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Low Cost Health Insurance

Almost fifty million American people are without health coverage (including almost nine million uninsured children), and the number rises every day. The rise in the numbers of the uninsured is due largely to the tendency of major employers to shift a lot of the cost of health care to their employees. It's tough for the average person: many have to choose between paying rent and paying for health care. Many people end up bankrupt or in foreclosure because they have medical bills that they cannot afford to pay. While our health care system is one of the best in the developed world, there are some serious problems that need to be addressed.

The working class is especially hard-hit, seeing higher out-of-pocket costs for office visits and astronomical prices for prescriptions. This can lead to people delaying getting the health care that they need, or even declining coverage because it costs too much. Health care costs are rising at a rate five times higher than that of inflation. Health care spending is growing by leaps and bounds, and as employers are looking to reduce operating costs they aren't really paying their fair share- meaning that millions more will lose their employer-based benefits. As we mentioned, employers are cutting costs by forcing their workers to pay more of their health care costs, in the form of higher copayments and deductibles.

Workers are also paying more for health care through rising costs for family plans, and decreased access to prescription drugs. HMO formularies are more strict now, and consumers are in need of more prescriptions and newer, more expensive medications. This has led to a huge increase in out-of-pocket spending on pharmaceuticals. Also, comprehensive coverage plans are prohibitively expensive for a lot of Americans. The COBRA act of 1985 induced employers to allow workers to keep their company-sponsored health benefits after their employment was over, but the costs associated with such plans make them far too costly for most people that are unemployed.

The absence of quality health care in this country stems in part from the lack of quality assurance measures. Our public insurance program, Medicare, is increasingly strained at a time when millions of people are in need of health care. A majority of those 65 and older (over forty million people) rely on Medicare for their health care needs. The Bush administration, instead of bolstering and revamping the current plan to include a comprehensive (and affordable) prescription drug benefit for all seniors, aimed to push Medicare toward privatization. Bush's Medicare bill also resulted in:

    • The dropping of coverage for any out-of-pocket expense that fell between $2,250 and $5,100.

    • Almost thirty-three million disabled people and senior citizens being forced to pay much higher premiums and other Medicare fees.

    • The federal government being prohibited from negotiating to get lower drug costs. The Bush plan does absolutely nothing to keep drug prices under control.

    • Employer-led prescription drug benefits for millions of retirees being threatened.

This country's health care system is sorely lacking in safety protocol, which directly endangers hospital staff and patients. Staffing levels in most hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care facilities are chronically under what they should be, which leads to a lot of medical errors that can result in death or permanent injury.

As the economy flounders, and unemployment continues to rise, there are millions of Americans who are at risk of losing the health coverage that comes with their jobs. Still others have health insurance, but coverage is being reduced and they have to pay much more out-of-pocket. For many people in this country, health care takes far too much out of their budget, and the need for true health care reform has never been greater. The economic security of millions of people depends on whether or not they have health insurance.

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