By Eric Villanueva ’11
In the last two months, three trips to the doctor’s office cost me $45.
Fortunately, I only paid a $15 dollar co-pay per visit because I have health insurance through my parents’ work.
But, one-in-five Americans nationwide and one-in-four Arizonans do not have the same benefits, according to a Philadelphia Inquirer report.
According to the same report, 4 million Americans lost their healthcare coverage when they lost their job this year.
Without the doctor’s visits, prescriptions and the money to pay for prescriptions, Americans are up a creek without a paddle during this flu and cold-congested year.
Many employed Americans afraid to lose their jobs choose to go to work even when they are sick.
“I couldn’t stay home because I needed the money to feed my kids,” said landscaper Antonio Malionis in a National Public Radio report.
These employees spread the disease, increasing the probability that the H1N1 and seasonal flu mutate into a killer epidemic.
The bottom line is Americans need relief now.
Still, senators and representatives on Capitol Hill move at their own pace – a very slow pace. Multiple options in front of lawmakers also slow down coming relief.
The widely-discussed public option provides for a government-provided public alternative to private insurance. Increased competition causes insurance companies to decrease copays and other fees and provides healthcare without denial.
“This government takeover has got a long way to go before it gets to the president’s desk, and I’ll continue to fight it tooth and nail at every turn,” said U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) in The New York Times.
However, some conservatives, like Sen. Olympia Snow (R) of Maine, support healthcare restructuring.
Sen. Snow and the Democrat-majority Senate Finance Committee passed their $829 billion, 10-year healthcare plan Oct. 13. The plan does not include the public option, but proposes individuals gathering in cooperatives to negotiate lower prices from insurance companies.
Insurance companies would be forced to take all comers, and people can shop for insurance on new state markets called exchanges. Employers would be penalized for employees who sought insurance through the exchanges, but illegal immigrants are excluded.
This plan is considered the closest glimpse yet into what the bill on the president’s desk may look like.
In response, the Democrat-majority House approved a $1.1 trillion, 10-year public plan Nov. 7. Senators claim the bill will help 36 million Americans. Like the SFC plan, the bill is paid through new taxes, fees and cuts from Medicare, and fines the uninsured.
Controversial abortion wording in the bill was removed by request of the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops.
The passage of these two is a milestone in President Obama’s fight for healthcare, and should guarantee some sort of healthcare bill on the president’s desk before midterm elections.
While red tape webs politicians, the H1N1 flu has sickened 22 million Americans and killed 4,000, including 540 children, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
America needs a healthcare bill, with or without the public option.
Until then, the United States spends $1.9 trillion, more than any other leading nation, on a healthcare system that does not work.