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Health Care Reform is about Health Care Access

The president’s health care reform initiative is not about taking away private health care.  It is not about getting rid of insurance companies.  It is not about providing free care to anyone.  It is about creating access to health care for people who currently do not have that access.  Here’s the president’s stance, verbatim:

“Making sure every American has access to high quality health care is one of the most important challenges of our time. The number of uninsured Americans is growing, premiums are skyrocketing, and more people are being denied coverage every day. A moral imperative by any measure, a better system is also essential to rebuilding our economy — we want to make health insurance work for people and businesses, not just insurance and drug companies.

“We will take steps to reform our system by expanding coverage, improving quality, lowering costs, honoring patient choice and holding insurance companies accountable. 

“We are committed to putting responsible science and technological innovation ahead of ideology when it comes to medical research. We believe in the enormous capacity of American ingenuity to find cures for diseases that continue to extinguish too many lives and cause too much suffering every year.

“In order to keep our people healthy and provide more efficient treatment we need to promote smart preventative care, like cancer screenings and better nutrition, and make critical investments in electronic health records, technology that can reduce errors while ensuring privacy and saving lives.”

Lest anyone think the whole idea of a health care crisis is a sham, that no real problem exists or that only a few people experience hiccups in health care access, here are some general facts regarding health care access, compiled by American Cancer Society:

In 2006, 47 million people were without health insurance coverage, up from 44.8 million people in 2005.
[Source: DeNavas-Walt C, Proctor BD, Smith, J. Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2006. Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau; 2007]

In 2006, 25% of people reported that they used up all or most of their savings dealing with cancer.
[Source: USA Today/Kaiser Family Foundation/Harvard School of Public Health Cancer Survey (conducted August 1-September 14, 2006)]

27% of people that were ever uninsured reported that they/their family member delayed or decided not to get care for cancer because of the cost.
[Source: USA Today/Kaiser Family Foundation/Harvard School of Public Health Cancer Survey (conducted August 1-September 14, 2006)]

In 2006, annual insurance premiums for employer provided coverage averaged $4,242 for individuals and $11,480 for families.
[Source: Kaiser/HRET 2006 Employer Health Benefits Survey]

Among those with insurance, 23% of people said they/their family member had an insurance plan that paid less than expected for their medical bills.
[Source: USA Today/Kaiser Family Foundation/Harvard School of Public Health Cancer Survey (conducted August 1-September 14, 2006)

Nationally, fewer than half (47 percent) of parents in families earning less than $40,000 a year are offered health insurance through their employer—a 9 percent drop since 1997.
[Source: National Health Information Survey, 1997 and 2005]

The number of uninsured children increased from 8 million (10.9 percent) in 2005 to 8.7 million (11.7 percent) in 2006.
[Source: DeNavas-Walt C, Proctor BD, Smith J. Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2006. Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau; 2007]

33% of families report a problem paying their cancer bills.
[Source: USA Today/Kaiser Family Foundation/Harvard School of Public Health Health Care Costs Survey (conducted April 25-June 9, 2005)

One-third of all Americans and two-thirds of low-income Americans are uninsured or underinsured at some point during the year.
[Source: The Commonwealth Fund, Learning from High Performance Health Systems Around the Globe, January 2007]

Family health insurance premiums have risen 87 percent since the year 2000, but median family incomes have increased by only 11 percent.
[Source: The Commonwealth Fund, Learning from High Performance Health Systems Around the Globe, January 2007]

One-third of families now report problems with medical bills or medical debt.
[Source: The Commonwealth Fund, Learning from High Performance Health Systems Around the Globe, January 2007]

Here is the official position of the American Cancer Society, with respect to health care access:

“People expect that their insurance will be sufficient should they be faced with a major illness,” McClure said. “Unfortunately, millions of Americans think they are covered, but find out too late that their insurance is inadequate, often leaving them with substantial financial burdens or being denied the care they need. No one should have to choose between taking care of their health and paying their bills.”

“The American Cancer Society, along with its sister advocacy organization, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), is dedicated to ensuring that quality care is available to all, but our current U.S. health care system is not up to the job. Achieving that goal demands the U.S. health care system change. The Society and ACS CAN believe meaningful health insurance must include adequate, available, affordable, and administratively simple health insurance coverage for all without regard to health status or risk.

Here is the position of the American Heart Association:

 “The American Heart Association and its American Stroke Association division recognize that the current crisis in our healthcare system threatens our mission of “building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.”  With more than 46 million uninsured people in the United States, and many more struggling with the rising costs of health insurance and health care, the need for meaningful health reform is urgent.
 
“The association has a longstanding commitment to approaching health reform from the patient’s perspective and believes there are six critical principles that must be addressed if health care in the United States is to be effective, equitable and excellent. These principles concentrate on access to care, preventive services, quality health care, the elimination of health disparities, continued biomedical research to improve the prevention and treatment of heart disease and stroke, and an adequate and diverse workforce.
“The burden of heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases can be particularly problematic for those without health insurance.  The uninsured with CVD experience higher mortality rates and poorer blood pressure control. People who lack health insurance experience a 24 percent to 56 percent higher risk of death from stroke than those who are insured. The uninsured are also less likely to take needed medications.”
 
The president’s plan is merely about providing access to health care to those who are denied access today.  To my mind, it’s the decent thing to do.
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3 comments on “Health Care Reform is about Health Care Access

  1. Tom Holden
    August 7, 2009

    Intersting take on Canadian health care:

    • siliconcowboy
      August 8, 2009

      Funny stuff Tom. But I seriously don’t know what those boys expected. They went to a small health clinic which on a Sunday. No surprise that it was closed. THen they went to a slightly larger clinic — not an emergency room — on the same sunday and were — drum roll — surprised to have to wait! OMG! And with a fake minor skateboarding injury to the hand with no visible symptoms to boot!!! Predictable, and lame, lame, lame.

    • siliconcowboy
      August 8, 2009

      Here’s another perspective on the differences between US and Canadian health care. More than a single office visit, I daresay…
      http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-rachlis3-2009aug03,0,538126.story

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