Thursday, April 3
Regarding health care, in a recent survey of 26,000 American workers conducted by the AFL-CIO, nearly three-quarters of the people interviewed said they feared losing their health insurance if they changed jobs.
Ninety-five percent said they were unhappy with the cost of health care and 64 percent said they were unhappy with the quality of the care they received.
The numbers weren’t surprising. What was surprising is that these responses came from people who already had health insurance. Three-quarters of the respondents had some kind of coverage and nearly 80 percent of them were covered through their employers.
The focus of the health care debate usually falls on the uninsured. That more than 40 million Americans have no form of health insurance is a national scandal. But it’s a surprise that people who do have insurance are still feeling insecure about their coverage.
Of the people who responded to the survey who had insurance, about half said it did not cover all the care they needed at a price they could afford.
Prescription drugs were ranked first as the most unaffordable element of health care.
Another one-third of respondents said that their insurance companies had at some time refused to cover them for something that should have been covered by their policies. The amount of fighting that goes on between patients and their insurers to get the coverage that’s due them is considerable.
Again, these are the people who have health insurance. Too often, high deductibles and co-payments mean that even people with coverage are forced to choose between going to the doctor and paying for rent, utilities or groceries.
We now have a system where having a health insurance plan you can afford to pay for and afford to use when you are ill is entirely dependent on where, or if, you have a job. If you are unemployed, self-employed, or in any other situation where you don’t have health insurance and can’t afford it, you are left to the mercy of charity or underfunded state and federal health insurance programs.
Even the doctors know the system is broken. According to a survey released this week by the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, 59 percent of U.S. doctors now favor a national health care plan, while only 32 percent oppose it. This compares to 49 percent in favor and 40 percent opposed when a similar survey was done in 2002.
“Across the board, more physicians feel that our fragmented and for-profit insurance system is obstructing good patient care, and a majority now support national insurance as the remedy,” said Dr. Ronald Ackermann, one of the physicians who worked on the study.
Vermont has tried to take a tentative step toward solving the problem with Catamount Health, the state’s program for uninsured Vermonters. But it’s now apparent that the state will not have the money to fund even a modest expansion of coverage either this year or in years to come.
Our nation still spends more than any other nation on Earth for health care, yet 47 million Americans are uninsured and tens of millions more have inadequate insurance. And few in Montpelier or in Washington have the will to take a step toward what the rest of the industrialized world provides for its citizens – a national health insurance program.