Doctors Back Obama on Health Care Plan

10-05-08, 10:44 am

While the looming economic recession may have displaced the country's broken health care system and the Iraq war as the top concern for Americans in recent weeks, universal, affordable access to health care remains a vital issue for voters. Many groups from the labor movement and health care advocates even to the Obama campaign have linked the need for health care reform to economic recovery.

This past week more than 5,000 physicians endorsed Barack Obama's plan for health care reform. In a press statement, Doctors for Obama-Biden 2008 described the Obama plan as 'the first step in ensuring that all Americans have access to a quality, affordable and secure health care.'

With skyrocketing costs totaling at least $2 trillion annually, 45 million uninsured Americans and many millions more with inadequate health care coverage, health care is an immediate issue for most people. 'Furthermore,' the statement read, 'the on-going fiscal crisis gripping the nation makes the need for reforming the health care system even more compelling.'

Doctors are backing Obama because in addition to the decline in affordable access, the quality of health care is also suffering. Emergency rooms are overcrowded and funding for research and development for serious illnesses has dried up.

Dr. Chris Barley, an internal medicine physician at New York-Cornell Medical Center, said, 'Too many families are forced to choose between paying high rates of health insurance or paying the rent or heating bills. In addition, more and more employers are dropping coverage and benefits for their employees because of sky-rocketing costs.”

Recent data shows that the national cost of health care had risen from approximately $1 trillion in 2000 to $2 trillion in 2005. Between 2000 and 2007, wages have risen about 24 percent while health insurance costs have soared by a startling 95 percent.

Private insurers, a recent article in US News and World Report stated, are increasingly using more sophisticated and underhanded means to deny coverage for patients. 'The problem is bound to grow as insurers make use of sophisticated data tools dubbed 'denial engines,'' the article read, 'which are touted to reduce reimbursements by 3 to 10 percent.' And while doctors and their staffs work aggressively to help patients get coverage, they are not always successful.

'At a time when rising costs have put too many families and businesses on a collision course with financial ruin and left too many without coverage at all, our doctors know that band aids and half-measures just won’t do,' Barack Obama recently said in a statement for the press. 'I am heartened to see so many doctors speaking out about this issue and honored to have them join me and Joe Biden in this fight.”

Describing the issue and its solutions as a bipartisan one, Obama added, “Now more than ever we must cut health care costs for families and businesses facing this financial crisis, and provide affordable, accessible health insurance for every single American.”

Pediatrician Dr. Irwin Redlener, who co-chairs Doctors for Obama-Biden and teaches at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, said, 'The fact is that Senators Obama and Biden clearly understand the growing health care crisis. They are offering a series of proposals that will bring affordability, stability and quality to every aspect of the health care system.'

On the other hand, Redlener added, 'Senator McCain’s plan will do nothing to control the costs of care for the average American or do anything to improve the quality or accessibility of medical care in the US.'

Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, author of a new report on McCain's health care proposals for the non-partisan Economic Policy Institute's Policy Center, noted, “Americans with even minor health conditions already face formidable barriers to obtaining coverage on the individual insurance market, and the sort of deregulation proposed by the McCain plan would leave these consumers with fewer options or none at all.”

Both the Economic Policy Institute and a separate study published in Health Affairs have indicated that under McCain's plan as many as 27 million Americans would lose their employment-based health insurance and be forced to deal alone with private insurers for expensive and often inadequate health care coverage.