Dear Congress: Fix our health care system

Dear Congress,

You too President Obama.

The latest study on the impact on health care costs should encourage you to do something for the people who elected you to office.

The study, by the American Journal of Medicine, concludes that nearly two out of three bankruptcies stem from medical bills. Even people with health insurance face financial disaster if they experience a serious illness, the new study shows.

The health problems that left patients with the highest out-of-pocket expenses were ranked as follows:

  • Neurologic (i.e., multiple sclerosis): $34,167
  • Diabetes: $26,971
  • Injuries: 25,096
  • Stroke: $23,380
  • Mental illnesses: $23,178
  • Heart disease: $21,955

A New York Times article said the study likely understated the full scope of the problem because the data were collected before the current economic crisis.  In 2007, medical problems contributed to 62.1 percent of all bankruptcies. Between 2001 and 2007, the proportion of all bankruptcies attributable to medical problems rose by about 50 percent.

“The U.S. health care financing system is broken, and not only for the poor and uninsured,” the study authors wrote. “Middle-class families frequently collapse under the strain of a health care system that treats physical wounds, but often inflicts fiscal ones.”

Mr. President and members of Congress:  You enjoy some of best health care benefits in the country, much of it paid for with taxpayer dollars.  Most of you don’t have to worry about how you’d pay medical bills if you or a family member suffered a serious illness. Most of your constituents do.

Many of you receive contributions from the health care lobby.  This raises fair potential-of-conflict questions about your representation of  the financial interests of the health care industry versus the health care interests of constituents.

We  must all consider the drop in productivity this nation will experience if more Americans are wiped-out by  health care costs or if a growing number of Americans forgo preventative health care, not because they fail to qualify for it, but because they can’t afford it.

A  report released last month by Health Care for America Now, a citizens’ coalition backing health care reform, studied 400 mergers involving health insurers over the last 13 years. The HCAN study concluded that the single largest provider of small group health care coverage controlled a median market share of 47 percent in 2008. The American Medical Association says 94 percent of insurance markets in the United States are highly concentrated.

Robert L. Borosage, co-director of the Campaign for America’s Future wrote about the issue recently:

“The result are soaring prices – with health care premiums up, on average, more than 87 percent over the past six years.  Profits at 10 of the country’s largest publicly traded health insurance companies in 2007 rose from $2.4 to 12.9 billion (428 percent ) from 2000 to 2007.  The CEOs of these companies in 2007 alone collected an average compensation of $11.9 million each.

Nice work if you can get it.The concentration of insurance markets and the lack of private competition provide compelling reasons for the Congress to establish a public plan like Medicare as an option for those seeking insurance. Give consumers a real choice. The public plan would provide both a benchmark for private plans and much needed competition in what are now perversely concentrated markets.

Does it help our economy and national well being if a growing number of Americans with health care insurance decide not to seek basic preventative health care because they can’t afford the minimum care?

Shouldn’t the idea of  preventative health care be to avoid major illnesses and the costs associated with them?

Why do a growing number of Americans have health care insurance, not to stay healthy, but to avoid financial collapse from  a catastrophic health care problem?

It’s up to you Mr. President and Congress- Stop talking about this problem and find realistic solutions to address this broadening health care crisis.

If you do,  you’ll probably upset the powerful health care lobby which spent spent $128 million lobbying in this year’s first quarter.  That’s more than any other industry, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics.

Perform the job we elected you to do for this country.  America needs real health care reform without the distractions of the health care lobby.  It’s a must if Americans and America are to remain physically and financially healthy.

About Bernard McCoy

My views are my own and not a reflection of my employer. I'm a professor of Journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I've also been a working journalist for the past 29 years. I have covered news stories in war zones, reported on human and natural disasters, presidential conventions, a presidential inauguration and the September 11th, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. My career experiences include work as an award-winning documentary producer, television news reporter, photographer, producer, and anchor. I worked at WIBW-TV, Topeka, KS., KCTV, Kansas City, MO, WKBD-TV, Detroit, MI., WILX-TV, Lansing, MI. and WBNS-TV, Columbus, OH. I have also worked as a contributing reporter for The Columbus Dispatch, Associated Press, CBS, CNN, the Ohio News Network and lecture at the Kosovo Institute of Journalism and Communications. I have a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Kansas and a master’s degree in telecommunications management from Michigan State University.
This entry was posted in Business, Economy, Health care, Politics, The United States, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Dear Congress: Fix our health care system

  1. Jack Home says:

    Thanks for writing,I really enjoyed your newest post.I think you should post more frequently,you obviously have talent for blogging!

  2. A.J. DelVentura says:

    Please leave private health care alone. I do not want the government to take over our health care.

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