More needs done to lower health care costs

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 9, 2006

A committee recently set up by Congress to find out what people want when it comes to health care has made an interesting discovery: A majority of Americans believe that the federal government should guarantee everyone basic health insurance coverage.

What a concept.

And although the committee’s recommendations didn’t say who would pay for universal health coverage or how much it would cost, it’s an interesting step in assuring that more Americans are getting health insurance coverage in the age of skyrocketing health care costs.

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Currently, about 51.6 million Americans, or 17.9 percent of the population, are uninsured, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And for many of those who do have coverage, it’s getting more difficult to pay for it.

For four straight years, Americans have paid double-digit increases in health insurance premiums, The price of premiums today for a typical family of four has risen to nearly $10,000. For a family with one earner making less than $30,000 a year, that cost is mind-boggling and difficult to bear.

And the gap between what American families earn and what they have to pay for premiums continues to grow.

The cost employees pay for health insurance in the nation has risen by 36 percent since 2000. In contrast, the average increase in earnings since that same year is only 12.4 percent — about 1/3 less than the increase in health care costs, according to the consumer group Families USA.

How can the middle and lower class survive?

The desire for universal health care is growing, as evidenced by states such as Massachusetts, where legislation is being debated to establish a universal, single-payer health plan for all Massachusetts residents.

And regardless of what is done to solve the problem of health care costs nationwide, the fact that Congress is addressing the issue is a positive sign.

Still, there are just too many uninsured Americans as it is, and there is so much more that needs to be done.

And the sooner it happens, the better.