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Health Care in America: A Social Problem

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47 million
U.S. residents have no health insurance

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click picture to learn more about the health care crisis in America.

Of all the major industrialized nations, the United States of America is the only one whose citizens do not enjoy the benefits and security of a universal comprehensive health care system.
 

The U.S. government directly covers 27.8% of the population through health care programs for the elderly, disabled, military service families and veterans, children, and some of the poor, through Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP, and TRICARE. Federal law ensures public access to emergency services regardless of ability to pay. However, this unfunded mandate has contributed to a health care safety net that some analyses say is increasingly strained.Certain types of medical spending and particularly health insurance benefit from significant tax subsidies; in particular, employer-sponsored health insurance is a non-taxable benefit. In all, government spending accounted for 45.1% of total health spending in the U.S. in 2005

 


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Why?

According to David Sirota, in an excerpt from his book 'Hostile Takeover,' he reveals how the same politicians who preach about the 'culture of life' are too addicted to health industry cash to care about people who can't afford to see a doctor.

Let's be honest--very few political operatives, politicians or pundits actually want to explore the real-life, day-to-day economic challenges facing the American people, because to explore them would ultimately force us to admit that our entire venerated political system is totally corrupt.

Take this idiotically simple question that is almost never asked in the normal course of this country's political debate: Why do we hear so much about how well-off America is, yet our country has the highest number of uninsured citizens in the industrialized world?

Why isn't that question asked? Because you can't answer it honestly without exploring how Corporate America has bought off enough politicians to make sure our government helps corporations perpetuate this travesty.

I'm not na´ve. I know that corporations exist for one reason and one reason only: the relentless, single-minded pursuit of profit, no matter who gets shafted. That is their stated purpose in a capitalist society, and that's fine. But in our country, corporations aren't supposed to pursue this purpose in a vacuum, unchecked, unregulated, unopposed. There is supposed to be a counterweight, a government separate from Big Business whose job is to prevent the corporate profit motive from destroying society.

     I believe that Sirota is right about the corruption. When Hillary Clinton tried to push for a universal health care plan, the multi-billion health care industry launched a huge advertising campaign against her and her plan. There are several contributing factors to why we are in such a health care crisis, but the bottom line is that it is affecting millions and needs to be resolved.

 

Who is affected?

Health insecurity is not confined to one part of the population. It is experienced by all Americans: those without insurance as well as those who risk losing coverage; those who are impoverished as well as those with higher incomes who experience catastrophic costs; those who are sick or injured as well as those who are just one sickness or injury away from financial calamity. As health care costs have skyrocketed and the proportion of Americans with stable benefits has eroded, health insecurity has become a shared American experience, felt by those who thought they had it made as well as those just struggling to get by.

How can we fix our health care system?

 

Require employers to pay their fair share. The U.S. system of providing health care coverage is employer-based. Unfortunately, this system leaves too many working families uninsured or under-insured. Fifty-six percent of uninsured workers worked full-time in 2002. New incentives and rules can change this. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) has proposed legislation to require employers of more than 50 workers to provide employees with health insurance, and in 2003, California passed a state law (PDF) that requires employers to provide insurance for workers or pay into a state fund to insure workers. With little federal action on health care, more states are addressing health care issues.

 

Beware of new “defined-contribution” health care coverage. Shifting health care costs onto working families already is creating hardship at the doctor's office and the bargaining table. Now, many employers are talking about passing most or all of the risk of rising health care costs onto employees by adopting "defined-contribution" plans (also described with terms including "vouchers,” “consumer driven health care,” “tiered benefits” and “fixed premiums”).

 

These defined-contribution plans can come in many shapes and forms, but they share one feature that makes them different and more harmful to working families than the traditional "defined-benefit" plans, which guarantee a certain amount of coverage. In a defined-benefit plan, employees are guaranteed a fixed package of health insurance benefits. But in a defined-contribution plan, the employer pays a fixed amount toward the premium, regardless of how much it costs, leaving it to the employee to pick up the rest. So under a defined-contribution plan, a worker in poor health or someone who has a family member with medical problems would have to shoulder a much larger financial burden than a healthier person. Learn more about these plans through health care research group websites.

 

Provide coverage for all children. To expand health coverage to the 8.7 million children in America who today lack health insurance, Congress in 1997 passed the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to work with the Medicaid program to cover low- and moderate-income families. Bringing eligible families into the program requires extensive education and outreach, and unions are playing a key role. But states are facing their biggest budget crisis since World War II. Confronted with three-plus years economic downturn, and the Bush administration’s cuts in state aid, coupled with larger financial burdens imposed by new and under-funded federal mandates, states are cutting back on health care programs such as Medicaid and SCHIP.

 

Help curb runaway prescription drug prices by supporting state legislation that gives lawmakers the power to negotiate drug discounts with pharmaceutical companies just as HMOs and insurers do. States then can pass savings to seniors covered by Medicare and to working families who lack drug coverage and make less than 300 percent of the poverty level.

 

Everyone loses when health care workers are forced to work overtime and are exposed to life-threatening diseases because of unsafe equipment. After years of struggle, health care workers won federal legislation to require safer needlesticks in 2000 and 24 states now have safer needlestick laws on the books. States can pass their own legislation mandating safety devices for needles.

To read more about how we can fix this healthcare crisis, click here

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References:

Paul Krugman, Robin Wells March 23, 2006 The Health Care Crisis and What to Do About It. Volume 53, Number 5. http://www.nybooks.com/articles/18802

Gerald Cavanaugh. Februaru 1999. Why Doesn't America Have Universal Comprehensive Health Care? http://cthealth.server101.com/Old%20Universal%20Health%20Care/why_doesn't.htm

David Sirota. May 22, 2006.How Corporate America Perpetuates the Health Care Crisis. http://www.alternet.org/story/36341/

What's Wrong With America's Health Care. http://www.aflcio.org/issues/healthcare/whatswrong/

David B. Kendall. September 22, 2005. Fixing America's Health Care System; A Progressive Plan to Cover Everyone and Restrain Costs.
http://www.ppionline.org/ppi_ci.cfm?kaid=111&subid=138&contentid=253538

 

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