As the Supreme Court meets to pass judgment on the 2010 health care law the nation’s largest union and professional association of registered nurses today warned that health care will remain beyond the reach of millions of Americans no matter how the court rules.
“Whether the Court overturns part or all of the law, or the Affordable Care Act remains fully intact, we will not have universal coverage, medical bills will still push too many Americans into bankruptcy or prompt them to self-ration care, and insurance companies will continue to have a choke hold on our health,” said Deborah Burger, RN, co-president of 170,000-member National Nurses United.
Citing recent data about the ongoing healthcare emergency, NNU Co-president Jean Ross noted that “the consequences of the denial of care en masse – now and in the future, with or without the ACA — could not be more ominous. Only more comprehensive reform, Medicare for Life, for all Americans, will finally produce real healthcare security for our country.”
Even with some positive elements, such as permitting young adults up to age 26 remain on their parents health plan, and some limits on insurance industry abuses, the healthcare crisis continues to worsen.
Despite its name the Affordable Care Act has done little to actually make healthcare affordable. Out of pocket health costs for families continue to soar. Nurses now routinely see patients who have postponed needed care, even when it might be life saving, because of the high co-pays and deductibles.
Delayed dental care illustrates the problem. A February Pew Center report noted a 16 percent jump in the number of Americans heading to emergency rooms for routine dental problems, at a cost of 10 times more than preventive care with fewer treatment options than a dentist’s office.
Premiums have jumped 50 percent on average the past seven years, according to a Commonwealth Fund report last November, with more than six in 10 Americans now living in states where their premiums consume a fifth or more of median earnings.
Medical bills for years have been the leading cause of personal bankruptcy. Increasingly they ruin people’s credit as well. Another Commonwealth Fund report earlier this month found that 30 million Americans were contacted by collection agencies in 2010 because of medical bills.
Fifty million still have no health coverage. Another 29 million are under insured with massive holes in their health plans, up 80 percent since 2003, according to the journal Health Affairs.
The percentage of adults with no health insurance at 17.3 percent in the third quarter of 2011 was the highest on record, up from 14.4 percent just three years earlier, Gallup reported.
On quality, the U.S. continues to lag far behind other nations. Two breathtaking examples:
More than 80 percent of U.S. counties trail life expectancy rates of nations with the best life expectancies, the University of Washington found last June. Some U.S. counties are more than 50 years behind their international counterparts.
The U.S. ranks just 41st in the world in death rates for child bearing women, and it has been getting worse, according to the World Health Organization. The average mortality rate within 42 days of childbirth has doubled in two decades, partly due cuts in federal spending for maternal and child health programs the past seven years.
Our economic meltdown has exacerbated the crisis. For the past year, nurses have seen a spike in health woes associated with job loss, high medical bills, poor nutrition and other economic factors. These include stress-induced heart ailments in younger patients, hypertension, anxiety and “gut” disorders.
“More handouts to the private insurers and other healthcare corporations will not improve these dreadful statistics,” said Burger. “The choke hold on our health by the same Wall Street types who tanked our economy is exactly what has caused the falling health barometers on access, quality, and cost.”
“This country needs to take care of our people– not pretend to do so,” said Ross. “For two generations, Medicare has provided quality care to seniors at costs that are affordable—in fact. It’s time to deal with the reality of a nation in desperate need of quality health care for all. It’s time to put in motion a plan for Medicare for Life. For all Americans. Once and for all.”