Rep. Barbara Lee, chair, Congressional Black Caucus;
Rep. Michael Honda, chair, Congressional Asian Pacific Caucus;
Rep. Nydia Velazquez, chair, Congressional Hispanic Caucus;
Rep. Raul Grijalva, co-chair, Congressional Progressive Caucus;
Rep. Lynn Woolsey, co-chair, Congressional Progressive Caucus
Throughout the month of August, defenders of the healthcare status quo have assailed efforts to reform a system in crisis. They have raised any number of spurious claims ranging from the absurd to the macabre in a desperate attempt to stand between 47 million uninsured Americans and their doctors. But the debate over reforming America's broken healthcare system isn't only about covering the uninsured. We must also control the escalating premiums and deductibles draining the bank accounts of the two-thirds of Americans with health insurance.
Without healthcare reform, the American taxpayer will continue to suffer from the economic consequences of absorbing healthcare costs that are spiraling out of control. One in every six dollars spent in this country is now spent on healthcare.
The quality of life of millions of Americans and the health of our economy hang in the balance. The crisis is real, and it is urgent.
The insurance industry has demonstrated it is incapable of meeting the twin challenges of covering all Americans and controlling costs.
As long as we rely solely on private health insurers, healthcare coverage will remain out of reach for 47 million Americans, and costs will continue to soar for everyone else. Every year those with insurance each pay an extra $1,100 in premiums to compensate for the costs of the uninsured and it will get only worse. Insurance costs for a family of four are projected to jump $1,800 a year without healthcare reform.
The only reasonable solution—and the cornerstone of comprehensive healthcare reform—is a robust public health plan option like Medicare.
The benefits of a public health plan are obvious: it will guarantee coverage regardless of pre-existing condition; give patients a choice of doctors and hospitals, and create incentives for private insurers to lower costs to compete.
The insurance industry can do none of this because its profits and administrative costs consume about one-third of every health care dollar. Without a public option there will be no way to keep insurance companies honest and their rates down. A public health option that competes with private insurers will set standards that could help lower costs and improve access.
A bill without a public option will result in the public, both as insurance purchasers and as taxpayers paying even higher rates to insurance companies. In a July 30 letter to the House leadership 60 members of Congress signed stated unequivocally that "we simply cannot vote for such a proposal."