Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Rolling back health care reform is "a bad deal for Wyoming's People"

Letter from Chuck Herz, chairman of the Wyoming Democratic Party:
Republicans in Washington and Cheyenne have made it their crusade to roll back the healthcare-coverage reform finally achieved last year after problems with our system became overwhelming for many of our people. We Democrats think that's a bad idea for the people of the U.S. and Wyoming.
Let's review what the problems have been:
1. Americans as a nation spend way more on health care than folks in other advanced countries, but we get significantly less in healthcare results as measured by hard facts like life expectancy and child mortality. Child mortality in the U.S., for example, is twice what it is in Western Europe.
2. Millions of Americans and tens of thousands of Wyomingites have no health coverage at all. Millions more have coverage with such high deductibles, co-pays, and exclusions that it pays very little of their actual medical expenses.
3. Many with inadequate coverage have been driven into bankruptcy by medical bills. This is unheard of in most other advanced countries.
4. Businesses have been finding it more and more prohibitively expensive to provide healthcare coverage to their employees, so fewer employees are getting adequate employer-sponsored coverage.
5. The cost of healthcare coverage has been rising much faster than people’s incomes and faster than government revenues.
The Affordable Care Act deals with all those problems. It also addresses weaknesses in healthcare coverage that have plagued Americans and Wyomingites. For example, it:
• Prohibits health insurers from denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions.
• Prohibits insurers from cutting off coverage for someone who becomes sick or injured.
• Enables young people to stay on their parents' policies while they are going to school or getting started in life, up to age 26.
• Requires that insurers cover basic preventive care, such as well-baby visits and annual physicals, thus eliminating much bigger costs that are incurred when medical problems are unattended until they become a crisis.
Those who oppose healthcare reform, or think they do, need to be asked or ask themselves which of these reforms they oppose, and why. Those who say they too want to fix the problems with our system (but did not do so in the twenty of twenty-eight years before Obama when they were in control) owe it to us to say just how else they would fix those problems. In the case of our Republican friends, that has to be more than a pale imitation. It needs, for just one example, to be an alternative that gets coverage for more than a tenth of those currently without health insurance.
We know what the Republicans are against. We need to know what, if anything, they are for.
That so many have had no health coverage, or inadequate coverage, has meant that those people are playing Russian roulette with both their health and family finances. In addition, many who could afford health insurance, if they were willing to forego less essential expenses, have chosen to play Russian roulette in that way. They know hospitals and doctors must take care of them when they get sick or injured. Then the hospitals and doctors have to make up for resulting charity care and bad debts by charging the rest of us more.
Rolling back the reform thus far achieved would be a very bad deal for Wyoming's people and America's people. We Democrats don't claim that reform so far has fixed all the problems with our system and created no new ones. Significant fixes may soon prove necessary, and some may be needed sooner rather than later. We should all be looking to improve our healthcare system and the law further, with open minds and bipartisan cooperation.
What we should not do is go back to what was working so poorly for so many ordinary people. We should not run around like Chicken Little proclaiming that the sky is falling, that our liberty is in danger, that "death panels" will be doing in Granny, that the reform will drive the Federal deficit sky high (when in fact it will reduce the deficit, as the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has said multiple times), that America is becoming a socialist country, or other such silliness. None of those things have happened so far. There's no reasonable chance that they'll ever happen. Instead, we've taken the critical first steps to building a stronger, healthier nation.

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