Champaign-Urbana Residents Hold Vigil For Public Health Insurance Option

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ON SEPTEMBER 2ND more than a hundred
members of MoveOn and the Campaign
for Better Healthcare held a vigil at the
Champaign County Veterans Memorial
in Urbana to push for health care reform.
Participants shared their stories of suffering
resulting from the current system to
show that people in east central Illinois urgently need a
real public health insurance option. More than three hundred
similar vigils were held nationwide the same day.
Jim Duffett of the Campaign for Better Health Care noted
that in many areas of the country there are just two health
insurance companies to choose from. In these places, without
the creation of a public health insurance option, there is
no way to inspire meaningful competition that has any
chance of translating into improved options for consumers.
Health care reform that includes a strong public health
insurance option will help lower skyrocketing health care
costs and expand coverage to millions of Americans.
The public sector actually provides health insurance
more efficiently than the private sector. Medicare’s administrative
costs are equal to about 2 percent of what it pays
out to providers. For private insurers the ratio of expenses
to payments is typically over 15 percent. Currently the
government pays for about half of the country’s health care
—almost all of which is actually provided by the private
sector—through programs like Medicare and Medicaid.
On September 9th, President Obama addressed a joint
session of Congress on the Administration’s proposal for
health care reform. President Obama’s plan would offer a
public health insurance option to provide those currently
uninsured and those who can’t find affordable coverage
with a real choice. It appears that inclusion of this public
health insurance option is like offering Medicare to everyone
who wants it. And a proposed amendment by Representative
Dennis Kucinich, supported by many Democrats
and some Republicans, would allow individual states to go
further and create their own systems of public health
insurance for all.
President Obama’s plan would also ban insurance companies
from excluding people from coverage based on
“pre-existing conditions”; prohibit companies from dropping
coverage that has already been purchased when people
are sick; cap out-of pocket expenses; eliminate extra
charges for preventive care; ban insurance companies from
charging higher premiums to women; and eliminate the
“donut-hole” gap in coverage for prescription drugs.
The President’s plan is outlined here: www.whitehouse.
gov/issues/health_care/plan/.
Many of us would prefer a simpler solution than the
President’s plan-Medicare for All. The existing Medicare
program itself is a public health insurance system.
Medicare is even universal in who it covers too; it includes
every American over the age of 65. The simplest solution
to providing affordable, quality health insurance to every
American would be to drop the age restriction on
Medicare and extend it to all Americans. Unfortunately,
most people who work on health insurance reform don’t
see Medicare for All as politically achievable right now.
Every day that we wait to pass health care reform with a
public option, more people in Illinois are denied life-saving
medical treatment, dropped from their insurance coverage,
or buried under medical bills.
For more information, and to get involved:
Campaign for Better Health Care, www.cbhconline.org/
index.html
MoveOn, http://pol.moveon.org/passhealthcare/

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