Thursday, August 30, 2007

AFL-CIO: Quality health care for ALL in 2009

Earlier this week, the Census Bureau released figures showing the number of Americans without health insurance increased for the sixth straight year to 47 million people. The problem isn't limited just to the poor either. The fastest growing group of people without health insurance includes those in households making $75,000 or more.

Having a job used to pretty much guarantee you'd have health insurance. That's no longer the case, and it's gotten the attention of labor unions. Michigan Liberal
reports the following from Mark Gaffney, President of the Michigan AFL-CIO:
Union members are very concerned about the cost of health care and if they become unemployed, its availability. Polls show union members generally are favorable towards their own coverage, but understand the crisis of the un-insured. Unionized workers generally have better coverage and unionized employers generally cover more of the cost of health insurance. Yet unions and their members understand America needs a national solution to our nationwide problem.
John Sweeney, President of the AFL-CIO, is speaking out too: In America, No One Should Go Without Health Care

[...]One of the greatest economic burdens working families face today is the insane, out-of-control cost of health care. One in four Americans say their family has had a problem paying for medical care during the past year. The cost of health care -- rising far faster than workers' wages or inflation -- is a major factor in housing problems and bankruptcies. In fact, every 30 seconds in the United States someone files for bankruptcy in the aftermath of a serious health problem.

Meanwhile, insurance and drug companies are making stunning profits, health insurance CEOs averaged $8.7 million in 2006 compensation and pharmaceutical company CEOs pulled down an average of $4.4 million.

The rest of us aren't faring so well. The annual premium cost for a family health plan has close to doubled since 2000, from $6,351 to an astonishing $11,480. Soaring health coverage costs are crippling U.S. companies' ability to compete internationally -- health benefits accounted for an estimated $1,300 of the cost of a new car made by the Big Three in 2005, for example. As costs grow higher, fewer employers are providing health coverage for employees--and fewer workers are able to afford their share of the costs or to buy policies on their own. The outrageous price tags on insurance policies are driving increases in the number of people without coverage. The federal government just let us know that another 2.2 million people -- including 600,000 more children -- lost health insurance last year, meaning 47 million of us now cannot afford to get sick.

In the wealthiest, most powerful nation on earth, that is just not acceptable. In America, no one should go without health care.
The union is doing more than simply talking, they're putting their words into action:
The AFL-CIO is turning Labor Day 2007 into the start of a drive to win quality health care for all in 2009. With 10 million members and nearly 3 million union retirees, we intend to make the 2008 elections a mandate on health care. The union families who made up a quarter of voters last year are going to mobilize as never before to elect a Congress and a president who will enact the kind of real health care reform America needs.

You don't have to look far to see that winning health care for all is going to be tough. President Bush has vowed to veto legislation that would extend health care to millions more children -- now, that's cold! He's protecting insurance interests rather than children's health, saying this could be a dangerous first step toward health care for all. He's right -- getting this legislation passed and overriding a Bush veto is the first step.

This fall and throughout 2008, union members will be mobilizing in their workplaces, in their neighborhoods and in their communities to demand that candidates and elected officials at every level commit to work for working families.
You can sign their petition asking for quality, affordable health care too. That's the first step. The next step is to vote only for those politicians willing to bring serious solutions to the table - solutions that leave no one uninsured.


abi said...

Even if a democrat wins, and manages to implement some kind of "health care for all" plan, I'm afraid we're going to just trade one health care scam for another.

The only real reform is to get rid of for-profit health care, and the only candidate pushing for that is Kucinich. That (and his stand on Iraq) is why he'll get my vote.

BobbyV said...

When we realize that the millions without healthcare include our children and our friends and neighbors, and that the lack of healthcare directly equates to a decrease in their life expectancy, we’ll be shocked out of our complacency. I applaud the AFL-CIO for stepping beyond workplace issues and championing healthcare reform. It should surprise no one that the decline in worker pay and benefits, and the gutting of workplace safety legislation, occurred concurrently with the assault on organized labor. National healthcare could be the sine qua non in a resurgence of our battered unions.

Kathy said...

Abi, I agree that we have to get rid of the for-profit plans. Like you, I lean toward Kucinich because he backs the Medicare for all plan. That basic level of good, affordable care is a government success. I hope Kucinich makes it past the primary.

Bobbyv, I think the push for doing something about health care is a result of our complacency getting rattled. When the uninsured were poor people, we turned our heads. When the problem trickled up to our families, friends and neighbors, we took notice. The same thing applies to our declining wages, pensions, safety, etc. As long as the middle-class felt secure, many of us ignored the problems and bashed the unions. We're beginning to see that we need their help now.