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Section II B Health Care
Proposal to replace current language with the following:
Our country’s deplorable health care crisis continues to worsen, as the numbers of people who are underinsured or completely lacking health coverage steadily increase. Only a complete overhaul of our health care system will cure its grave illness. We must deeply question and reject the model of health care as a commodity, and eliminate the profit motive from all levels of our health care system. Corporate business concerns must cease dictating medical treatment access and choices.
More Americans are losing their health care coverage as corporations look for cheaper ways of doing business. 43.6 million Americans, or one out of every seven, have no health insurance at all. During 2001-2002, there were 75 million Americans who had no insurance for some period of time. Add to that over 40 million who are currently underinsured, and another 30-50 million who have substandard care. More than 18,000 adults in the US die prematurely each year because they have no health coverage. Lack of health coverage is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States . This is a national disgrace of major proportion.
The results of relying on our corporate-controlled health system are increasingly devastating for ordinary Americans. Many people stay in jobs they hate because they are terrified of losing their health benefits. Families can lose their life savings and homes paying their medical bills. The percentage of Americans’ income spent on health care rose almost 200 per cent in the last quarter-century. Nearly half of the 600,000 personal bankruptcies declared each year in the United States stem from medical bills.
Private health insurance is very hard to obtain for people without a perfect health history. People who move or change jobs find their chronic illnesses are no longer covered. Those who have recovered from a serious illness, such as cancer, often find that they can not obtain health insurance because of their medical history. Costs are rising for premiums, co-payments and deductibles, yet coverage has diminished or is eliminated for the specific problems people need care for. Over 200 million people who have health insurance do not have comprehensive coverage, such as long-term care or hospice.
Americans are dependent on their employers for health coverage. Ninety percent of private insurance policies are taken out by employers, and that coverage is getting more expensive. Private health insurance premiums are rising at an unsustainable average of 13 percent per year – and are as high as 25 percent in some areas of the country. Businesses now pay 10–17 percent of payroll for health care benefits. Health insurance premiums paid by Canadian employers, on the other hand, amount to only one percent of gross pay.
The irony of the US health care system is that, despite extraordinary measures to cut costs, our country spends more per person on health care than any other nation in the world. In spite of this outpouring of funds, people have fewer choices, and hospitals, clinics, emergency rooms and trauma centers are closing. The World Health Organization ranks the US 37th in the world in quality of health care, and 55th in fairness. The United States ranks 25th in the world in terms of life expectancy. The American infant mortality rate is 6.69 per thousand live births, ranking a shameful 34th in the world. Maternal mortality stands at 14 per 100,000, which is twice that of Canada. Life expectancy and mortality figures for African-Americans and Native Americans are much worse.
Several studies have shown that for-profit hospitals have higher death rates than not-for-profits. Hospitals are dangerously understaffed, with fewer trained health professionals caring for larger numbers of more acutely ill patients. Supervisors in medical bureaucracies who make critical decisions increasingly are business people with no medical background. Health maintenance organizations (HMO’s) make more money when they deny authorization for treatments and procedures, regardless of whether they are medically necessary.
For health care workers, conditions have steadily deteriorated under the combined effects of understaffing, overwork, poor pay, cuts in benefits, stress, disrespect and disillusionment with a system that does not allow them to provide adequate care to patients. Registered nurses and other professional health practitioners have been replaced by unqualified personnel, a dangerous yet common practice. Nurses are leaving the profession in large numbers because they are not valued or paid adequately, and because they risk losing their license when patients are harmed as a result of the conditions imposed by the profit-driven health system.
The United States is the only industrialized nation in the world without a national health care system. The current system’s high costs and widely recognized failures demand that bold, not incremental steps be taken. The Green Party supports a universal, comprehensive, national single-payer health insurance program as the only solution to the current disastrous for-profit system.
Public support for a universal health insurance program “in which everyone is covered under a program like Medicare that’s run by the government and financed by taxpayers” (ABC/Washington Post poll) is high and rising rapidly. The public favors national health insurance to “the current health insurance system, in which most people get their health insurance from private employers, but some people have no insurance”. Eighty percent of those polled support covering all the uninsured, even if it means paying higher taxes.
People in the middle class, who never imagined they would be without health insurance, are finding themselves uninsured. In recent years, for example, 200,000 retired steelworkers and their spouses have lost their health insurance coverage. The new groundswell of public support for single-payer is due to the unprecedented numbers of the middle class who find themselves locked out of affordable health coverage.
For the first time, thousands of physicians and the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association have now endorsed the need for a fundamental change in health care to a national health insurance program, putting an end to “this market driven system”. Even they now see that “a national health insurance program is the only affordable option for universal, comprehensive coverage”. The time has come.
The Green Party has always advocated that health care should be considered a human right. To that end, the Green Party supports the proposal introduced by Congressman Jesse L. Jackson, Jr. and the Black Congressional Caucus to add a health care amendment to the US Constitution (H. J. Res. 30) based on the right of every American to have health care of equal high quality. It is time for our nation to have the wisdom and political will to codify health care as a human right in the form of a constitutional amendment.
Under a universal national single-payer health care system, we would pay less and receive more. The administrative waste of private insurance corporations would be redirected to patient care. The General Accounting Office of Congress has concluded that: “If the US were to shift to a system of universal coverage and a single payer plan, as in Canada, the savings in administrative costs would be more than enough to offset the cost.” According to Harvard researchers, the United States would save more than $200 billion dollars a year if we ran our health care system as Canada does. A single-payer system would allow the reorganization of existing health care expenditures toward substantial savings and broader coverage.
Businesses currently providing employment-based benefits would see their costs reduced. State and local governments would pay less because they would receive reimbursement for services provided to the previously uninsured, and because public programs would cease to be the dumping ground for high-risk patients and those rejected by HMO’s when they become disabled and unemployed.
Most importantly, the people of America will gain the peace of mind of knowing that needed health care will always be available to them. No longer will people have to worry about facing financial disaster if they get seriously ill, get laid off their job, or are injured in an accident. No longer will anyone have to put off addressing serious health problems for lack of coverage. We will all receive the same benefits that people in all the other developed countries have enjoyed for a long time: better quality health care, more preventive services, less cost, predictable coverage, and hopefully improved health statistics.
A universal, comprehensive, national single-payer health plan will provide, with no increase in cost:
Submitted by the Green Party of Hawaii