Candidates Must Address Healthcare Crisis
Deborah Burger, RN, CNA President
According to one recent poll, healthcare ranks up there in the top concerns of the people of our country as we approach the November Presidential election and prospective voters expect the candidates to address it effectively. What's more, the issue is becoming more and more important to "swing voters" who are considered a decisive factor in the outcome of the balloting. Many of these voters are in the ranks of the increasingly large group of independents; many are young. This probably explains why most of those queried had little complaint about the ability of the healthcare system to meet their needs; at the same time the polling indicated that 75 percent of those questioned are of the opinion that the present set-up does not meet the needs of most other people. Almost 70 percent of those questioned said they are willing to pay more in taxes so that everybody has healthcare coverage. Nearly 7 in 10 respondents go as far as indicating they would be willing to pay more in federal taxes to assure that every American citizen has healthcare coverage.
As a priority concern healthcare ranks behind jobs and the economy. However, as recent events have demonstrated, the three are closely interrelated. Healthcare costs continue to rise, far outstripping the general inflation rate; in our state where the healthcare industry is being concentrated into fewer and fewer hands and into an area for financial speculation, costs are rising faster than in the country as a whole. As this happens, employers who still offer healthcare insurance are shifting more and more of the burden of paying for it onto working people and their families. This was clearly demonstrated in the recent Los Angeles area supermarket strike. Now, emboldened by their success in compelling workers to accept a "two-tier" system of fewer benefits for new hires, the grocery chains are setting the stage for repeat performances all over the country.
The situation is even bleaker for those who are uninsured at their workplaces or unemployed. Even the limited programs to provide healthcare services to the children of low income or jobless, are falling victims to state budget cuts.
We are witnessing an epidemic of economic insecurity, a growing malady that is certain to have an impact on the electoral process - as well it should.
"Millions of middle-class Americans are living from paycheck to paycheck, struggling to pay their bills, having to borrow money and go into debt. Many families are just one layoff or one medical emergency away from going into bankruptcy, U.S. News & World Report Editor-In-Chief Mortimer B. Zuckerman recently wrote. "A silent tidal wave of bankruptcies is now cresting across America's middle class. More people this year will end up bankrupt than will suffer a heart attack or be diagnosed with cancer or graduate from college or file for divorce." ("America's High Anxiety," March 15, 2004).
Zuckerman went on to observe, "Add to this the dramatic increase in healthcare costs, never mind the millions of families forced to take care of a sick relative who has been discharged quicker and sicker from the hospital, and you can appreciate the day-to-day, week-to-week pressures facing middle-class America."
This crisis is very much in the consciousness of the voters, both those who will show up at the polls in November and the many who may not because of a widespread cynicism about the value of voting at all. The latter can be traced to the failure of the electoral process to forthrightly take up and honestly debate the really meaningful issues confronting the nation. It is also the result of the vast sums of money, major corporations, especially in healthcare and pharmaceuticals spend at these moments attempting to ensure that such a dialogue does not take place and that those who are enriching themselves the way things are continue to do so.
The Presidential campaign thus far doesn't look to promising. With the full support of the giants of the healthcare industry, the incumbent administration has unveiled one suspect scheme after another, all of them adding up to anything but relief for working people or anything approaching meaningful healthcare reform. Its promise of prescription drug coverage for seniors produced a meager, jerry-built program that could actually end up increasing the cost of medications for some.
Meanwhile, the idea of universal healthcare coverage for all has been championed only by Ralph Nader in his independent quest for the Presidency, and Al Sharpton and Dennis Kucinich both of whom, while certain not to be the Democratic Party nominee, continue to carry the message.
The question now is whether the issue of healthcare will be forthrightly addressed in the campaign, or will it be swept under the rug accompanied by a few content free sound- bites. I believe that as nurses on the frontline of healthcare delivery who see the crisis up close, we and other healthcare workers should use this moment to insist that candidates - all of them - at the national, state and local levels take a forthright stand for meaningful healthcare reform, universal healthcare with a single standard for all. Its notion that all working people can rally around and it will bring people to the polls.
Aug 27, '04
Quote from vickynurse
I enjoyed your comments and feel this is an extremely important debate. First lets look at some reasons health care costs are increasing.
Nursing compensation has increased substantially in recent years. We all know that we were long over due for a salary adjustment after falling so far behind other occupations over the last few decades. But this "catch up" plus the supply/demand imbalance must contribute in some way to fuel increasing health care costs. We are fast approaching the highest pay rates the market will bear. So nursing salaries are part of the equation in this discussion.
The other factor commonly cited when discussing health costs is the malpractice burden. We've all seen situations that should be litigated, but by and large, most suits are not appropriate. Who is responsible for this aspect of the equation? Trial lawyers whose greed and need for fame fuel the entire malpractice fiasco in this country are the responsible parties.
So how does this relate to the current campaign? In my mind it is nothing but double speak when a candidate promotes contolling health care costs while his running mate made his millions in malpractice litigation. I don't know how any nurse in her/his right mind could endorse or vote for these candidates.
Universal health care is a necessary, but elusive outcome that we must all strive toward, in my opinion. But can we trust this pair of candidates to lead our nation in this much needed health care revolution? I think not.
I must not be in my right mind but I am voting for a change. You are right in many of your comments-however, after reviewing Edward's cases they were justified in my opinion. The Insurance industry,which you failed mentioned,are jacking up the costs and add absolutely no value in the mix: be they car, homeowner's, malpractice or health insurance. They sap a lot of$$$$$$$$$ from us and offer Nothing in return. And are Bush SUPPORTERS-For me-I am going to the Doc. and asking him to write Mr. Bush's Discharge Papers-no signature needed-I will do the signing on my Ballot on Nov 2. Kerry also went on Public Record as repealing of the new OT Take Back Law Bush passed recently.Also as a Veteran I have seen the drastic results of funding cuts at our VA MED CTR and Kerry is on record for restoring our funding for our deserving Vets.who bravely defend our country-I have observed absolutely no direction in the last four years from Bush on resolving the current nursing crisis. My Auto,home and health insurance has went 20%-40% in the last 3 years. Its hurting in the wallet and that is my primary concern. I am, as a vet,extremely concerned about our vets getting killed(soon to be 1000 deaths) daily in Iraq,the worst tactical blunder since Viet Nam. Yesterday a man very close to where I live, upon learning his son(a marine-20 years old) was killed in Iraq-torched the Marine's Van and caught himself on fire in the process.
Dad was so distraught on learning of his 1st born son's death
he snapped and did this. And I did this
For me as a Vet-and my feelings on this misguided war from day one-that act solidified my vote decision!! I do not see any of Bush's daughters or nephews serving in Iraq. Send the children from the lower-middle class to fight his war. :angryfire I do not how a working class person in his /her right mind could vote to maintain the current administration. My Humble Opinion. Thank You.
Last edit by alatta58 on Aug 27, '04
: Reason: mispelling