Thursday, July 30, 2009

New Polls Show Confusion Rules the Healthcare Reform Debate

A spate of polls was released today. Several reported that support for President Barack Obama's health-care effort has declined. According to Wall Street Journal/NBC News, in mid-June, respondents were evenly divided when asked whether they thought Mr. Obama's health plan was a good or bad idea. In the new poll, conducted July 24-27, 42% called it a bad idea while 36% said it was a good idea.

This is astonishing since the President has not proposed a plan. He has preferred to let Congress take the lead in writing the bill. And, I’ll bet few of the Americans responding to the poll have actually read the various bills that are being worked on.
The problem for the President is how to deliver an understandable message to such a complicated issue. He has chosen to focus on the economic necessity of healthcare reform instead of focusing on the social justice argument.

On the other hand the Republicans have a great advantage in the messaging battle. All they need to do is continue to scare people with images of “government controlled healthcare.” Even though evaluations of the quality of care within the Veterans Affairs system, which is government run, prove that the VA consistently provides higher quality care than the private system the rest of us rely upon. Facts be damned.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Why should your employer have anything to do with your healthcare?

The biggest problem with American healthcare isn’t the 47 million Americans without health insurance. The problem is the 260 million Americans that have health insurance.

Try this experiment. Close your eyes. Clear your mind of the daily hassles of work. Now ask yourself this question. Why should my employer have anything at all to do with my healthcare?

Your employer is not involved with your auto insurance or your homeowners insurance or your life insurance. Why should your employer be involved in your health insurance?

Americans have become accustomed to having their employer choose which health insurance companies provide our access to healthcare. This may seem normal but we are the only advanced industrialized country that ties access to health care to employment. If you lose your job, you lose your ability to see a doctor. Does that make sense to you?

Until 260 million Americans who ARE insured demand that we delink healthcare from employment status, we will never get the first-class healthcare that is worthy of our nation.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Obama Healthcare Press Conference: "Missed Opportunity?"

Wednesday night President Obama held a much anticipated press conference on healthcare reform. I didn’t watch the press conference live because I was in Washington at a dinner sponsored by the Atlantic Monthly Magazine, which brought together about 20 health policy experts to discuss healthcare reform. So instead of viewing the press conference like most Americans, I read the President’s remarks. It would have been better to if he had given the healthcare speech without taking questions. This way the media would have stayed focused on healthcare reform rather than getting their attention diverted to the President’s use of the word “stupid” when responding to a question about the racial profiling of Professor Gates.

The President made a strong case that we need healthcare reform because failing to reform healthcare is to invite financial calamity for the nation. Of course he is correct about the impending financial calamity, but the problem with this argument is that the “financial calamity” threat is too intangible and remote. I think now is the time to expand the argument for healthcare reform beyond the financial argument and incorporate “social justice.”

Healthcare reform needs to happen now because it is morally wrong that the richest country in the history of all countries continues to link access to healthcare to employment. Americans are accustomed to the healthcare employment link, but no other advanced industrialized country does it this way.

The President should share the stories of the millions of Americans who paid health insurance premiums for years only to lose their coverage when the company went out of business. Families USA has been collecting these stories on their website. The President should tell the stories of the Americans who had to file bankruptcy after paying health insurance premiums for years thinking they would be covered if they needed care, only to learn that much of the care they needed was not covered. According to a recent Harvard University study, about 60% of bankruptcy filings in America are due to medical bills.

This exists in no other country! Healthcare reform is not just a financial imperative, it is a moral necessity.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Which Healthcare "crisis?"

Judging by the number of questions I have been getting from friends, relatives and people sitting around in the barbershop, there is a lot of confusion about healthcare reform. People seem to know there is a “healthcare crisis,” but don’t understand what about it is a crisis. So I set up this blog to try to help.

About 85% of Americans have health insurance, most receive it from their employer and others from government programs (Medicare and Medicaid). You have likely heard that about 46 Million Americans do not have health insurance since this is the main crisis we hear reported in the national media. But the crisis is bigger than this. We spend more on healthcare than any other country, receive less for it, and have substantial inequalities.

[1] Coverage - The U.S. is the only advanced industrialized country that does not provide healthcare to every citizen.

[2] Costs - The U.S. spends more on healthcare than any other country, in 2007 $6,567 per American. The second highest country was Switzerland which spent about 1/3 less, $4,233.

[3] Health outcomes – In 2007 the U.S. infant mortality rate was highest among advanced industrialized counties 6.4 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, about double Japan – which had the lowest rate (3.2).

[4] Disparities – There are tremendous disparities across race/ethnic groups in health outcomes. According to CDC in 2006 African Americans had the highest age-adjusted death rate. There were 1001.4 deaths for every 100,000 African American. The Whites rate was 777.0, Native Americans 642.1, Asians 428.6 and Hispanics was 300.1.