Monday, March 1, 2010

Human, economic costs will be higher without reform

A common complaint by conservatives within the health care debate is the effects that reform might have on the economy. The health care industry currently comprises about one-sixth of the economy overall, and with the economy being as fragile as it already is (so the talking points usually follow), it is seen by those on the right as a mistake to try to tackle anything that might disrupt it.

But this is a flawed argument; it ignores many basic understandings about how our economy works. Most notably, it ignores the fact that, when reform passes, that one-sixth won't suddenly disappear. In fact, most of it (if not all) will remain in the hands of private sector insurance companies, especially if a plan is passed without the public option.

Conservatives also tend to mistakenly believe that having the health care industry in control of every dollar out of six is a good thing. Again, if this is changed (it won't under the proposed plans), that money wouldn't suddenly go away -- it would instead go into the pocketbooks of citizens who could otherwise spend that money in more productive ways (read as: invigorating other parts of the economy). Six out of every ten bankruptcies are due in large part to outstanding health care bills -- but reform can help alleviate those costs, with that money being used instead on important life expenses (home ownership, a college education, debt reduction, etc.).

Finally, the conservative argument is crippled by another mistaken (though sometimes unsaid) belief: that reform is the only situation that would drastically change health care. In fact, by doing nothing, it's almost certain that private insurance costs will go even higher, becoming one out of every FOUR dollars spent by some estimates!

Higher costs will also mean trouble for small businesses, who will have to drop plans for employees to save costs, adding even more to the number of uninsured across the country.

What can we take from all of this? The costs of doing nothing on health care will far outweigh the supposed burdens placed upon the privileged, higher wage-earning Americans if we pass meaningful reform. With more Americans losing insurance -- which will undoubtedly happen if we fail to act -- the human cost will rise significantly higher than the 45,000 we already are seeing die annually due to inadequate health coverage.

The prices we pay by doing nothing, both economic and human, are monumental. The time to act is now.

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