Friday, September 16, 2005

MYDD on Healthcare

While many have been understandably focused on Katrina, Roberts, and Iraq lately, some interesting information has come out recently shedding some light on the healthcare situation in this country. It's certainly not the most exciting story to be following right now, but it is, over the long run, perhaps the most important. An article in New York Newsday sums it up well.

Health insurance is becoming ever more unaffordable for workers.

Premiums have soared 73 percent since 2000, far outpacing the rate of inflation and wage growth, which grew at 3.5 percent and 2.7 percent respectively, according to the 2005 Annual Employer Health Benefits Survey, released yesterday.

Meanwhile, more companies are shifting costs to employees - requiring they shell out more for office visits, deductibles and drugs - and fewer are offering insurance coverage at all.

"Health insurance is becoming more expensive for the average person," said Gary Claxton, co-author of the survey, which was sponsored by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research and Educational Trust.

And some the companies putting more of the burden on their employees aren't the ones you might think. Costco, which champions fair wages as good business practice, and Starbucks, which famously offers health coverage to employees who work more than twenty hours per week, are two companies that are looking to legislators to help them solve this problem.

To put their dilemma in perspective, Starbucks is now paying more for employee healthcare than they are raw materials for their coffee. This is a similar statistic to the one constantly cited about General Motors. About $1,500 of every GM vehicle sold goes to paying for employee and retiree healthcare costs. Figures like this are constantly cited by anti-labor conservatives, who view such healthcare expenditures as excessive and frivolous. But companies shouldn't have to choose between happy shareholders and healthy employees.

The Republican response to the healthcare crisis is nearly always blame shifting. The President and his cabal in Congress constantly claim that the rising cost of healthcare is due to malpractice lawsuits. There is overwhelming evidence however, to prove that is completely untrue. In fact, rising healthcare costs have been matched by record profits for private health insurers.

The only reason they blame malpractice suits is that trial lawyers are an overwhelmingly Democratic constituency. That's not news to anyone, but it is important to make the case, over and over again, until everyone understands it, that Republicans are completely devoid of innovative healthcare ideas at a time when it is one of the most pressing issues facing both the American people and economy. For them, the nation's healthcare problems just serve as another excuse to beat up Democrats.

This is also so important right now as it relates to the news that Democrats are now more trusted than Republicans on almost every major issue, from the economy to Iraq. Our party's largest advantage is in the area of healthcare. Only 28% of voters see the GOP as preferable to the Democrats when it comes to handling healthcare.

The GOP has thrown up road blocks and smoke screens every time the Democrats have pushed a national healthcare agenda. But now, with the problem continuing to get worse and the GOP having such little credibility on any issue, much less one that has historically favored Democrats, healthcare has to go right back to the top of our platform. It's no longer just a matter of doing what is morally right, making sure that healthcare is a right and not a privilege. It's also a matter of maintaining a competitive economic edge in global marketplace full of nations who wouldn't dream of putting the burden of healthcare on private business.

article here.

The main talking points behind the push for Tort Reform was that higher jury rewards are passed along to the insured as higher premiums. If that was indeed the case, however, why haven't we seen lower premiums after the passing of Tort Reform? Surely they weren't just lying through their asses, were they?


At 1:23 AM, Anonymous Blue Cross of California said...

Great blog I hope we can work to build a better health care system. Health insurance is a major aspect to many.


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