Healthcare provision in the United States

July 21st, 2008 | by Andrew Ó Baoill |

The American Federation of Teachers – with which my union, the GEO, is affiliated – has voted to endorse a bill to provide Universal Healthcare in the United States:

HR 676 would institute a single payer health care system in the U.S. by expanding a greatly improved Medicare system to every resident.

HR 676 would cover every person in the U. S. for all necessary medical care including prescription drugs, hospital, surgical, outpatient services, primary and preventive care, emergency services, dental, mental health, home health, physical therapy, rehabilitation (including for substance abuse), vision care, chiropractic and long term care.

HR 676 ends deductibles and co-payments. HR 676 would save billions annually by eliminating the high overhead and profits of the private health insurance industry and HMOs.

Anyone who’s had any sight of the US healthcare system – in my case primarily as an advocate through the GEO – knows just how broken it is. Employers keep employees on a part-time basis in order to avoid paying health insurance benefits. Insurance plans have omissions and exclusions that are difficult to understand. The people determining what coverage people have are generally employer HR units – whose primary motivation is keeping employer costs as low as possible. Unions are able to negotiate with employers to eliminate loopholes and gaps in coverage, but it’s a difficult, slow process. [At the University of Illinois the administration consistently opposes improved health coverage for grad employees, claiming that grad employees are happier with bare-bones coverage, but refusing to engage in proper surveying of grad opinions.] Patient pressure is dispersed by being routed through individual employers. And that – as Michael Moore notes in Sicko – is just the situation for those who have health insurance.

Separate to the AFT endorsement of HR 676, Citizen Action/Illinois recently circulated a pointer to Health Care for America Now!, a coalition “organizing millions of Americans to win a guarantee of quality, affordable health care for all.” It’s a more general goal than a specific bill, but very much along the same lines. Go to their website to sign up.

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