Why We Need Health Care Reform
Health care reform is a moral and economic necessity. The status quo is unsustainable: there are nearly 50 million uninsured Americans, and around 25 million more are underinsured, meaning the health insurance they have is insufficient to cover their health care costs. In the last two years, 27.3% of Pennsylvanians went without health insurance for a period of time, and 11.3% of Pennsylvanians were uninsured for an entire year.
Health insurance premiums are rising faster than wages, and the cost of inaction is high. In 2009, the Pennsylvania economy will lose between $3.4 billion and $6.9 billion due to the shorter lives and poorer health of the uninsured. The New America Foundation estimates that by 2016, the cost of insurance for the average Pennsylvania family will be $26,679, or 52% of the median family income. I don't know many families that could afford to spend 52% of their income on health insurance.
One of the frequent comments I hear from my constituents is, "I don't want to pay for other people's health care." The problem is that we already are. The average Pennsylvania family pays an extra $900 per year in health insurance premiums to cover the cost of uncompensated care provided to individuals who can't afford health insurance. Nationally, the average is over $1,100 (Center for American Progress). Health insurance reform will ensure all Americans have access to high quality, affordable health insurance and health care.
The health insurance reform legislation being debated by Congress will continue to ensure that individuals are able to choose their own doctors and make the choices that are right for them and their families. The millions of Americans who have health insurance and are happy with it will be able to maintain their current coverage, but for the millions who don't have coverage, health care reform will provide new choices. Health care reform will also provide stability: if you lose or change your job, you will still be able to purchase affordable health insurance.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the Affordable Health Choices Act will cost $611 billion over the next ten years. Our current system is not sustainable and waiting to act or doing nothing will only make the problems worse. If we do not act, more people will lose coverage: between January 2008 and December 2010, 178,520 individuals in Pennsylvania are projected to lose coverage. As costs increase, the quality of care will diminish and the ballooning costs incurred by the government and business will endanger America's fiscal health. The Affordable Health Choices Act will reduce costs by emphasizing prevention, cutting waste and modernizing the health care system through quality information technology.
I will continue updating this blog to share more of my thoughts on the important work we're doing to reform America's health care system. Click here to read the full bill text of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee bill, the Affordable Health Choices Act.