I received a disturbing phone call on my radio show this week (Healthcare Connect - Sirius 114/XM 119) from of a concerned listener in Iowa. She called to tell me how upset she was by a recent conversation she had with a staff member from Iowa Senator Charles Grassley's office. The caller, currently working, has a pre-existing condition, COBRA from her previous employer that is running out next month, and in spite of her underlying condition is currently healthy. Her current employer does not offer health insurance. (COBRA is federal legislation that mandates larger employers to continue to offer their health insurance plans to employees who no longer work for the company. The catch is the former employee must pay 100 percent of the premium). The caller was very nervous, as no insurer was willing to provide her coverage she could afford, nor would they cover her pre existing condition.
She decided to follow my advice and call Senator Grassley's office (and Senator Tom Harkin) to make sure they knew about her dire healthcare care situation and encourage them to pass some form of healthcare reform right away. She was scared of being without insurance and was rightfully looking for help from her elected officials. This is not someone who wanted to become dependent on her state for basic survival. She just wanted health insurance in case she got sick. Shockingly, the staff member from Senator's Grassley's office told her "healthcare is currently on the back burner." The Senator's office continued to suggest that if she was unable to find health insurance, she could always stop working and go on disability. Then after 2 years, she would be eligible for Medicare. This is a true story. It was disturbing to hear. Senator Grassley, who is a very intelligent man, was basically telling his constituents -- tough luck. He was not going to be working on a fix for the broken healthcare system right now. I will never understand how our nation can tolerate the current system.
Healthcare reform does not belong in any political party. It should be a national priority for all of us to work together to find solutions to our growing national tragedy. This week alone, thousands more lost their healthcare coverage. The numbers continue to grow each week. Further, as healthcare costs rise many more will lose their coverage as well. We cannot allow this to happen. Democrats must find a way to work with Republicans and Republicans must find a way to work with Democrats. Since we all know that is not working right now, we need to find a better way to send a message to our elected officials to stop the nonsense. Simply waiting for the election cycle to finish is not going to be sufficient. Just because the balance of power shifts back and forth in Washington does not mean we would be able to structurally solve the problems plaguing our healthcare system today.
Healthcare reform requires the voice of the country to demand we get something done. I believe the only way to make that happen is to start educating this country on what is really happening to so many Americans each and every day. We seem to be suffering from a "thank goodness it's not me syndrome." We feel terrible when we hear stories of people going bankrupt over healthcare bills or people going without basic medical care because they cannot afford the costs. Yet when it comes to fixing the problems, we turn a blind eye. What people need to understand is that so many of us are at risk. We live in a country where if we lose our jobs or do not make enough money, we lose our health insurance. Whether you are a factory worker or in a management position at a large company, we are all at the mercy of our employer. Even more unfortunate are those who have to navigate the health insurance markets on their own, as they do not have employer provided insurance.
The news media does not cover what is happening to so many. They report on the process in Washington. While that may be best for their ratings, who is responsible for educating the public? In the absence of good information, the conservative movement has scared many into believing government involvement in the healthcare system will cause great harm. If you are like my caller from earlier this week, you already know how bad the current system is. How can doing something be worse than doing nothing? It is an absurd argument.
As a healthcare executive working in one of the larger and more successful medical centers in this country, I can assure you that we can reform this system without destroying the best aspects of our healthcare system. We are always going to lead the world in medical discovery, innovation, and advancement. We will always train the best physicians and scientists. And, we will always be at the forefront of new medical technologies. These principles do not collide with removing waste from the system, ensuring everyone has health insurance, and has access to affordable quality healthcare. Demand your politicians get back to work and solve the healthcare crisis.
Do not let Senator Grassley tell us "it's on the back burner." We ALL deserve more than that - Republicans, Democrats, Independents, AMERICANS. No political party has the right to deny anyone access to affordable and quality healthcare. There are solutions. I will keep writing about them each week until the day no longer exists when I have to answer calls like I did this past week.