cover the uninsured (and make sure the insured stay covered)

This week is Cover the Uninsured Week. Why isn’t this Cover the Uninsured Year? or Decade? Why are we allowing this crisis to go on unresolved?

While I think it’s great the the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is devoting substantial resources to exposing the problem of the uninsured, the real problem is with us for the other 51 weeks out of the year. I also worry that institutionalizing this as a one-week event is subjecting the uninsured to the kind of flavor-of-the-week status. I’m disturbed that RWJ isn’t proposing a solution–just a dialogue. Well, we can talk about it some more, but it’s sort of like rearranging the chairs on the deck of the Titanic–the ship is still sinking.

The reality in America is that every day, more and more folks lose health care. Every day, more and more hospitals and health clinics and doctors’ offices have to make the choice to treat patients whose care they may never be reimbursed for. Every day, employers have to struggle with the idea that next month, they may not be able to pay health premiums for their employees. And that’s bad for all of us, the uninsured AND the insured.

It’s clear to me that we need a systemic fix to this problem. It’s equally clear that we need to stop tying health care to work. We should be able to figure out a way to give everyone health care, regardless of whether they are working or not. If we did that, we’d make life easier for moms who want to stay home with their kids. We’d make it easier for small business owners, who want to provide health care for their employees, but are being squeezed out of the market. We’d make it easier for the poor, who wouldn’t have to worry that going to the ER for a kid’s broken leg is going to make them even poorer. We’d make it easier for health care institutions, who wouldn’t worry that they won’t be able to pay their own employees’ health care costs, because they have so many charity care patients.

We need a system like Medicare for everyone. A government-run system that will ensure that everyone in the country has access to at least basic health care–not just for kids and the elderly, but for healthy, working adults.

We need some other things, too. We need the major health care institutions–hospitals, drug companies, physician networks, whatever–to change their attitudes about pricing and profits.

But most of all, we need to say, as individuals and as a group, it’s good for me (or us) when other people have health care. It’s good for me, because I know the kids in my kid’s class are vaccinated. It’s good for me, because I know the person who sold me my coffee this morning doesn’t have TB. It’s good for me, because I know that my brother, who’s working a minimum wage job, can have health care without his employer going broke. Even if I have health care now, it’s good for me if the system changes.

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May 5, 2005. politically motivated.

8 Comments

  1. Emma Goldman replied:

    This whole issue makes me crazy. Krugman’s recent columns on this are useful–especially the ones where he shows that we spend more and get less, precisely because everyone involved is trying to get someone else to pay for it.

  2. landismom replied:

    yeah, I really appreciate his analysis of the problem.

  3. NOTR replied:

    Where did this idea that people have a “right” to healthcare come from??

    Why do you think healthcare has become so outrageously expensive? Can you spell g-o-v-e-r-n-m-e-n-t??

    Lets let government pay for it? Silly blogger, government produces nothing, it only takes from those who do. You pay for it, not government.

  4. landismom replied:

    NOTR, well, I think my point is yes, we all do pay for it–some way. Obviously, we pay taxes, and our government uses those taxes to fund programs. Judging from your blog, I see that you and I have very different priorities about what kinds of programs we want the government to fund. I don’t think that makes me silly, I think it makes me opinionated.

    I suppose that your opinion is that it’s better for your granddaughter (referenced on your blog) to be in a schoolroom with other kids who haven’t been vaccinated, because their parents don’t have health insurance (and it certainly shouldn’t be a ‘right’ for a child to have health insurance if her parents can’t afford it!). I want something better than that for my own children.

  5. Emma Goldman replied:

    Hell, I want something better than that for ALL children. And, in fact, the reason healthcare is expensive isn’t because of the government, it’s because of the insurance companies, all of which want to maximize their profits and reduce the amount they have to pay. Why do you suppose it’s the insurance companies who most oppose a single-payer and/or government-funded system?

  6. landismom replied:

    Emma, I know — what is the difference between the US, which spends the highest percentage of GDP of any industrialized country on healthcare, with places like Japan, Germany & the United Kingdom? We have a worse system, where fewer people are covered, and there is massive inefficiency. It’s insane, and I’m tired of rich folks who think they can just buy their way out of the problem.

  7. Chip replied:

    you’re absolutely right on this.

    The lack of universal health care is a real economic drag on our economy. Companies are constrained in so many ways because they are responsible for providing health care.

    Creativity and labor mobility are constrained because you have to have a full time job to get health care.

    And that’s not even getting into the morality and ethics of the wealthiest nation in the world having such a huge number of uninsured people.

    Unfortunately, to many have bought into the right’s delusion that we are nothing but individuals, and we should all look out for ourselves alone. No society in history has every succeede on that philosophy.

    So for pragmatic as well as moral reasons, universal health care is the way to go. And isn’t it sad that the US is the only developed country that doesn’t have it?

    So yes, health care is a right.

  8. landismom replied:

    chip, yes, the right’s use of the argument that individuals can achieve everything without the government’s (or anyone else’s) help is ludicrous. And, unfortunately, effective.

    landisdad was talking to someone at work over the weekend who has set up a small business at her house, but is basically keeping a weekend gig going (that is a three-hour commute from her house) because she can’t afford to insure herself. She is earning enough from the business to pay for her other needs (mortgage, food, etc.), but not to pay for health care. It’s insane.

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