Health care is very personal; allow me to share my own story with you. Despite being a poster child for taking care of myself with excellent diet, exercise and wonderful alternative health care, I've managed to both "blow out" my ACL and contract Lyme disease from a tick bite. I had insurance, with a high deductable, two good incomes between my husband and myself, and it still took a year to pay off all the debt from ACL surgery. Clearly, when the Lyme disease hit, I couldn't switch insurance policies because it would have been considered a pre-existing condition. So we were stuck with increases in premiums of as much as 25 percent in one year.
My point is, if this could happen to me, this and much worse can happen to any of us, at any time. According to the Secretary Treasurer of the AFL-CIO, premiums have increased 300 percent in the past few years while wages remained flat. If we are lucky enough to have employer-covered health insurance, it's costing our employer an arm and a leg, and still we could lose coverage at any time if we lose our job or if our employer just isn't able to continue to cover us. Emergencies, accidents and pre-existing conditions can happen to anyone at any time.
I was lucky enough to hear President Barack Obama speak in Grand Junction last weekend. The crowd was polite and respectful, predominantly Republican, and asked some good, tough questions. Because it's important to get our information from the source, rather than from biased special interest groups with loads of money, I'd like to share some of the most important things I learned straight from Obama. First, his proposal includes the following:
- No denial of coverage for pre-existing illnesses. (In our active mountain community, how many of us have seriously injured joints, didn't have coverage at the time, so now must live with our impairment?)
- No arbitrary caps on coverage (90 percent of plans have caps, which can limit cancer treatment to six months, for example).
- A limit on out-of-pocket expenses.
- Prevention against anyone going broke because of illness (the majority of bankruptcies are because of illnesses, and in most of these cases, folks had health insurance).
- An end to the canceling of insurance (usually just when you need it most).
- The ability to keep your plan and your doctor, if you like.
- The public option, a government-sponsored insurance plan that would operate with low administrative costs (about 3 percent, as compared to 17 to 33 percent for private insurance). This would enable all Americans to be covered.
- Preventative care, including screenings and alternative health care (75 percent of health care costs go to chronic conditions, the vast majority of which could be prevented with diet and lifestyle).
Obama also talked about some of the things his health care proposal doesn't include. No. 1 would be the "Death Panel." Older Americans would not have to go before a panel to see whether they would be allowed to continue living. This strange notion actually originated with some thoughtful legislation put forward by the last Republican Congress offering a voluntary session with an end of life/Hospice counselor. These same congressional Republicans now are calling this option "pulling the plug on Grandma." That's totally dishonest and not part of a meaningful effort to solve our health care crisis.
Also not included in the president's proposal is rationing of care. Today, rationing occurs when insurance companies deny coverage or raise rates, despite a 1,000 percent increase in profits during the past five years.
In conclusion, it's incredibly important to get our news from a reliable source and carefully scrutinize the radio and television channels' accuracy for facts. Just last Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal and US News and World Report released a study showing that the vast majority of misinformation that Americans believe to be true originates from FOX News. Health care is too important an issue to allow intentional lies to polarize and create fear rather than foster reasonable debate and solutions. The last time we were fed such misinformation, we were led into an unjustifiable war. Let's not ever let that happen again. Let's know the validity of our sources and come together as people of good will to create a health care plan that will benefit ours and future generations.