Monday, April 23, 2007

Cover the uninsured

This is "Cover the Uninsured Week" across the nation and here in Michigan. Americans may disagree about many issues, but according to a recent Kaiser Health Tracking Poll health care ranks second behind Iraq as one of the most important problems for the government to address for Republicans, Democrats and independents alike.

That doesn't surprise me. The plight of uninsured people continues to touch the lives of more and more Americans and their families. Here are some facts that show just how serious the problem has become [
pdf file]:
Eight out of 10 people who are uninsured are in working families

Non-Hispanic whites make up half of the uninsured.

In 2005, more than 32 million of the uninsured had household incomes of $25,000 or more, compared with 14.6 million in households earning less. (The federal poverty level for a family of four in 2005 was $19,350.)

About 18,000 Americans die each year because they don’t have health coverage, according to the nonpartisan Institute of Medicine.

In 2005, 23.1 percent of the nation’s uninsured workers age 18–64 were in firms employing more than 500 people.
Our country has done a better job of insuring children than adults thanks to SCHIP (which is up for renewal this year), but there are still 9 million more children--more than the total number of kids enrolled in the first and second grades in U.S. public schools--still living without health coverage.

That's a shocking statistic. The Bush administration had no problem asking for $500 billion for the war in Iraq (the war based on a lie) and the President also wants the tax cuts scheduled to expire in 2010 made permanent, which means the top 1 percent of households would receive more than $1 TRILLION in tax benefits over the next decade, so why didn't he ask for money to insure those 9 million children? So much for compassionate conservatism.

On a state level, statistics show that
Michigan's uninsured numbers are better than U.S. averages, but there's still lots of room for improvement. Gov. Granholm is working to help solve the problem, including her plan to help as many as 550,000 uninsured residents gain health coverage, however, the state is still negotiating with the Bush administration over this. Keeping people healthy should be a no-brainer. I don't know why the Bush administration is dragging their feet.

In the meantime, local communities are trying to fill the gap too. Genesee County
voters supported a 1-mill levy last year that provides health coverage for those who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, cannot afford insurance on their own and are not old enough for Medicare. The levy costs a taxpayer with a $150,000 home about $75 a year. This plan is making a difference for the more than 55,000 adults in Genesee County without health insurance, but some needs are still lacking - surgeries, hospital stays, substance abuse and dental care.

These programs are helpful in the short-term, but this is the bottom line according to Woodrow Stanley, county commissioner and member of the Genesee County Board of Health:
"This is more of a stop-gap for our community," Stanley said. "We can't afford the kinds of comprehensive coverage people need, but we're doing our best until national leaders take on the issue." [emphasis mine]
Republicans have demonstrated that they can't be trusted to do the right thing when it comes to people's health care, so I'd be very surprised if voters don't elect a Democrat like Edwards next time around - the only candidate that has a truly universal health care plan.

Voters sent a message about the war in Iraq last November and they're ready to send another one: No more donut holes, no more gaps in the level of care, and no more handouts to insurance companies and Big Pharma.


Anonymous said...

It's a perplexing issue that is, at least for me, about to hit very close to home.

I agree...the 'Thuglicans have proven that they can't be trusted, and it's time the Democrats make this their issue. I don't like Edward's plan, but I think that some of ideas are good.

Imagine what would happen if a wonk like Gore took on health care.

abi said...

I hope you're right. But I'm afraid far too many pols are too tightly in the grip of the insurance lobby to vote in the best interests of the nation on this.

Jim M said...

When you leave the governance of this country to the right-wing you get a disastrous health-care industry and rising infant mortality rates in the Deep and not-so-deep South.
Great post.

Kathy said...

Kvatch, I'd definitely like to see Gore get involved. I really haven't read all the specifics of Edwards or the other candidates plans, but those details will obviously end up tweaked along the line. At least the Dems are taking the issue seriously and stepping up to the plate, unlike the ME-publicans.

Abi, the lobbyists are definitely a force to reckon with, but don't you think if voters only vote for candidates willing to advance the issue of the uninsured we might have a chance?

Jim, thanks for dropping by. Your point about the rising mortality rates is well-taken. We should be ashamed to call ourselves a super power with statistics like that. In my opinion, if we can't take care of our most vulnerable citizens, then we're not so great and powerful after all.