On Tuesday, the United States Senate Finance Committee held a hearing entitled "Seizing the New Opportunity for Health Reform." Goals and principles of health care reform were addressed along with a reaffirmation that reform efforts should be comprehensive, not incremental, and that quality health care should be available to all citizens of the United States.
Senator Ken Salzar of Colorado, a member of the Committee, was one of those who addressed the hearing. Here are some excerpts from his address brought to us via the full transcript on Trading Markets.com:
As someone who has had recurring health issues of various sorts, I can attest to this. Many times I have had to forgo seeking professional care because it was a choice of that or rent. (Writers don't make very much unless they happen to be Stephen King or Tom Clancy.) On one or two occasions it ended up with me having to go to the emergency room, vastly increasing the expense both for myself and or others.
"While many in our nation go without care, it certainly is not due to a lack of health care spending. In 2005, health care expenditures in the U.S. totaled over $2 trillion dollars - nearly 15 percent of our gross domestic product and the highest spending level of any developed nation by far. So I ask myself - with so much of our money being spent on health care services, how can so many of our people lack access to affordable, high quality care" It is a dynamic we all struggle to understand, and I look forward to hearing the panel's thoughts on this during today's discussion.
"When I go back to Colorado and talk to the people in my state, their number one health concern is the cost of care. The price they must pay drives every decision they make when it comes to their personal health - which is certainly not the way we should be making life-altering decisions for our friends and loved ones. For those people without insurance, the problem is obvious - they cannot afford to pay the staggering "sticker price" for health care services out of their pocket - and they rely too heavily on emergency services which are inefficient, expensive and less than ideal. But the growing plight of the uninsured causes difficulty for individuals with insurance as well, as many of the costs of treating the uninsured are passed along to all consumers and result in increased premiums and cost-sharing obligations. This often means that even those with insurance cannot afford to seek treatment because they cannot afford their high deductibles and copayments, creating a vicious cycle of unmet health care needs.
Now I have insurance thanks to my wife's job at a local university, although that does not improve matters much from they way they were before. Several hundred dollars a month go towards coverage, but attempts to use it reveal a labyrinth of paperwork and bureaucracy that often seems designed to prevent our use of the policy.
"As I listen to discussions of health care reform, I can come to only one conclusion - our goal must be universal access to affordable, high quality health care for every person in this country. While I am sure that my colleagues on the Committee may have differing perspectives on how we can achieve this goal, I am convinced that there are common principles that can tie us together and hope that former Secretaries Shalala and Thompson can help us identify those areas. Prevention, health technology, primary care, chronic care coordination - these are concepts that we know hold value - and the time has come for us to delve into the details of incorporating them into our health care system and realigning the system's incentives to make sure they are addressed."Indeed, these are all issues that George C. Halvorson brings up in his book Health Care Reform Now! as being critical to effecting substantive, positive change in our current "non system." Let us hope that Sen. Salazar finds many kindred spirits on the Senate Finance Committee.
SOURCE: "Senate Finance Committee Takes First Step to Discuss Broad Health Care Reform Solutions" 05/07/08
photo courtesy of Phil Roman, used under its Creative Commns license