Nearly 47 million Americans lack health insurance. Health care premiums have jumped 87 percent over the last five years. The United States spends more on health care per person than any other country, yet Americans on average die at a younger age compared to the average age of death of comparable nations. The American people are sick of paying more and getting less—71 percent believe our health care system is in a state of crisis. Today, in a “case of America’s health care crisis creating strange bedfellows,” Wal-Mart, Service Employees International Union, the Center for American Progress, and other businesses and nonprofit organizations are launching a campaign to tackle a health care crisis that neither businesses nor workers can afford. In addition, next month the Center for American Progress Action Fund and SEIU will host a non-partisan forum focused on health care to highlight this issue within the 2008 campaign.
- Universal health insurance coverage for all Americans needs to be the ultimate goal for America’s health care system. “What is the most pressing problem facing the economy? A good case can be made for the developing health care crisis,” Te New York Times reported. “Soaring costs, growing ranks of uninsured and a steady erosion of corporate health benefits add up to a giant drag on the nation’s future prosperity.” Total spending reached nearly $2 trillion in 2005. The radical right-wing continues to attack universal coverage proposals as “socialist” and a “nightmare for America.” Yet countries with universal health systems–such as France, Britain, Canada, and Australia–have all shown significant savings are possible along with better health outcomes for the whole population. The Center for American Progress has a plan for universal coverage. Sixty-nine percent of Americans believe the federal government has the responsibility to ensure all Americans have health care coverage.
- Business and labor groups are beginning to chart a shared future on health care. “Health costs are the single largest cost pressure that employers face,” said John Castellani, President of the Business Roundtable. In an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, SEIU president Andy Stern acknowledged the drag on the bottom-line businesses face and urged “corporate leaders to come forward.” “Here’s how bad it will continue to get,” Stern wrote. “McKinsey & Company projects that by 2008, the average Fortune 500 company will spend as much on health care as they make in profit. How can we possibly compete in the global economy with that kind of burden?” Last month, SEIU joined with the Business Roundtable and AARP to focus on health care. The Chamber of Commerce, the progressive Families USA, and more than a dozen groups have for years been a part of the “Health Coverage Coalition for the Uninsured.” Unfortunately, their recent proposal fell “far short of covering all Americans.” But as David Broder of The Washington Post writes, “The emergence of these coalitions is one more sign of the growing momentum for systemic reform.”
- With a continued lag in federal action, states are stepping in to fill the void. Under President Bush’s watch, the number of uninsured Americans has increased by 6.8 million. His latest budget would cut Medicare and Medicaid spending by $102 billion and would “provide insufficient extra cash to maintain coverage for poor children currently enrolled in the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.” The states have had to pick up the slack. Last year, Vermont and Massachusetts followed Maine to provide universal coverage. This year, governors of California, Pennsylvania, and Washington state are unveiling their own proposals. The complicated patchwork of plans across the country now being created ultimately calls out for a federal solution.