Thursday, August 30, 2007

Middle-Class Health Care Crisis Gets Worse

The newest Census figures put a statistical face on the sickening truth about health care in America. Even as household incomes go up, so do the number of uninsured. The creeping crisis has moved beyond the poor into the middle class.

A record high 47 million Americans were priced out of health care, even as the poverty rate went down and median household income rose to $48,200 in 2006. Uninsured families earning more than $75,000 a year increased by 1.4 million.

As profits of HMOs, health insurers and drug companies soar, more and more employers are cutting down or eliminating coverage as a job benefit, leaving families to fend for themselves in a market of rising premiums and discrimination against the most vulnerable.

“Middle income Americans are now experiencing the human suffering that comes with being uninsured. It makes any illness a potential economic and social catastrophe,” says Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, of the Harvard Medical School, a co-founder of Physicians for a National Health Program.

Yet politicians keep tinkering with the current system. Of all the Presidential candidates for ’08, Dennis Kucinich is the only one proposing a single-payer system to eliminate the one out of every three dollars spent on health care that goes to insurers’ overhead and profits.

But rumblings of revolt can be heard. In California,
a new statewide poll shows voters rejecting moderate health-care reforms proposed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democratic legislators and leaning, instead, toward a state-managed "single-payer" system.

But it will take much more public demand to overcome the largest lobbying expenditures in American history to keep the system as a cash cow for companies that profit from it.

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