Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Widely reported fact No. 1: Our country faces a growing health-care crisis, which leaves 47 million Americans with no health insurance—an increase of 7 million people since the year 2000.
Little-reported related fact: The health-care crisis not only affects the uninsured, but also the growing number of insured families who find themselves paying more and more money for policies that deliver less and less care. Out-of-pocket costs for health coverage is skyrocketing—some 61 million Americans belong to families that will spend more than 10 percent of their incomes on medical costs this year, according to a recent report by Families USA, a non-partisan advocacy group. That's a jump of nearly 20 million people since 2000, and the vast majority of them have insurance. More astonishing is that nearly 18 million Americans belong to families now paying more than 25 percent of their incomes on health costs.
Widely reported fact No. 2: Credit-card debt continues to pile upon the backs of American families, and there's now a worrisome surge in the number of serious delinquencies and defaults.
Little-reported related fact: More and more financially squeezed families have been paying their ever-rising health care bills with their credit cards.
These interrelated facts explain why American voters are telling pollsters and politicians that access to affordable health care is their number-one domestic concern in this year's elections. Not only does a large majority want the federal government to guarantee that every American has health coverage, but 60 percent of the people say they are willing to pay higher taxes to get it done.
For information and action on health-care reform, call Families USA: 202-628-3030.
Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, writer, public speaker and author of "Thieves In High Places: They've Stolen Our Country And It's Time to Take It Back." He says he has taken on the role of battling the Powers That Be on behalf of the Powers That Ought To Be—consumers, working families, environmentalists, small businesses and just-plain folks.
Little-reported related fact: More and more financially squeezed families have been paying their ever-rising health care bills with their credit cards. I know someone who did this, so I know it's true. Before Medicare Part D came along, lots of older and disabled folks used credit cards to buy their medicine. Even that isn't perfect because if you reach a certain range of money spent on prescriptions - the donut hole - you have no coverage until you get to a certain amount. What do they think people are supposed to do in the meantime? It's ridiculous. Sometimes, even you have coverage, it's still a nightmare. A couple of years ago, I got this insurance that was supposed to be good PPO coverage, but they denied a couple of huge claims, which left me with at least $900 in medical bills. On top of that, they didn't bill me correctly for the coverage, so I still owe them around $200. I couldn't cancel that policy fast enough.