Jill Hanken | Will Congress take up a health-care solution?
As we recognize “Cover the Uninsured Week,” we can note the ever-increasing number of Americans who don’t have health insurance as well as those who can’t afford the spiraling costs of health insurance premiums and required out-of-pocket expenses. The average health insurance premiums for family coverage have skyrocketed 90 percent since 2000, leaving millions of Americans struggling to meet their health expenses or facing bankruptcy for medical debt. Three out of five adults having problems paying their medical bills had insurance at the time they incurred their debt.
At the same time, it is heartening to know that the first effort in decades is now seriously underway in Washington to actually reform the health care system in the U.S., with an ultimate goal of offering quality and affordable health care to all Americans. The first step in this effort is consideration of the President’s budget proposal which will make a down payment for health reform over the next ten years. The cost of the proposal is mostly covered by raising taxes on the most wealthy (representing just 1.2 percent of all tax filers) and by eliminating payments to private Medicare plans that are higher than regular Medicare costs.
During his campaign, the President promised to reform health care, and when voters elected him, they expected results. The President is keeping his promise, but opponents and special interests are already working hard to kill his plan. They oppose the funding proposals and complain that health reform is “too much” to tackle during the current recession. I believe the economy can not really be fixed without reforming health care, too. The economic crisis demands action this year.
The president is ready to move forward. His health care budget proposal is on the table. Will our representatives in Congress finally meet this challenge and take action on health care that is long overdue? Ask them!
– Jill Hanken is the staff attorney at the Virginia Poverty Law Center in Richmond.