Let’s Get America’s Health Out of the ER

It’s time for a constructive debate about health care that hinges on facts instead of fear.

Let’s have no more circus-type antics in our town halls or perpetuating silly myths about how “big government wants to kill grandma.” Or warnings that “Non-American, Hitler-emulating President Obama has a communist agenda to take away our Medicare.” Let’s instead take a mature look at some hard truths about the major economic crisis our nation now faces: an unsustainable, costly and ineffective for-profit health care system.

For those frantic tea-baggers, fearfully believing that health care reform will destroy our terrific industry-run system, here’s a reality check: What we have now gives us a World Health Organization ranking of a shameful 37th in quality healthcare systems worldwide. An astonishing 60% of all personal bankruptcies are due to medical bills.

We currently spend six to seven percent more of our GDP (about $1 trillion) more than other advanced democracies who rank considerably higher on the quality scale and to leave nearly 50 million of our citizens without any health coverage at all.

According to the National Coalition on Health Care, at least 1.5 million people lose their homes annually due to high health care costs, and that number is rising.

A new U.S. study recently showed that many Americans are forced to go without needed meals and medicine due to the burden of high medical costs.

Studies estimate that one-third of all adult Americans with chronic illnesses, in need of health care, can’t afford it.

Here’s a news flash, folks: Insurance company profits stand between you and your doctor, and your health care is rationed. And guess what else? Taxpayers already pay for the uninsured, undocumented, and others. Because we have failed to pass universal health care in this country, we already pay about $1,100 per family to cover the uninsured.

As a nation, we’re in the emergency room in desperate need for someone to stop the bleeding.

President Barack Obama must lead on this issue, and Congress needs to come up with sane legislation that will: 1) Provide universal, affordable quality health care; 2) make the patient’s health, not private industry’s profit margins, the top priority; and 3) keep costs down to an affordable and sustainable level.

Thankfully Obama did “call out” some of the myths about death panels and decimating Medicare. Also worthy of praise was the elevating of our national dialogue to once again our moral character and our humane duty to fellow human beings, notwithstanding the lack of concern for the health of persons without citizenship.

Unfortunately, as Obama appears to be wavering on a public as an important piece of health care reform, we’re now seeing the Senate follow suit. Instead of a robust public plan that could genuinely have the muscle to insure all in our country and force the for-profit private health industry to drive down their costs to compete, we’re being offered a weak and ineffective regional “co-op option.” Sadly, such regional co-ops will be too small and their bargaining power too weak to accomplish critical cost reduction in the private insurance realm, and will suffer a sure death due to becoming the dumping ground for all of the private industry’s rejects.

Had our country started the debate with the facts, honestly examining a “single payer” option and various health care systems of countries that do it far better than we do, we might be in a better place.

Instead, we remain, as a nation, in the ER with no plan to stop the bleeding.

Distributed by Minuteman Media.

Karen Dolan is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive multi-issue think tank. www.ips-dc.org.