News Articles of Interest 

Congress Must Respond To Costly Healthcare Problem
(Published in the Fort Collins Coloradoan 12/15/04)

 Today, 45 million Americans have no healthcare insurance, including millions of retirees, unemployed workers and children. Many working families cannot afford healthcare insurance even with two family members working. Last year, 82 million Americans had no insurance for some time period. In Colorado, 760,000 legal residents are un-insured. The National Coalition on Healthcare (NCHC) projects the number of un-insured Americans to grow to 52 million by 2006.   

The problem of un-insured Americans is a national embarrassment. In a few years, when the baby boomer generation retires, it will become a national tragedy. Congress must act now to head off this crisis. The cost of healthcare is escalating at 3-4 times the annual rate of inflation. While we claim to have the best health care system in the world, it has become unaffordable for too many Americans. Last year brought cost increases of 14%; the last four years have seen cost increases of over 50%. NCHC estimates that employer sponsored healthcare costs will rise from $9500 today to $14,500 by 2006. 

 The millions of uninsured Americans and illegal aliens that obtain healthcare through the use of emergency rooms, the most expensive form of treatment, are big contributors to the cost of healthcare. These costs are passed along to people that have insurance as higher premiums, deductibles and co-payments. Catastrophic and terminal illnesses such as cancer, chronic heart disease, organ transplants and aids treatments also consume a disproportionate share of healthcare expenses. The system is heavily burdened by excessive overhead costs, profiteering, and ludicrous prescription drug costs. There is something terribly wrong with a system that permits the sale of American produced prescription drugs from Canada at half the cost of those same drugs in the United States. 

Congress has shown little interest in attacking this problem. Numerous drug importation/re-importation bills and healthcare reform bills are currently setting in Congress collecting dust. The only legislation enacted is the poorly crafted Medicare prescription drug Bill that provides huge cash incentives to industry to maintain drug programs that many already have in place and rewards the drug companies by preventing Medicare from negotiating discount drug prices as the Veteran’s Administration currently does. The cost estimates for this corporate “pork barrel” legislation are staggering and the benefits provided to Medicare recipients are “austere” at best. Congress has voted itself a cozy lifetime healthcare package paid for by American taxpayers. Why can’t the rest of our citizens share similar benefits? 

President Bush has proposed healthcare savings accounts, malpractice insurance reforms, small business purchasing groups and various tax incentives as solutions. These are patchwork proposals that do not attack the real problem; the cost of healthcare insurance is too high and shows no signs of abatement. Americans pay more for healthcare than any other democracy and the healthcare received is poorer by any measurable standard. People that can afford to deposit money in healthcare savings accounts can probably afford to pay their own healthcare insurance premiums. Most senior citizens, un-insured children, students and unemployed Americans cannot afford this luxury.    

Several national advocacy organizations have made proposals to address the healthcare issue. The National Coalition on Healthcare, New America Foundation, Physicians for a National Healthcare Program, Universal Health Care Action Network and others have proposed various solutions. These proposals all call for a complete overhaul of the healthcare system and are available for reading on each organization’s website. The US Congress needs to assume a proactive stance on this problem. One approach would be to form a bi-partisan commission similar to the 9-11 commission to study the healthcare issue, evaluate the various reform proposals and enact reforms to re-structure the system. 

 This is a problem that needs a logical solution, not a political one. Ask your family physician his or her views on the subject; the answers may be surprising. Then pressure the President and your Congressional Representatives to put political differences aside fix a healthcare system that is totally out of control.

John R Kotson
2227 Sunstone Drive
Fort Collins, Co 80525; 970-229-9352

[Editor's Note: See New York Times article about same subject]




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