If you have ever gone without health care insurance, you know how frightening the situation can be. Personal experience with health problems left me severely in debt and at risk for additional health care concerns at a very young age, even with insurance. Decades later I still have not completely recovered financially or physically, though the outlook is much improved. For millions of Americans prospects are bleak. You can make a difference.
The Census Bureau reports 45.8 million Americans are without financial protection from major illness and injury; 8.3 million of those are children. People without health insurance are reluctant to seek medical attention, so they suffer more physically and emotionally. They cannot afford the high cost of today’s health care services. Medical professionals are eager to use the latest technology and treatment options, never considering how this will affect patients financially. The uninsured statistically die sooner than insured individuals. The Institute of Medicine estimates the loss of productive work from Americans who are disadvantaged due to poor health and premature death costs the United States $130 billion a year. The cost to provide health insurance for these people is estimated at $34 billion per year.
Proactive states like Massachusetts have already mandated health insurance for residents. Concerned states such as Illinois have enacted laws to cover services for all children. However, this is a national problem. If nearly 20% of the country’s population were unemployed, we would consider it a national disaster. The federal government has responded by proposing increases in Medicaid, mandating that small businesses provide insurance to employees, increase state accountability for providing services to high risk populations, starting an entirely new and public universal health care insurance program, and providing tax incentives to individuals who contribute to a health insurance savings account. Only the mandate to provide grants to develop programs for increasing coverage has yet been signed into law.
What can we do about it? The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has organized “Cover the Uninsured Week”, an effort to mobilize Americans to plan activities that will inform Congress of our conviction that health care is a top priority. National “Cover the Uninsured Week” is scheduled for May 1-7, 2006. The organization hopes to hold events in all fifty states. The more voices sounding on this issue, the more action politicians will be willing to take. Health care expenses have sky rocketed. Employers, even large corporations can no longer afford to cover employees completely. Uninsured families in the middle income range are growing. This is a national problem. State efforts cannot fully address the issue. It is time for a united solution. Please lend your voice.
For more information, details, and suggestions on how you can help; visit the website or contact the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, P.O. Box 2316, College Road East and Route 1, Princeton, NJ. (888) 631-9989.