A new study from the nonprofit Commonwealth Fund confirmed what I hear on the campaign trail every day: Americans are deeply unhappy with our healthcare system, and they believe we need nothing short of a complete overhaul.
In the study, "Public Views on U.S. Health Care System Organization: A Call for New Directions," 82% of Americans said our healthcare system needs to be fundamentally changed or completely rebuilt.
And what's interesting to note is that the numbers are nearly the same among those who have insurance and those who don't -- it's not just the 46 million Americans who are without coverage who are suffering from a broken healthcare system -- it's nearly every one of us.
In a recent Washington Post article, Cathy Schoen, one of the senior researchers at the Commonwealth Fund, described just a few of the stories they heard:
"The frustration with the current system stems from a shared experience of inefficient and time-consuming care," Schoen said. "Often paperwork doesn't arrive, or your records aren't available when you show up. There are also concerns about getting timely access to care," she said.
Schoen thinks the survey clearly indicates that Americans want better organized care. "Also, having a regular doctor who is available to see you, getting timely referrals, and having more affordable care are important to people," she said.
I was talking to a college president the other day -- I asked him about things like Pell grants and student loans and how to make higher education more accessible.
"If you get to Congress," he said, "the most important thing you can do to help me make college more affordable is to fix our health care system."
Having started and owned two small businesses, I know what a challenge it is to keep up with the rising costs of your employees' healthcare premiums.
These days, the skyrocketing cost of energy is on everyone's mind -- and it's a topic I hear a lot of while campaigning. Ending the war in Iraq is also a big priority for many people. But whatever someone's top concern is, as our conversation continues, it seems like the subject of health care almost always comes up.
Access to quality, affordable health care is particularly important here in Maine, where many of us own small businesses or are self-employed. Many Maine families have put together a way to make a decent living (and often it includes more than one job) -- until it comes time to figure out how to pay for health care.
When I was in the Maine Senate and proposed Maine RX -- a plan to lower prescription drug costs by forcing the pharmaceutical companies to negotiate -- I was told by many people that it was too big an idea, and we couldn't overcome opposition from the drug companies. Those corporations certainly put up a good fight -- all the way to the US Supreme Court -- but in the end we prevailed.
The lesson is that, as elected officials, we shouldn't be afraid of a bold idea. More often than not, the public will already be there while the politicians lag behind. This new survey from the Commonwealth Fund provides the hard numbers to back that up: almost everyone believes we need to fundamentally overhaul or rebuild the system.
I believe this election will bring us a Democratic President and sizable Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress. If that happens, and we don't do something about our healthcare crisis, we don't deserve to govern.