Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The Will to Address Uninsured in America

Dr. Dan Stultz, President of the Texas Hospital Association recently told hospital administrators in West Texas their number one through four concern is the number of uninsured Americans. The problem isn't new to his audience as Texas passed New Mexico years ago for the top spot, with over 25% of people without health care coverage.

On President Bush's shift the number grew to 47 million uninsureds per data recently released by the Census Bureau. The uninsured rose by 2.1 million from the prior year with 700,000 of that children and 1 million from businesses dropping health insurance benefits.

The latest data on uncompensated hospital care shows bad debt and charity care reached $28.8 billion in 2005. That same year Exxon's bottom line was $36.1 billion. One U.S. company had the wherewithal to pay off every hospital bill in America and still have over $7 billion left.

Recently two large private hospital companies were bought out. KKR purchased HCA while Community Health Systems acquired Triad Hospitals. The increased interest alone on these combined deals is $2 billion. That amount would put a dent in hospitals' bad debt and charity care. Instead, that $2 billion is a cost increase to be passed on to those paying the freight.

Resources are not the problem, it's political will. This is shown by President Bush's recent actions blocking state efforts to expand children's health insurance. Census figures show 8.7 million uninsured kids in the U.S. This is higher than the number of uncovered children in 1994, the start of the Republican revolution and before the passage and implementation of CHIP.

The San Angelo Standard Times ran a story on the Defense Department's desires to cut benefits for Veterans living in rural areas. Congressman Mike Conaway got an earful from veterans at his recent open house for numerous problems with VA care. He must not have passed the messages on to his old friend President Bush.

The problem grows with each Bush action to constrain and cut. With employers retrenching and the government cutting, guess who's left holding the bag? That would be you, my friend. It's time to mobilize some political will. Otherwise, we'll all have to "go to the ER" as recommended by President Bush.