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