Does Congresswoman DeGette Really Get It?

Congresswoman Diana DeGette (D-CO) is the Chief Deputy Majority Whip for the Democrats in Congress.  She is serving her seventh term representing the 1st congressional district in Colorado, succeeding Pat Schroeder  who represented that district and advocated for progressive causes for many years.

Diana DeGette (D-CO)

Diana DeGette (D-CO)

On April 7th of this year Congresswoman DeGette offered a powerful and personal critique of health care in the United States in a speech before the City Club in Denver.  

…Americans – including 800,000 Coloradans – have no health insurance and when thousands more Americans are losing their coverage every day. That means they’re less likely to get the medical care they need, more likely to develop chronic and life-threatening diseases and more likely to die prematurely, causing more than 20,000 preventable deaths in America every year.

It is unacceptable when the uninsured population includes 9 million children – 180,000 here in Colorado …

It is unacceptable when even families with health insurance struggle to keep up with skyrocketing premiums and co-pays only to have to fight their insurance companies for the coverage they thought they had.

They’re families like my sister’s-insured, middle-class family with two kids, paying monthly premiums of $1,100. And when my nephew had a skateboarding accident-a compound fracture of his wrist-what did her insurance company say? “Sorry. You didn’t get pre-approved for the emergency room service.”…

But she didn’t stop there

Americans often think we have the best health care in the world. But consider this. In terms of women’s health – compared to other countries – the United States ranks 24th. In infant mortality, we rank 29th. In life expectancy, we rank 31st. And for health outcomes overall we rank 37th – below the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica. Put simply, when it comes to health care, Americans pay so much more but get so much less.

This is not only morally unacceptable, it is financially unsustainable…

And she offered change

That’s why the new Congress and President Obama have moved swiftly to confront the most pressing short-term challenges….

Reform must reflect this fundamental truth: affordable, quality health care is not the privilege of the fortunate few, it is the right of every American.

Reform must achieve key goals: reduce costs, expand coverage to those who lack it and improve the quality of care.

Reform must preserve the values we cherish as Americans: choice – of doctors, providers and plans; strong doctor-patient relationships – free from government interference, and; accountability-to avoid profiteering and discrimination based on pre-existing conditions…

But she she fell on her face

And reform must reflect what is politically possible. There are those who favor a single-payer, government-run health care system. But let’s be clear: such an approach has neither public nor political support at this time despite that, we must not lose sight of our goal of providing health care for every American.

Guided by these principles, I believe a reformed system should have three essential pillars. It must cover every American; it must be affordable; and it must be portable.

For starters, she is wrong that that a single-payer system has no public support.  Polls consistently demonstrate broad support for a single-payer system.  Recently a CBS poll found that 59% of americans support a national health insurance program and 49% of Americans  believe it should cover all of their medical problems.  Other polls show similar results.  And the single payer proposal HR 676 has more co-sponsors than any other proposal.

But maybe the reason she doesn’t get it is that she is so 1990’s.  There is little new in her critique of health care.

What has changed is the work force

The in-term now is the multi-generational work force. Older people are working longer and they are generally not interested in working full time.   It is even even clearer since last September.  Younger people are entering the workforce later.  People are leaving their jobs in mid-career to go back to school, to take care of aging and sick parents, or sometime to take care of their own children.  There are more part time employees.  There are more free lance employees.  The increase is the number of free lancers and part timers is an employer response to the high cost of health care.  Each of these groups need health care.

It is nice to argue for portability.  But how to you make portability happen when people transition in and out of employment.  Concurrent with that change is a change in income status.  A genuine “affordable” reform effort that accommodates the 21st century work force is one that assures continuous coverage regardless of employment status.  The cost of the plan to individuals must reflect their ability to pay.  Only a single payer system can accomplish that.

And then there are certain sectors that have always have been difficult to insure.  Farmers and people living in rural areas have their own unique issues that make that make “free market” solutions irrelevant.

What has changed is the competitiveness of the American economy

Most politicians give lip service to the notion that health care costs impeded the ability of American companies to compete internationally. But health care costs distort domestic competition as well.  Companies that offer inurance are a competitve disadvantage against companies that don’t.  In addition,  the cost of health insurance is a significant market entry barrier for entrepreneurs considering a new idea to take to the marketplace.  If we want to encourage innovation and competitiveness, the cost of health insurance to employers needs to be equitable.

I do hope that Congresswoman DeGette will acknowledge the public support for a single payer system, the compelling policy argument for single payer, and take the lead in translating that into broader political support.

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One Response to Does Congresswoman DeGette Really Get It?

  1. democratz says:

    If you don’t like a particular TV program, you call their sponsors
    and tell them you will boycott them until the program either goes
    off the air or changes to your liking. This works similar with
    parties, politicians and their sponsors.

    I have a plan to get the HR 676 enacted and more.

    Get people to Send a free prewritten fax to Sen. Minority leader Mitch McConnell telling him to STOP EVERY REPUBLICAN FILIBUSTER, get the Employee Free Choice act enacted into law, along with single payer universal health care, a fix for the Medicare Prescription drug benefit, a 10 dollar an hour minimum wage, an end to the Iraq war and until that happens you will boycott some Republican campaign contributors.

    You can go to http://action.democratz.org and send Mitch McConnell a free prewritten fax. This web site appears completely noncommercial. I don’t sell anything there.

    We have to hit the friends of the GOP in their wallets. Oh and if you only send your fax, this will fail. You need to get friends to send the fax and have their friends send the free fax and so on.

    Thank you!

    PS the prewritten fax reads thusly:

    Hello

    I want the following actions taken
    and legislation enacted into law.

    Congress and the President must
    enact HR 676 single payer universal
    health care and set up a new
    prescription drug benefit in
    Medicare Part B covering 80% of the
    cost of all drugs with no extra
    monthly premiums, no extra yearly
    deductible, no means tests, no
    coverage gaps, and remove the means
    test for Medicare Part B and until
    that happens, I won’t buy ANYTHING
    from Republican contributor
    Rite Aid Pharmacies.

    The President must end the war in
    Iraq and until that happens
    I will not buy any products from
    Republican contributor and War
    contractor General Electric
    Corporation.

    Congress and the President must
    enact a $10/HR MINIMUM WAGE
    into law and until this happens
    I will not go to any Republican
    contributor Wendy’s Restaurants.

    In 2008 Brown-Forman of Kentucky,
    the maker of Jack Daniels Whiskey
    and Southern Comfort gave Mitch
    McConnell money for his campaign.

    SENATOR McCONNELL MUST NOT
    EXECUTE ANY REPUBLICAN
    FILIBUSTERS FOR 8 YEARS
    DURING THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY
    AND MUST GET THE EMPLOYEE
    FREE CHOICE ACT ENACTED
    INTO LAW AND UNTIL THAT
    HAPPENS I WON’T BUY JACK
    DANIELS WHISKEY OR SOUTHERN
    COMFORT OR ANY OTHER OF THEIR
    PRODUCTS.

    Thank you.

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