On Aug. 3, Missourians will have an opportunity to show their support for reforming our health care system. The Health Care Reform Act is not socialized medicine, it's not free health care and it's not government taking over health care – it is insurance reform of private insurance for the private delivery of health care.
Missourians should be very happy about these reforms, because the state does very little to regulate the health insurance industry, leaving our citizens without consumer protections from abuses. Companies can cherry pick, don't have to cover pre-existing conditions even after a waiting period and can drop clients when they get sick. Due to anti-trust exemptions, two insurance companies sell more than 80 percent of the policies sold in Missouri. Competitive pricing is not available, and there is no clearinghouse for people to see all options.
Preventative care without co-pays; coverage on family plans for adult children; tax credits for small businesses that offer coverage; ending rescission; closing the doughnut hold in Medicare part D; stopping discrimination whether it be for gender, health or age; and setting up an exchange where private market clients and small business can shop for plans that fit their needs and budgets are all moves forward.
We spend a lot of money on health care (16 percent of GDP) and do not have high-quality outcomes compared to the rest of the world. (According to the World Health Organization, the US ranks 50th in life expectancy and 37th overall.) If companies spend more of premiums on actual care (required under the bill), if we put greater emphasis on preventative care, and if access is increased, we should see better health outcomes and cost savings.
The private market has not been able or willing to contain costs or increase access. Requiring people to buy insurance is not an assault on our freedom — it puts us on the path to better health and helps address the rising cost. About 790,000 people are uninsured in Missouri. The 2005 Medicaid cuts put eligibility at 20 percent of the federal poverty leveland dropped coverage for more than 100,000 Missourians. With spiraling costs, employers and workers are dropping coverage, and many now defer health care until their situations are critical. We pay for this in lost productivity, higher premium costs, poor school performance and development of more serious illnesses. Eighty percent of uninsured Missourians are in families with at least one working member, and they know that an accident or serious illness can end in bankruptcy. This threatens the financial security of our communities.
Having access to affordable, quality health care is freedom; having choices that fit our needs is freedom. The Missouri Health Care Freedom Act (Proposition C) will leave you free to have little choice of insurance, free to pay more every year in premiums, free of the information you need to make wise decisions and free to lose your coverage at any time for no reason at all. Missourians should go to the polls and vote NO on Proposition C. We should stand strong for reform and for building a healthier and more prosperous Missouri.
Jane Whitesides lives in Glasgow.