When Tom Daschle pulled his name from consideration for Health and Human Services Secretary, I had a sinking heart. It hit me on the long drive home from Arkansas last night that universal healthcare was literally being scrapped in the process. I knew it was too good to be true, when President Obama was campaigning and said he planned to make health care available for all Americans, rich or poor, employed or non, whether they were offered this at their jobs or not.
The past eight years at my present employment, I have enjoyed watching my health insurance policy become less and less valuable. First, they changed the prescription drug rules, and the formulary, and then they did it again, year after year. And then, I realized that if I went to the local hospital (which I will not name) that was “in network,” I would pay a lot more money for my care than if I went to a clinic or hospital in Arkansas for the same service.
“Why?” I wondered. Why would it cost me about $700 in Joplin to have my annual checkup and the usual tests, but if I went to a Doctor in Arkansas (also considered “in network”) I paid a $20 copay?
“It’s in the coding,” I was told. “In the clinic, they do it all under the clinic coding, but if you go here they do it under the hospital code.”
Oh. Ok, so, why would anybody in their right mind go to the clinic here? Right. Still, the rules changes and the constant premium increases made it impossible for my husband to realistically use the insurance we have at work. So, because he is on Social Security and is retired, we switched him to Medicare part B and a supplement that costs about $172 a month. Then, using Wal-Mart’s $4 prescription plans for generics (or $10 for 90 day supply), we actually save money from the $400 plus I was paying for his coverage at the office, plus he has 100 percent coverage on everything but prescription drugs. My insurance costs me nothing. Or at least it did.
The word at work is, next year they will begin to charge us premiums for our health coverage. And, we haven’t gotten a raise for two years, and now they are saying they may cut our salaries. That would be a double negative, I believe. But it doesn’t cancel itself out. Of course, that is assuming I will have a job next year.
I relate all this because it is fairly typical of what is happening across the nation right now; lets hope not everyone in académe is dealing with the same issues, but I’m sure they are. In the meantime, it makes the lack of anyone at the helm of H&HS a frightening thought.
The United States is the only industrialized Western nation that does not have universal comprehensive health care for its citizens. Tom Daschle’s departure will delay it further. But what happened there? Is it possible that he was politically “assassinated” by the powers that resist a universal health care plan? Did someone working for the AMA or “Big Pharm” do the political equivalent of putting a pipe bomb in Daschle’s limo? This debate, while fresh because of Daschle, is actually nothing new. Dr. Gerry Cavanaugh of Ashland, Oregon, wrote about our national health care woes in an article that ran in the Ashland Sentient Times in 1999:
There is an economic message here obviously, economic self-interest impels these groups. But here is a “class” factor that is even stronger: American corporations would immediately benefit by having the costs of their health care taken Off the corporate books and “socialized” in a universal plan. However, the bosses would lose a powerful weapon of control over their workers if such a plan were enacted. As it is, workers have much to fear when they lose their jobs: they lose their health care coverage as well. And as it is, the bosses can hold down wages by threatening to reduce health care benefits. Actually, over the past two decades, the bosses have been doing both cutting wages and reducing benefits – but working people in general and even “organized labor” are much too weak to do much about it all.
In any case, the health care situation in the United States is serious and it is dire. It is as serious and dire as the economic situation as a whole. I’m grateful, at least, that right now we have coverage, and my husband, who is a heart patient and a cancer survivor, has coverage that ensures he is insured wherever he goes for care. But many are not so lucky. Look at these statistics recently released by the National Coalition on Health Care:
Who are the uninsured?
- Nearly 46 million Americans, or 18 percent of the population under the age of 65, were without health insurance in 2007, the latest government data available.
- The number of uninsured rose 2.2 million between 2005 and 2006 and has increased by almost 8 million people since 2000.
- The large majority of the uninsured (80 percent) are native or naturalized citizens.
- The increase in the number of uninsured in 2006 was focused among working age adults. The percentage of working adults (18 to 64) who had no health coverage climbed from 19.7 percent in 2005 to 20.2 percent in 2006.1 Nearly 1.3 million full-time workers lost their health insurance in 2006.
- Nearly 90 million people – about one-third of the population below the age of 65 spent a portion of either 2006 or 2007 without health coverage.
- Over 8 in 10 uninsured people come from working families – almost 70 percent from families with one or more full-time workers and 11 percent from families with part-time workers.
Please go to the link for more: