The Cost of Doing Nothing

The Associated Press carried a little-noticed story over the weekend that’s a must-read for anyone interested in the health care debate.

The piece examines what will happen to the American health-care system if the reform bills currently stalled in Congress don’t pass.

It ain’t pretty:

“[T]here’s no doubting the consequences if lawmakers fail to address the problems of costs, coverage and quality: surging insurance premiums, more working families without coverage, bigger out-of-pocket bills, a Medicare prescription gap that grows wider and deeper, and government programs that pay when people get sick but do little to keep them healthy.”

The details are alarming:

1. Many Americans could soon see double-digit increases in their premiums.

2. Medicare and Medicaid will consume more than half the nation’s health care spending, overwhelming state and federal budgets.

3. The number of uninsured Americans is projected to reach 54 million people in the next decade.

4. “More employers will drop coverage. More consumers will get increased copayments and deductibles,” Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden told the AP.

5. Insurers would continue denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. People in their 50s and 60s, whose health is declining, would face premiums six times higher than people in their 20s.

I recommend  you read the full story, which lays out how the reform bills would address some of these problems. (It’s estimated the reforms would provide health insurance for 30 million people). We need more reporting like this in the health-care debate.

The reform bills passed by the Senate and House are far from perfect. There’s much not to like in each. But the bills would improve health care for tens of millions of Americans.

As I’ve written in this space before, the choice for lawmakers at this point is to pass a health care reform bill  (either the House or Senate version or some combination of both) or do nothing.

Congress can’t start over, not in an election year. And if the current reform effort fails, it will be many, many years before anyone in Washington has the political will or courage to attempt comprehensive health care reform again.

You may not love either of the health care bills. But the cost of doing nothing is awfully high.

Dave Mann is a former editor of the Observer.

Published at 6:02 pm CST
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