So far, more than 17,000 people have taken the AFL-CIO’s 2009 Health Care for America Survey and nearly 5,000 have told us their personal stories of struggles with the nation’s broken health care system. There’s still time for you to take the survey and tell your story.
Meanwhile, there are new developments in the fight to win health care reform—or, in the case of corporate health care interests and their allies, defeat health care reform.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) wants the U.S. Department of Justice to launch an anti-trust investigation into the health insurance industry.
- “Harry and Louise”—the health insurance ad campaign against health care reform in the 1990s—may be reborn in North Carolina.
- Robert Borosage warns that health insurers and “Big Pharma” are ready “to scare the hell out of Americans.”
- The Alliance for Retired Americans says don’t forget Medicare in the reform debate.
- Union Plus has a new program to help working families faced with big hospital bills.
Now, here are a few voices from the Health Care for America Survey.
In Illinois, Geri writes at our health care survey that after her husband lost his job, and just days before his COBRA coverage was exhausted, he was diagnosed with cancer and the couple was forced to find private insurance to cover the treatment costs when the COBRA coverage ran out.
We had several applications in for private health care for us and our high school son. Even before the cancer diagnosis, we were denied coverage by several companies because we both were taking high blood pressure and cholesterol medication. Once he was diagnosed with cancer, it was impossible to get insurance. We finally got state coverage for us at a cost of over $1,800 per month. Who can afford that when you are unemployed and have cancer?
In Minnesota, Scott and his family are paying for their own health insurance and he tells the Health Care for America Survey that it’s eating a bigger and bigger and bigger chunk of his income.
I currently pay over $800 per month for health care coverage…with $4,000 out of pocket. My wife and daughter both required surgery last year. With premiums and out of pocket, we spent $14,000 plus last year on health care. This is roughly a third of my yearly salary. Wow, three kids need to eat and be clothed but times get tight and credit cards go up because of the huge amounts of dollars I spend on health care.
Breast cancer survivor, Jean, from Texas, was forced pick up much of her treatment bill herself, even though she had health insurance.
The breast cancer was not so traumatic as was the cost NOT paid by the insurance company. People with cancer should not have to worry about cost while trying to stay alive!!! I have never met another cancer survivor who planned on getting cancer but the way the insurance company treats you, as if you planned it.
The experiences of Jean, Scott and Geri show the strangle—hold that private, for-profit health insurance companies have on health care. Schumer and Health Care for America Now! (HCAN) say it’s time for the Justice Department to investigate. A new HCAN report ”shows a startling and consistent absence of competition as the industry consolidates with more mergers and acquisitions>’
Americans pay for this consolidation in the form of higher health plan premiums, surging insurance company profits, and a growing number of uninsured people.
The private health care insurance market is in bad need of some healthy competition. A public health insurance option is critical to ensure the greatest amount of choice possible for consumers … If a level playing field exists, then private insurers will have to compete based on quality of care and pricing, instead of just competing for the healthiest consumers.
Click here to read HCAN’s letter to the Justice Department requesting an investigation into the mergers, acquisitions and “the resulting anti-competitive behavior.”
The Washington Post reports that in the spirit of “Harry and Louise”—the phony couple created by the health insurance industry to spread lies and fear to help defeat health care reform in the 1990s—is set to reappear in North Carolina. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina are set to launch a similar misinformation campaign. The main goal? Defeat public insurance plan option. The storyboards paint pictures of months-long waits for care, rationing and other horror stories.
Robert Borosage says that’s all part of the health care industry’s long-time effort to defeat heath care reform and
…scare the hell out of Americans by decrying a “government take over of health care.”
Borosage, president of the Campaign for America’s Future, writes on the group’s blog that the health care industry also has a new tactic-lulling us into believing the industry wants reform. At a recent White House meeting with President Obama, insurers pledged to “do their part” for reform and shave some $2 trillion in health care costs.
This bolstered their argument that while regulation might be in order, we don’t need a public plan like Medicare to provide a choice for businesses and individuals. Give us time to fulfill our promises (and for this reform moment to pass), they argue. If we fail, then consider a public plan (when the president may be less popular and the Congress more conservative).
With Congress heading back home today for its week-long Memorial Day recess, the Alliance for Retired Americans will make sure health care reform stays on lawmakers’ radar. Says Alliance President Barbara J. Easterling:
During next week’s congressional recess, we will be organizing grassroots meetings back home with lawmakers. A recent study found that a 65-year-old couple retiring in 2009 will need $240,000 to cover their health care costs. When you think about all the big companies doing away with retiree health care and the limits on what Medicare provides it makes you very anxious about the future. And what about our children and grandchildren? That is why the national health care debate is so important to retirees.
She called on Congress to allow uninsured 55-64 year-olds to buy into Medicare, reduce the cost of prescription drugs by allowing Medicare to negotiate volume discounts with drug makers and end taxpayer subsidies for the failed Bush-era Medicare privatization experiment, Medicare Advantage.
On the good news front, union members facing steep hospital bills now have a helping hand from Union Plus’s just-announced new program providing a $1,000 Hospital Care Grant to help union families who are saddled with steep hospital bills. The grant, which never needs to be re-paid, helps union families get a handle on household bills and gain some much-needed peace of mind.
The Hospital Care Grants are part of a new $3 million safety net initiative introduced this year by Union Plus to assist union members facing financial hardship during the recession. For information on the grants click here and for more on Union SAFE, click here.