The report last week that the U.S. economy
lost nearly 2 million jobs this year, and 533,000 jobs in November alone, sent shudders through our nation’s households. That’s the biggest one-month plunge in jobs in 34 years. “Horrendous” was how one economist put it, while others said the number of unemployed, and underemployed, could easily double over the next year.
These job losses spell disaster disaster
for our health. Millions of people are losing their employer-sponsored health insurance, joining the 46 million who already lack coverage. Millions more are finding it harder to pay their co-pays and deductibles and are scrimping on their medications and doctor
visits. Many go without care, risking their health and often their very lives.
In short, affordable health care
has never been more urgently needed. Yet most of the health reform proposals coming out of Washington these days won’t get us there.
Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) recently unveiled his proposals for incremental health reform, which largely mirror the ideas of President-elect Barack Obama and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.).
However well-intentioned, the Obama/Baucus/Kennedy approaches share a fatal flaw: they preserve a central role for the private health insurance industry.
To varying degrees, they would mandate that everyone buy private
—- the private insurance that is failing us today. Some of these plans offer a Medicare-like, public option that people could buy into, but experience with Medicare shows that the private plans refuse to compete on a level playing field. They cherry-pick healthier patients
and insist on more than their share of payment.
Experience with mandate-based plans in Washington state (1993), Oregon (1992) and Massachusetts (1988 and today) shows that they simply don’t work, achieving neither universal health care nor cost containment.
As long as we rely on private health insurers, universal coverage will be unaffordable. These companies generate immense overhead costs and force doctors and hospitals to spend heavily on billing billing
Administration consumes about one-third of every health care dollar in the U.S. By contrast, in countries with nonprofit national health insurance
, administrative costs consume only half that amount.
HEALTH CARE REFORM: There is a cure available for current plan