While most Americans are demanding fundamental changes in our healthcare system, some politicians propose doing it gradually, incrementally, in a series of baby steps. To nurses, and caregivers, this raises an obvious question--whose life doesn’t count?--as Rose Ann DeMoro, Executive Director of the California Nurses Association, asks us to consider today. Elsewhere, SinglePayer reform is on the march in California and Ohio, Obama’s audience wants to know his plan, bowling alleys are more important than hospitals and Bush’s Secretary of Health and Human Services has lost his mind.
We know that the current health care crisis is, well, a crisis of life and death proportions notes Rose Ann DeMoro:
Every year, lack of health insurance causes 18,000 unnecessary deaths, the equivalent of six times the number who died in the September 11 attacks.
Among those without insurance, lung cancer patients are less likely to receive surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation treatment; heart attack victims are less likely to receive angioplasty; people without pneumonia are less likely to receive X-rays or consultations; and people with colorectal cancer are 70% more likely to die within three years than people with health coverage.
The uninsured receive less preventive care, are diagnosed at more advanced disease stages, and receive less therapeutic care (drugs and surgical interventions). Not only do they incur greater pain and suffering down the road, they also face increased cost, at a time when medical bills already account for half of all personal bankruptcies and one third of credit card debt.
And that’s why gradualism is dangerous. Whose life doesn’t count?
Gradualism – extending health coverage to some – is the mantra of the day, fawned over by some politicians and advocacy groups alike. The appearance of "bi-partisanship" or the staging of "strange bedfellows" is often the only purpose of grand pronouncements of support for universal health care. Whether the proposals actually solves the health care crisis is irrelevant or secondary to the hype.
The greater danger, we're told, is doing nothing.
But what are we getting done?
Virtually all the gradual reforms being touted would reinforce a multi-tiered health care system with as many standards of care as there are dollars to purchase them, and further lock us into a private insurance-based model that holds our health hostage to the HMOs and big insurance companies for years to come.
Healthcare hero, and California State Senator, Sheila Kuehl is going to put the solution to the crisis on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s desk later this year. He vetoed it once, but this time it will be more difficult. Kuehl writes:
Real universal health care is demonstrably possible. SB 840 (the California Universal Healthcare Act), a bill I am carrying in the California Legislature, covers every California resident with comprehensive, affordable health benefits, and contains the growth of health-care spending while improving quality. Most importantly, it gives patients total choice of their doctors and hospital.
It works by consolidating the money we--employers, families and government--currently spend on health care. Everyone pays something in and everyone gets coverage--just one affordable premium--without co-pays or deductibles. This allows us to reduce the costs of administering our fragmented system from 30 percent of every health-care dollar down to 5 percent, a savings of $20 billion in the first year.
Elsewhere, presidential candidate Barack Obama is under some heat to release his healthcare plans. Please Mr. Obama—be sure to deal with the parasitic health insurance companies that are bankrupting our care system and our nation, and to consider the idea that some version of SinglePayer is the only system that’s ever worked in a developed nation. Same goes for the rest of you candidates…
Meanwhile, Bush’s Secretary of Health and Human Services seems either criminally insane or dangerously out-of-touch with the magnitude of our healthcare crisis, a bowling alley gets millions from the federal government while a near-by VA hospital is shuttered, and an astounding 85% of Alaskans think they’re paying too much for prescription drugs.
The people are ready to take on the healthcare corporations—now where’s the leadership?