The health care reform battle has been going on for over a year now. During this year, 45,000 Americans have died due to lack of health insurance. In 2009, 1,384,090 American families ended up in foreclosure due in some part to medical expenses. These numbers demonstrate why it is so important for Congress to pass health reform right away. These numbers demonstrate why we can’t start over, why we can`t pass reform piece by piece, or item by item.
Our country has already lost precious ground and lives. To begin with, I fault President Obama and our Democratic members of Congress for not doing a better job of explaining health reform. It took months for Democrats to realize that Americans didn`t understand how closely this legislation was tied to both national and personal financial devastation, or how quickly a law would go into effect protecting Americans with pre-existing conditions, removing lifetime insurance coverage ceilings, and stopping insurance companies` policy rescissions.
Letting the public option fall by the wayside has by far been the biggest mistake made during the Democratic Party`s push for reform. This president, who has made health reform his No. 1 domestic priority and rode into Washington on a huge mandate bringing majorities in both houses of Congress with him, should have fought harder to keep the public option in pending legislation.
Conversely, I hold responsible the Republican Party naysayers for lying to constituents last summer. “Death panels” and the dreaded “socialization” of our country would be laughable if so many Americans had not believed it. At the recent health-reform summit, Republican leaders stated that finally, after wasting months and lives, they have a health reform plan and would like to sit down and start over as willing participants. This is too little too late. Where they were a year ago? Or 45,000 lives ago?
Mostly, I blame Americans. Can it be we didn`t realize our insurance premiums were going up and up and our policy benefits going down and down? Nearly everyone I have spoken to has had at least one experience fighting for health insurance payments due from their provider, and usually more than one such experience. If you are currently unemployed you may be at risk of running out your COBRA policy, and if you also happen to have a pre-existing condition, you may never have health insurance again. Americans should have crammed the National Mall insisting that health reform legislation be completed, passed, and signed by President Obama months ago. And most certainly, we should never have allowed ourselves to be bamboozled by lying politicians and political action committees.
Yes, a year has passed, but it`s not too late to demand reform. Call your Representative (Betsy Markey or Jared Polis) and tell her or him to pass the Senate bill, then call your Senators (Michael Bennet and Mark Udall) and tell them to pass correcting legislation including a public option by reconciliation.
Longmonters — while you were reading this, another American died due to lack of health insurance. We can`t wait any longer to pass health reform. Every minute counts.
Kendra Appelman-Eastvedt lives in Longmont.