Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Seven facts on health care reform that will should change some minds

Through the tumultuous summer of health care lies (i.e. death panels and the like), it now seems important -- dire even -- to spread around some truths about health care reform in this country. With that in mind, here is a list of facts that should drive even the staunchest of conservatives to back reform to the system. To simply accept the status quo as acceptable, after reading the following, would seem heartless.
  • Currently, the U.S. spends over $2 trillion dollars on health care per year, amounting to over 16 percent of our gross domestic product (more than any other country). This is double what the president is proposing for health care reform, and certainly some cuts to the current system could result in savings for the American taxpayer, even with the public option as part of the overall package.

  • For what we pay, however, we get very little in return: the U.S. ranks 37th in the world in terms of health care, and 44th in infant mortality rates. It's unacceptable that the wealthiest country in the world ranks so low compared to other countries, especially in infant mortality.

  • Today, anyone without health care coverage is still treated for emergency care -- including undocumented immigrants. Doctors don't care about a person's heritage or their green card status when they're bleeding out on the ER's floors -- they're going to treat a person who needs emergency medical assistance. It's an issue of morality, really: do you let a person die simply because they're from another country? Do you require proof of citizenship before you begin treating a victim of a car accident? The answer to both should be a resounding "no." The proposed reforms offered by President Obama and Congressional Democrats wouldn't change that -- but they also wouldn't give undocumented immigrants the right to receive care under a public plan, contrary to what Republicans and conservatives are saying.

  • 46 million Americans went without health insurance last year. It wasn't necessarily because of choice, either -- many simply cannot afford to buy into a private plan when employers don't provide coverage, but are still ineligible to apply for government assistance. Lower-middle class families suffer greatly because they cannot provide coverage for themselves -- doing so will devastate them financially, since the average health costs for a family of four is $16,771.

  • Six in ten bankruptcies are due partially to overwhelming health costs. Whether insured or not, people can't afford to get sick in this country. When they don't have insurance, the costs of medical coverage are overwhelming; when they do have insurance, the companies don't always cover enough to stave off financial duress (80 percent of those who became bankrupt due to health costs had insurance).

  • In California, one in five claims are denied by insurance companies. This trend isn't limited to persons in the Golden State; millions of Americans face denial by their insurance providers even if they're paying for coverage.

  • If those first six points didn't convince you -- if they didn't move you to embrace a drastic change of some kind -- then this will: a recent study shows that 45,000 Americans die yearly due to lacking adequate health coverage. That's ten times the number of American casualties in the Iraq war -- every year. That's like losing the combined populations of Fitchburg, McFarland, Verona, Black Earth, and Maple Bluff -- every year. A population similar to the size of Madison would perish in less than five years, all because people couldn't afford to get insurance or because the insurance they do pay for refuses to pay for their expenses.
Now, the debate on health care is a big one, with many different opinions intertwined with one another. But unwarranted fears over socialism are not worth debating over when you look at these seven points. Costs and other factors are worth scrutinizing -- but claiming that the president is trying to turn America into Soviet Russia just deviates away from any real debate on the issues.

Let's have that debate -- let's not distract the public with unnecessary scare tactics based out of lies. The truth -- what millions of Americans experience daily -- is of greater concern than what "supposedly" will happen.

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