The need for quality universal health reform is more urgent than ever. More than 50 million people living in the United States lack basic health insurance. Another 25 million are underinsured. Rising insurance premiums and growing unemployment contribute to an average of 44,230 people losing health coverage each week, according to a July report from Family USA, a nonprofit advocacy group for health reform. Health care costs cause a bankruptcy in America every 30 seconds.
A 2008 study published in Health Affairs Journal found that the United States had the highest rate of preventable deaths before the age of 75 out of the 19 countries it examined. The study concluded that as many as 101,000 deaths a year could be prevented by ensuring that all patients receive quality care in a timely manner. These figures tragically underscore the failure of a private, for-profit, unregulated health care industry to adequately serve a basic human need.
But what a successful decade for that industry: Premiums have gone up three times faster than wages, profits up 429 percent from $2.4 billion to $12.7 billion, and the average CEO salary is $11.9 million!
Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and Veterans Health are successful, cost-effective, government-run, single-payer health-care programs. The time has come to extend these medical models in a system of quality, universal health care for all. Access to adequate care is now considered a basic right in every other industrialized country.
Rationing health care according to ability to pay for private insurance is inhumane. The Atascadero Democratic Club in its support of the Obama administration’s push for real reform has endorsed a resolution strongly supporting, at minimum, a public health-care option to compete with the profiteering and bureaucracy of private insurers, though we prefer a stand-alone, single-payer system.