Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Tuesday, November 24, 2009 10:13 pm

Inaction has a cost — in lives and money


But don’t take my word for it. Take The New England Journal of Medicine’s:

There is clear evidence that the way we pay for health care stimulates cost growth. A “no” vote in Congress will leave these policies undisturbed. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that under existing approaches to payment, federal spending on Medicare and Medicaid will exceed $10 trillion over the next decade. In 2017 — the year the Medicare trust fund is expected to be exhausted — the CBO estimates that Medicare and Medicaid will drain $1.2 trillion from the federal budget.

Adults who can’t get coverage through work, are too young for Medicare, and don’t qualify for Medicaid have only one option — individual health insurance. Consumer Reports describes the individual insurance market as a “nightmare” for consumers: “more costly than the equivalent job-based coverage, and for those in less-than-perfect health, unaffordable at best and unavailable at worst. Moreover, the lack of effective consumer protections in most states allows insurers to sell affordable plans whose skimpy coverage can leave people who get very sick with the added burden of ruinous medical debt.”5 In recent years, several states have attempted to reform the individual health insurance market, with little success.

Coverage matters. On average, uninsured Americans get about half the preventive services and medical care that insured Americans receive. Studies have shown that uninsured people with cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, and other conditions are more likely to have poor health and to die prematurely than similar people with coverage. Existing safety-net services are insufficient to overcome the gap between those who have health insurance and those who do not.

The economic consequences of a lack of insurance are equally grim. If even one family member lacks coverage, the entire family is exposed to the financial burden of severe illness or injury. In 2009, 20% of uninsured adults used up all or most of their savings paying medical bills.

When many people lack insurance, everyone’s access to care is compromised.

For better or worse, we basically have two choices left right now: The current health-care reform bill, or something almost identical to it; and doing nothing. There’s no third plan out there, no Republican alternative; the only big questions left are will the bill have a public option and will it restrict women’s right to obtain an abortion.

And doing nothing will take more lives and cost more money than enacting the plan we’ve got. That’s not me talking, that’s the docs. And it really is that simple.

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