With three complicated Congressional proposals almost on the drawing board and special interest lobbyists strong-arming elected officials even during their August recess, it is easy to throw up one’s hands on health care and cling to one’s employee-sponsored health insurance, that is, if you are lucky enough to have a policy.
But having read the reports of insurance companies that have excluded from coverage pregnant women and families where a single member has a “prior” condition (usually a serious illness, but not always), not to mention those companies that have dropped policyholders on the eve of surgeries, I find it difficult to believe that anyone could conclude, as some have, that the current system does not need reform. The escalating costs are self-evident in light of rising premiums, even if we don’t all agree on the best ways to slow down such costs.
Here are seven suggestions of things we can do right now:
1. Be careful and smart about purported information. Try to get the facts from trusted news sources or public, non-partisan think tanks; sort out constructive opinion from partisanship pure and simple. Mark the difference between those speakers and writers who are making actual proposals for reform from those who merely criticize or misrepresent the efforts elected government representatives are making to solve a real problem. Note who stands to gain what personally from any proposal they offer, and beware of conflicts of interest.
2. Don’t forget the underlying goal—reform that embraces most or all of the 46 million Americans without health insurance and that restrains the runaway costs that threaten the entire economy and our national future.
3. Conduct a personal health assessment of yourself and your family. How healthy are you? Look at your diet, the pills you take, the exercise you get, your sleep patterns, your mental health and any illness you currently have.
4. Assess your use of health care (Do you have insurance? from what source? how often do you use it? what is the quality of service? are you satisfied enough to keep what you have, which is an option given to everyone? Ask: What would I do if I (or my spouse) lost my job?
5. Think about the health of your family/friends. Have any of them lost their jobs? Do they have insurance? What do you see for yourself and your family/friends as you age—the next five years, ten?
6. Contact your Senator and Representatives and tell them what most concerns you about health care and what you want to see in the reform bill. Such contact still weighs in, as do email contacts and blogs, when the government tries to take the national pulse.
7. Finally—and this is related to suggestion No. 6--Ask yourself (and your friends) a creative question: What would I be willing to do or pay in order to improve health care in our country? That is a much more constructive question than “What’s in it for me?” Any citizen can have a bright idea that contributes to health care reform. If you get one, contact your legislator, your newspaper, or someone else who can take it, publish it and run with it. (I have a few of wild ideas, which I’ll propose in a forthcoming blog. Please add your own ideas in the space for comments.)
Karen Sue Smith