The Health Care Crisis

Frankly, the
problems of
our health
care system
have become
so large,
so serious,
and so pervasive
that they
are beyond
the ability
of any one
no matter
how large
or shrewd,
to overcome.
–Dr. Henry Simmons,
National Coalition
on Health Care

“We are in very serious trouble. And unless our political leaders act quickly, our problems will become even more severe,” Dr. Henry Simmons, President of the National Coalition on Health Care , told the members of the General Board of Church and Society of The United Methodist Church recently. He was addressing the national health care crisis.

The nonpartisan coalition, whose members include Verizon, Pfizer, Lucent, Georgia-Pacific, the AFL-CIO and the National Council of Churches, among many others, believes health care reform must occur quickly and comprehensively in order to stave off even worse conditions than we already face.

Dr. Simmons told the GBCS that rapidly escalating costs, a huge and growing number of citizens without health coverage and an epidemic of substandard care threaten our health, our national economy and our industrial base. The coalition projects 53.7 million will be uninsured in five years. Today 45 million are without health coverage, an increase of more than 10 million in two years time.

Every 30
in the U.S.
files for
in the
of a
–Prof. Elizabeth Warren
Harvard Law School

The economic toll in this escalating crisis is both personal and systemic, undermining individuals, governments and corporations. Every 30 seconds someone in the U.S. files for bankruptcy in the aftermath of a serious health problem, according to Professor Elizabeth Warren of Harvard Law School. Dr. Simmons told the group “the projected liability of Medicare alone (excluding Medicaid) is $27 trillion in 75 years, eclipsing the projected deficit for Social Security which is estimated at $3.7 trillion by the Comptroller General of the U.S. , David M. Walker

Simmons said uninsurance results in staggering economic losses. Citing figures from the Institute of Medicine, he said total economic losses attributable to uninsurance amount to between $65 billion and $130 billion a year.

He said substandard care is also a result of the current system. Reviewing the findings of a RAND study that reviewed thousands of patients in 12 metropolitan areas, he told the group the study found that patients received on 54.9 percent of recommended care.

Simmons said the health care crisis is not beyond solutions but reform must be systemic, it must be implemented systemwide, and it must be accomplished quickly (within three years.)

The National Health Care Coalition calls for five measures to solve the crisis:

  • coverage for all Americans within 2-3 years after passage of enabling legislation;
  • manage costs more effectively through a core benefit package and transparent supplemental coverage;
  • accelerate development of an integrated national information technology infrastructure and incentives and capital for upfront investments to build infrastructure;
  • reduce or eliminate cost-shifting (charging one patient more to cover costs for what another patient doesn’t pay);
  • simplify administration of health care.
  • The most hopeful thing Simmons told the Board members is that despite the enormity of the problem, it can be solved if we are determined, comprehensive and committed.

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