Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Feel Our Pain: Uninsure Congress

The US Congress is moving at its usual glacial speed on health care reform. Proponents of reform are working hard-- organizing, rallying, phone-banking, and canvasing-- to ensure grassroots support for a meaningful resolution to the debate. Unfortunately, lobbyists are working just as hard to keep the status quo, and they have millions of dollars behind them.

Given the overwhelming data, it's hard to believe that the US Senate seems to be frozen in time. Here are a few facts:
- The US pays more for health insurance coverage than any other country in the world.
- And yet millions of Americans are uninsured or underinsured.
- The cost for health insurance coverage continues to rise exponentially.
- Most bankruptcies in the US are caused by astronomical medical bills.
- Most citizens-- including most physicians-- support healthcare reform (1, 2) that includes a public option or a single payer system.

So, why don't we have healthcare reform legislation yet? Follow the money.
- Top insurers are spending millions of dollars to keep the status quo.
- Big Pharma is also spending millions to fight lower cost drugs.
- Who's the beneficiary of all of this monetary largesse? You guessed it-- our Congress-- including Chuck Grassley and Max Baucus, two influential members of the powerful Senate Finance Committee. Here are just a few links regarding campaign contributions 1, 2, 3, 4.

Robert Reich summed up the insurance industry's position up nicely in a recent blog post entitled The Audacity of Greed.

So, to sum up: we know there is a need for reform, we know the status quo stakeholders are spending millions to keep the current system, and we know our weak-kneed Congress has been receiving millions of dollars in campaign contributions. Given these conditions, how can we impress Congress with the need for reform?

Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times had a great idea in his opinion piece entitled Let Congress Go without Insurance. Kristof postulates that to truly understand the problems that uninsured and underinsured Americans are facing Congress should be divested of their Cadillac insurance at a rate proportional to the national rates of insurance. He suggests that if they fail to pass meaningful reform, 15% of them should lose their healthcare insurance entirely and another 8% should receive inadequate insurance.

Sounds like a plan to me. Direct experience is a wonderful tutor.

Originally published on Muse Views, October 13, 2009

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