The House Select Committee on Health Care, Subcommittee on Access is beginning meetings and hearings on who, why, what, and where. On November 28th, the committee will hold a hearing from 1pm-3pm in room 1027/1128 of the Legislative Building. They will be hearing evidence on who lacks access to health care, why they lack it, where these citizens are located, and what we can do about it.
Almost one in three non-Elderly North Carolinians (2.27 million people) were without health care coverage for three months or longer during 2001-2. Since then, the number of people in poverty and without health care has continued to rise in North Carolina. For all of 2004, over 1.3 million, or 1/6th of all North Carolinians were without health care. Why? Because 5/6th of people have some insurance, don't understand that they could have better insurance for the same price, and don’t understand the uninsured population.
While I will someday cover how bad our system is for how much we pay, below the fold I present some facts on the uninsured.
The Institute of Medicine has an excellent report on the uninsured that dispels the myth that they are largely the unemployed.
However, the two groups most likely to lack coverage are those who have a connection to a small business with fewer than 25 employees and low-income individuals with incomes below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines (FPG). More than four fifths (83%) of the uninsured fall into one of these two groups. A common misperception is that the majority of uninsured do not work full-time. In fact, 78% of the uninsured are full-time workers or in a family with full-time workers. Half (50%) of the uninsured have a connection to a small business (either the employee or a family member of someone who works for a small firm).1
The uninsured? We used to call them the working class.
The American Dream used to be that you could work hard and make a life for your family, where your kids would grow up better than you did. For too many working families now, that is just pipe dream, and health care costs are one of the major reasons. In 2004, North Carolina had 36,862 bankruptcies, of which 18,560 were due to medical reasons. Those families, nearly 52,000 people, lost everything they had worked for because of medical costs. The kicker?
Nearly 3/4 of those bankruptcies occurred to people with health insurance.
The North Carolina IOM has suggested the following steps be taken to cover more of the uninsured.
■ Options to make health insurance coverage more affordable to small employers.
■ Publicly-funded initiatives to develop low-cost limited benefit packages to low-income adults.
■ A high-risk pool for individuals with pre-existing health conditions.
However, all this does is provide more systems in the crazy quilt patchwork that is medical insurance. What we lack in this state is a Vision for what healthcare could be. I heard Tom Ricketts speak last night and he made an excellent point that we who call for Health Care for All need to focus on providing a vision and not a mirage. I'll hopefully post more on that at a later time, but I can tell you that the IOM patchwork is not a vision, it is a temporary patch.
So, I urge you to email the members of the Subcommittee and tell them that in the long run you support Health Care for All as provided by House Bill 1358.
But, as in the words of Rep. Verla Insko:
Political leaders must address the growing crisis of the health-care uninsured. The best solution at the federal or state level is to reduce administrative costs to pay for increase services, replace our fragmented system with a more efficient, integrated system and emphasize prevention, early intervention and personal responsibility. A very reasonable goal for the 2007 session is to ensure health care for all North Carolina children birth to 18 years of age.
Finally, I attended the yearly membership meeting of the NC Committee to Defend Health Care last night. We added board members with experience in activism, advocacy, marketing and media, and campaign coordination. In the near future we will be upgrading to an online management system (sound familiar) as we push for Health Care for All. NC CDHC is the local chapter of Physicians for a National Health Plan (PNHP), but our group is mostly non-medical personnel who simply care about people and making a better system. I urge you to join the organization, to sign up to our Yahoo email listserve, and to contact your legislator and ask them to support Health Care for All.