurance will cover prescriptions, preventative care, substance abuse counseling, mental health counseling, dental & vision care, in patient and outpatient care, emergency care and longterm care. The system will be paid for by raising taxes on the top 5% of wage earners, using existing health care revenues, instituting a small tax hike on payroll taxes, self employment taxes and stock and bond transactions. To read the text of the bill go here. If your representative is not on this list, you should contact them and encourage them to support H.R. 676.
Supporting Candidates who Support H.R. 676
There are a ton of progressive candidates who support UHC, but there are some who are specifically pushing for single payer health care. Our very own fightin’ progressive and EENR endorsed candidate Barry Welsh hoping to unseat Mike Pence IN-6 supports single payer. Rick Vilello running for PA-5 c.d. recently came in out in support of single payer. Fellow Kossack and EENR endorsed candidate Jerry Northington aka Possum also supports a national health care system. Ethan Strimling and Chellie Pingree competing for the open seat in Maine’s 1st c.d. both support single payer. I’m sure there are plenty more candidates out there who support a single payer system, please chime in on the thread and let us know about any other candidates you know of supporting single payer health care.
When it Comes to Health Care for All We Cannot be Divided
Whether you agree or disagree with Elizabeth Edwards about her support of mandated health care coverage, there’s one thing you should agree with her on. The effects of a health crisis destroys American families. We need a country that supports Americans when they are the most vulnerable. Here’s a snippet from an interview with the Harvard Crimson:
THC: Why has health care been such an important issue for you?
EE: It’s not just my personal condition. This was something that was of great concern to me before I realized that I either had breast cancer or that the breast cancer returned. Partly because everybody knows that if you have a health problem, it is like you don’t have any other problems. Basically, health care issues can take over your life. It’s something we all share universally, both fear of health care issues and the very high probability that all of us are going to face some health care issue in our lives.
We progressives are in this together. We owe it to ourselves, our families and our fellow citizens to fight with everything we’ve got to pass single payer or some other form of UHC. We need to remind Americans that the politicians who fight against health care for all do not represent this country honorably. They let Americans die because they’re poor. They allow insurance companies to decide whether people live or die. They sit by and do nothing to save thousands of American lives when they could make a difference.
Thanks for coming by and I look forward to fighting alongside all of you in this upcoming battle.