Saturday, April 27, 2013

Life Or Debt

Via PNHP News, editorialists at the Journal For Internal Medicine state that the Affordable Care Act will leave tens of millions of Americans underinsured, and facing a choice between ‘life or debt.’ Steffie Woolhandler and David Himmelstein wrote the editorial with respect to a new study about skimpy health insurance among low income Americans, with extensive data showing this coverage as grossly inadequate, the problem only growing.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) may "paradoxically" exacerbate this issue, lowering the bar for health insurance actually leaving many people paying more in out-of-pocket costs even after they've laid out thousands of dollars for premiums.  The Obama administration is also allowing states to charge Medicaid recipients co-payments, and as the Medicaid expansion is fought out at the state level.

Dr. Woolhandler, the lead editorialist, is a physician and professor of public health at CUNY.  Both Drs Woolhandler and Himmelstein served as visiting professors at Harvard Medical School and were co-authors with Elizabeth Warren of an important study showing that illness and medical bills contribute to 62 percent of personal bankruptcies, and with most of the medically bankrupt insured.

Dr. Woolhandler said that the ACA would make underinsurance "the new normal," reducing the number of uninsured from 50 million to 30 million, but with a new coverage full of holes.  

"Americans deserve the kind of first-dollar, comprehensive coverage that Canadians already have," said Dr. Woolhandler.  "But that's only affordable under a single-payer system that cuts out the private insurance middlemen."



Meanwhile, the fight for single payer continues at the state level.  In late March, the Denver Post reported a citizen's initiative campaign spearheaded by Health Care For All Colorado and "a current member of the budding health insurance exchange."  

"Access to health care is a human right, it's not something that should be bought and sold as a commodity," said Donna Smith, executive director of Health Care for All Colorado

A simultaneous effort to pass state legislation providing health care to all people living in Colorado over a year (and funded through a 9% payroll increase tax) did not gain enough steam with state lawmakers, and organizers report now focusing efforts on a citizen's initiative.

West Virginia

Two days ago, the Charleston Gazette published another editorial on behalf of a national single payer health care system by James Binder, M.D., who is a pediatrician at Cabin Creek Health Systems.  Dr. Binder writes on the 2,000 year old Judeo-Christian moral imperatives of such a system - with well funded, quality health care for all as a human right.  He also says,
A single-payer system, unlike our current fragmented, multi-insurance system, would allow establishment of global budgeting. Global budgeting, which is how our police and fire departments, public schools and libraries are paid, would allow control of excessive spending on health care.
Occupy Wall Street

Below, a video announcement from Strike Debt, the Occupy Wall Street offshoot that has been buying up medical debt for pennies on the dollar, and then, forgiving that debt.  Strike Debt recently unfolded a new campaign advocating a single payer health care system as the solution to our nation's health care state of emergency.

*Photo credits/top, Columbia Journalism Review/posted by Trudy Lieberman/June 2008, "Grassroots Support For Single Payer."  Single payer supporters gather for rallies in 19 cities as part of a National Day of Action Against Insurance Companies.  Bottom, Occupy DC/photographer: Eyes Of The World/A March 23, 2013 strike debt action in Union Square, N.Y.C. 

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