With so many stories, it was almost impossible to select a topic for this week’s commentary. Vice President Cheney’s 2002 proposed military action in Lackawanna, N.Y. Police profiling that found its way to the president's press conference. Or, receiving a ticket for using an otherwise legitimate alternative transportation, roller-skates, in downtown Columbia. These and others are important, but none is as important to Americans as the two proposed health care reform plans.
Two? Ah, yes. With great zeal, the president and media portrayed the “America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009” as our only choice. The second, introduced by Representative John Conyers, D-Mich., the United States National Health Care Act, meets the original premise put forth by candidate Obama of having a single payer health care system.
With more than 20 years of experience in the insurance industry as a state regulator, a consultant and agency manager and having written five health insurance professional development textbooks, I know the health insurance industry. I am not an expert, but I do know a whole lot. To say the current system is broken is an understatement.
With the introduction of the Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) in 1973, I was hopeful that health care would become proactive, that health care would be become a priority and, most importantly, would become affordable. Then, the Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) and the Point of Service plans (POS) were introduced. All with great promises. All failed.
Thirty-five years after the HMO Act, the increased cost of health insurance has continuously outpaced inflation. We have little to say about medical or pharmaceutical treatments, which doctor we can see or which hospital we wish to use. Health care is still financially out of reach for most individuals and small to medium size businesses.
In 2008, Missouri's insurance premiums averaged $12,925, about the annual earning of a full-time minimum wage job, according to healthreform.gov. Premiums have increased 92 percent in the last nine years. Missouri’s employers do not insure nearly one-third of our citizens. More than 750,000 are uninsured. These are dismal numbers to say the best.
The president’s plan may insure 97 percent of Americans. All must purchase an insurance policy, private or government, with no real guaranty of affordability. That still leaves 3 percent of the population uninsured. If that plan were applied solely to Missouri, 3 percent of residents — about 177,000 of the 5.9 million people that the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center says live in the state — would be affected.
In addition, the 1,017 page bill is confusing, written “specifically vague” and does not provide complete medical coverage. As Arianna Huffington said on Sunday’s “This Week,” this plan really is not reform.
Conyers’ HR 676 is easier to understand, written in plain English and fewer than 15-pages long. It has the support of U.S. representatives William Lacy Clay, D-Mo., and Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo.
“All individuals residing in the United States (including any territory of the United States) are covered under the USNHC Program entitling them to a universal, best quality standard of care.” That is 100 percent of our citizens and covering “all medically necessary services.” Most importantly, USNHC would cover 15 specific areas of medical treatment, opposed to only 10 under Obama’s plan, plus “the full scope of dental services (other than cosmetic dentistry).”
There are downsides to HR 676. For example, providers must be “a public or not-for-profit institution.” Forcing for-profit providers to become not-for-profit is not very American and needs to be removed.
The main, emotionally based arguments against both health care bills are that America will become a “socialist government (like France)” and the program is another “entitlement.” America is already a “socialist” society, providing medical care for our veterans, elderly and those who fall below a set economic level. Americans are also entitled to be healthy without bankruptcy. We are endowed with “certain unalienable Rights … Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” The health of our citizens is included in our right to Life.
Today, Americans are obese, have more ailments than ever imagined 35 years ago,and we are becoming sicker. Many cannot afford insurance premiums, deductibles or co-payments.
Representative Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., Sens. Kit Bond and Claire McCaskill, and members of Congress, for the sake of the American people: Do it — pass health care reform. Do it right — pass HR 676. Finally — Do it right now.
David Rosman is a award-winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. He welcomes your comments at ProfDave1011@netscape.net.