Guest Opinion: All Americans deserve access to good, affordable health care

2009-09-07T00:00:00Z Guest Opinion: All Americans deserve access to good, affordable health careBy JIM MCGARVEY Montana AFL-CIO Executive Secretary The Billings Gazette

This Labor Day working families are speaking out in support of quality, affordable health care for all that includes a public option and excludes any taxation of benefits.

There's a tremendous amount of misinformation being distributed to generate fear and cause us to cling to the broken system we now have because it's familiar, and therefore less frightening. I want to talk about health care truths. The greatest truth is that we don't have health care in America - none of us. We have sick care or crisis care.

The focus hasn't been on promoting health; it's on fixing item-for-item problems. A shift in this focus is part of what health care reform is offering. And it's long overdue for anyone who's had to watch a family member suffer. Adding insult to injury, 50 percent of personal bankruptcies are caused by medical debt. None should lose what they've spent a lifetime building because they got sick. Every family should have the right and the access to health care.

This Labor Day I ask you to learn the truth about health care reform.

I'll give you the first three:

  • Government care does work. Many groups of Americans already have government healthcare like the elderly (Medicare), low-income children (CHIP), low-income and disabled Americans (Medicaid), military veterans and merchant Marines (VA), military/Guard/Reserve (Tricare), Native Americans (Indian Health Services), and more. Reform will give everyone the opportunity to access quality, affordable health care.
  • Government won't ration care. Right now insurance companies determine the preferred doctors and hospitals. They also dictate what care will be covered at what time. These decisions are made based on for-profit business practices. Health care reform with a public option will offer quality, affordable coverage to those who can't access coverage through any other means. Reform will also set new guidelines for insurance companies to protect the relationship and decision-making process between doctor and patient. Through reform, people who already have health care coverage may see no change at all, or they may have better coverage, but none will lose anything they currently have.
  • Private insurances will be able to compete with a public option. The competition will be based on quality and efficiency, not extravagance. Private insurers will have to reduce their multimillion-dollar CEO compensation packages to be competitive. Health care costs have been artificially inflated just like the housing market, and we're headed for the same catastrophic collision. By 2025, the average national household income and the cost of the average national health care premiums will intersect. Plainly, health care premiums will be higher than wages. Premiums are increasing at three times the rate of wages. If we do nothing, no one but the super-rich will have health care coverage.

Historically, labor unions have dedicated themselves to improving the lives of working men and women. Labor unions were integral in creating public education, trade apprenticeship programs, minimum wage and prevailing wage laws, and more. This work, achieved by generations of union families, has raised the standard of living over the course of the last 150 years, creating middle class America.

Who needs health care? Who deserves the right to be healthy and productive in life? Everyone. That is America.

This Labor Day, 50,000 Montanans enjoy the right to bargain collectively with their employers under federal and state laws. These members stand strongly in support of the renewal of the American dream which includes access to quality, affordable health care for everyone so we can continue to be productive citizens, and live and enjoy Montana generation after generation.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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