LETTER: America's health care concerns must be addressed

Thursday, March 12, 2009 | 11:25 a.m. CDT; updated 11:27 a.m. CDT, Thursday, September 3, 2009

It is disheartening to hear our elected officials say that we cannot address our health care system’s problems because it would be too expensive. Currently, we spend $56 billion a year to pay for uninsured care. President Obama is proposing spending $634 billion over 10 years to expand insurance coverage. If you assume that costs stay the same, is it smarter to spend $560 billion on emergency care or $634 billion on getting people insured so they can access health care?

Health care spending is currently1/6 of our gross domestic product. Fifty percent of all bankruptcies are related to health care costs, and 68 percent of those filing have health insurance, according to the National Coalition on Health Care.

Reigning in costs and providing access to affordable, accessible, quality health care to all Americans is absolutely necessary if we don’t want to be engulfed by rapid increases in costs. Health insurance expenses are the fastest growing component for employers, and this hurts their ability to be competitive in a global economy. Employees are paying 12 percent more for their premiums in 2008 than they paid in 2007, and 86.7 million Americans — one out of three people under 65 — were uninsured at some point during 2007-2008, according to Americans at Risk, a report by Families USA.

Rather than offer coverage to all and spread the risk, insurance companies often cherry pick their customers so as to have no risk. Private entities then take the profits, leaving the public sector to pick up the costs for those left out, either with indigent care or high-risk pools. Lack of access to affordable care affects more than just the health of our citizens. It drains public sector money, contributes to mortgage defaults, reduces productivity, contributes to poor academic performance in schools, depresses saving rates and prevents us from being truly prosperous.

We must confront our health care issues, because they undermine our entire economy. There are many possible solutions, taking into account current expenditures per capita, inadequate access and our dismal outcome rates. We will not find the answer by ignoring the problem. Please call your member of Congress and tell him how important this issue is. It’s time to talk.

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