Declare Independence From Health Insurance Companies

The Record ( — Thursday, July 2, 2009


Phyllis Salowe-Kaye is executive director of New Jersey Citizen Action, an independent citizen watchdog organization.

This Independence Day, let us declare our independence from the private health insurance industry.

Every 30 seconds, a hard-working American declares bankruptcy because he or she can't pay medical bills. More than 75 percent of the time, that person has health insurance.

It's no surprise that the majority of bankruptcies in America today are due to health care costs. Health insurance premiums have risen more than 1,000 percent since the insurance industry leaders promised America they would take care of us after they killed health care reform in 1993. Our wages, meanwhile, have only risen a small fraction of that, putting an impossible squeeze on working families everywhere.

Feeling the pinch

Business has been feeling the pinch as well. Health care costs threaten to overwhelm profits, and as a result, some businesses have been forced to drop or scale back health care benefits, leaving many employees at the mercy of insurance companies on the individual market.

It's not hard to see that rising health care costs are unsustainable, and threaten to bring down not only our federal budget or individual families, but our entire economy. As President Obama says, we must bring down the nation's health care costs, and that means we must reform our health care system. We simply cannot wait.

Thankfully, we have an historic opportunity to bring down costs and improve access to quality, affordable health care for all this year. While New Jersey's members of Congress are home for the July 4 congressional recess, let us remind them that successful health care reform will require the following things:

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