05/15/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Health Care: Road Closed, Danger Ahead!

For decades, our health care system has been barreling down a dangerous road, plowing through stop signs and ignoring obvious warning signs: Higher Health Costs Approaching; 46 Million Uninsured Merging; Employer-Sponsored Coverage Closed Ahead.

Today, as part of the 9th annual Cover the Uninsured Week, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released a new report that warns of the dangers still ahead of us -- and our health care system -- if we don't change direction. The analysis, conducted by researchers at the Urban Institute, shows that without significant reform to the current health care system the number of uninsured Americans could grow by 10 million people in just five years. Spending on government health care programs for the poor will balloon, more than doubling by 2020. For employers who continue to offer health insurance benefits, an increasing amount of the costs would come out of workers' pockets. At the same time, individuals and families would face higher out-of-pocket costs for premiums and health care services.

The report also finds that unless we change our health system so that it expands coverage to those who don't have it, and makes coverage more affordable for those who do, middle-income families will be hardest hit. The uninsured rate for middle-class families earning roughly $40,000-$75,000 a year -- could rise up to 28 percent. That means one in four middle-income workers could be uninsured in 10 years. Uninsured rates will also rise among adults, age 45-64 and in 10 short years nearly a quarter of these middle aged adults could be uninsured.

This tells me, Warning: Danger Ahead. While we might not have an actual bright yellow sign signaling what comes next, we do have a map. By examining the best available economic data, we can project what will happen to our health care system on its current trajectory -- the number of uninsured Americans will continue to soar, and the increases in public and private spending will be dramatic and unsustainable.

For almost four decades, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has been making certain that the forces of health-system change remained fueled and driving forward. But the signs on this road are clear. Unless action is taken to change the trajectory, our nation is on a collision course.