HEALTH CARE 2000
WHY WE NEED TO FIX AMERICA’S AILING HEALTH CARE SYSTEM
It’s been six years since the nation and the media erupted in a frenzy over the state of the nation’s health care system — the rising cost of medical care, the growing number of the uninsured, and the serious problems in the quality of care. The problems have not gone away. They have, in fact, become worse.
Despite a strong economy with low inflation and the lowest level of unemployment in more than 20 years, the cost of health care continues to soar and the number of uninsured Americans — many of them workers — is growing at the rate of about 750,000 a year. There are now more than 42 million uninsured and millions more are underinsured. Health care spending has reached $1.3 trillion dollars a year, and are rising rapidly. These costs account for one dollar out of every eight spent in the U.S. economy today.
There are serious and growing problems in the quality of much of our care, with overuse, underuse and misuse of services. As a result, millions of Americans are injured and more than one hundred thousand die unnecessarily each year.
Health care is a major issue for American businesses. Those businesses that provide health insurance for their workers often pay more than they should as the cost of treating uninsured patients is shifted to the insurance-paying employers, their employees, and public in the form of higher medical costs and inflated insurance premiums.
High and rising health insurance premiums have forced businesses to shift a larger share of the cost of health insurance to workers making it increasingly difficult for workers to afford employment-based coverage and a workforce with no access to preventive care lives in fear of getting sick, may be less productive, and is more likely to switch jobs in order to obtain health care benefits.
In spite of these major problems in the health care system, policymakers have not developed legislative programs adequate enough to address these issues. Rather, they have tried incremental efforts which have not solved the uninsured problem, made health insurance more affordable, or improved the quality of care. And, despite well-intentioned efforts to pass legislation that would give consumers a patient’s bill of rights or add a prescription drug benefit to the Medicare program, these measures will do little to address the major problems in the health care system.
The following fact sheets describe the extent of three interrelated problems plaguing our health care system: cost, coverage and quality. It is critical that we all understand the magnitude of the problems in the health care system so together we can craft workable solutions.