Friday, March 02, 2007

Most Americans Want Guaranteed Health Insurance

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It seems almost every day now we find another example of how profoundly out of synch government is with the American people. Here's another one: Most Americans think that everyone in this country should have access to affordable health care, and they believe that government should provide it. And they are willing to pay for it:

A majority of Americans say the federal government should guarantee health insurance to every American, especially children, and are willing to pay higher taxes to do it, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll.

While the war in Iraq remains the overarching issue in the early stages of the 2008 campaign, access to affordable health care is at the top of the public’s domestic agenda, ranked as far more important than immigration, cutting taxes or promoting traditional values. Only 24 percent said they were satisfied with President Bush’s handling of the issue, despite his recent initiatives, and 62 percent said the Democrats — not the Republicans — were more likely to improve the health care system.

Americans showed a striking willingness in the poll to make tradeoffs for a better health care system, including paying as much as $500 more in taxes a year and forgoing future tax cuts. ...

The article goes on to say that Americans still disagree on whether participation in a national health care plan should be mandatory, and on whether comprehensive coverage should come from private insurance companies or from the federal government, but they agree that the present system, in which millions of people have no health insurance at all, is unacceptable:

While Democrats are traditionally strong supporters of expanding health coverage, this survey found many Republicans and independents in agreement.

“I think everybody should have some kind of health care available to them,” said Diane Manning, 66, of Vancouver, Wash., who described herself as an independent.

“I don’t necessarily think that socialized medicine is the answer, but I think everyone should have that right,” said Ms. Manning, who participated in the poll and agreed to a follow-up interview “And there are so many people that don’t.”

The poll also found overwhelming support behind the Childrens’ Health Insurance Program, which covers many low and moderate income children and is up for renewal in Congress this year. Eighty-four percent of those polled said they supported expanding the current program to cover all uninsured children, now estimated at more than eight million. A similar majority said they thought the lack of health insurance for many children was a “very serious” problem for the country.
[...]
The poll found Americans across party lines willing to make some sacrifice to insure that every American has access to health insurance. Sixty percent, including 62 percent of independents and 46 percent of Republicans, said they would be willing to pay more in taxes. Half said they would be willing to pay as much as $500 a year more.

Nearly 8 in 10 said they thought it was more important to provide universal access to health insurance than to extend the tax cuts of recent years; 18 percent said the tax cuts were more important.

There's another interesting angle to this story: the correlation between the growing number of Americans who either have gone without medical treatment or know someone who has because they lacked insurance coverage; and the increase in support for national health care [bolds are mine]:

Most Americans in the poll said they were satisfied with the quality of their health care, but there was widespread concern about costs. Nearly half of those with insurance said their employer had cut back on benefits or required them to pay more for their benefits in recent years. A quarter of those with insurance said someone in their household had gone without a medical test or treatment because insurance would not cover it. Six in 10 of those without insurance said someone in their household had gone without care because of the cost.

That level of concern helps explain the striking support for substantial change: Nearly two-thirds said the federal government should guarantee health insurance for all Americans. They were then asked, “What if that meant that the cost of your own health insurance would go up?” Forty-eight percent said they would still support it.

This accords with my experience completely. Health care coverage in this country is inconsistent, arbitrary, haphazard, completely unreliable. When I was freelancing, I could not afford to buy my own health insurance. When I started working at Barnes & Noble, I had health insurance -- but I had to work there for an entire year to get it. During that year, I had no health insurance, and no way to pay for it, either, on the pathetic money I made at B&N. When I was accepted into the NYC Teaching Fellows Program, I was fully covered for health benefits under New York City's plan for city workers. But when the Teaching Fellows kicked me out of the program because they had accepted more Teaching Fellows certified to teach English than there were English teaching jobs in the system, I lost all my benefits instantly. Now I've been approved to substitute teach in New York City, but substitute teachers do not get any of the benefits that permanently hired, full-time teachers get. So still no health insurance.

It's been said before, but it bears repeating, because it's so incredible: The United States is the only industrialized country in the world that does not have some kind of comprehensive national health care coverage for all its citizens. That is shameful. It's long past time to change it.

5 comments:

Joan said...

Hi kathy!

That is TERRIBLE that you were taken out of the teaching fellow's programme. When did this happen? Does this mean you cannot continue with your master's degree? I can't believe they would do such a terrible thing, is there anyway you can appeal it?

This is so unfair, but at least you are allowed to do substitute teachng, so you can still be a teacher. Do you get much work doing substitute teaching? Do you like teaching high school? Can they hire you back next year, being you were bumped out this year after you had started the programme?

I can't believe how unfair this is. I am so sorry this happened to you.

Take Care
Joan

Kathy said...

I was "released" from the program (as the Teaching Fellows put it) on Dec. 1. Yes, it means I cannot continue with my master's degree. The Teaching Fellows program was subsidizing that. I can't afford to continue it on my own.

I'm not the only one they did this to. I'm not even the worst case. People apply to this program from all over the country, and even other countries. There were Teaching Fellows who had left careers to come to NYC and teach in urban schools. They signed leases on apartments and gave up, in some cases, lucrative jobs to do this. There is no appeal process. The judge's decision is final.

The substitute teaching is completely separate from the Teaching Fellows program. They're not connected. Anyone who has a college degree can apply to substitute teach in NYC, or anywhere for that matter. You don't need a certificate to substitute teach. Substitute teachers in NYC make good money ($144 a day), but there are no benefits, and of course no guarantee of work. If you get work every day, or regularly, you can make a good income, but it remains to be seen, for me, how that will work out.

I have not gotten any calls to substitute yet, but then, I was only approved a few weeks ago, and I only just put my name in the central registry. There's a possibility I might get a long-term sub assignment in a school where I interviewed for a job while I was still in the Teaching Fellows program, but that's not certain yet.

I cannot be hired back next year, because I am no longer certified. The Teaching Fellows is an alternate certification program; the certification was transitional, and contingent on my remaining in the program and completing the master's degree. If I leave the program, the certification vanishes -- poof! like it never existed. Of course, I can go through a traditional teacher certification program if I want to, but if I had the money to do that, I wouldn't have needed the Teaching Fellows program to start with.

I met all the requirements of the program. The Teaching Fellows program reneged on their end of the bargain for me, and all the other fellows who couldn't find jobs because there were more Teaching Fellows accepted into the program than there were jobs available for them.

Thank you for being so concerned, Joan. I appreciate it.

Chief said...

Health care is a topic that I really cannot or, perhaps, should not comment on. Why? Because I have excess health care.

I cannot imagine how it must be to not be able to go to the doctor when you are sick.

The federal gov’t does a good job running, administering, Medicare, so if they just expanded that it could be a great program for everyone.

Also, the federal gov’t is into health care with the Veteran’s Administration, and the VA employs a lot of dedicated health care workers. But the higher ups at the VA are, or at least act like, political hacks and that is independent of which party controls the White House, and the VA ends up screwing te veteran.

Joan said...

Hey Kathy!

I was so floored by the news that your Teaching Fellows programme had ended, I forgot to add that there is an overwhelming argument in favour of universal medicare. First of all universal medicare is not socialized medicare. We all pay for our medicare through our tax dollars and we are happy to do so. The USA is the only place I have ever heard universal medicare called socialist.

The medical industry is a highly subsized industry. Through tax dollars, the gov't subsidizes the cost of trainging doctors, nurses, therpaists and so on. The fee a student pays at university only covers a PORTION of what their education costs. The gov't pays the rest.

Secondly, medical research is subsidized by the gov't. This includes everything from building better medical equipment to finding cures for cancer. The hospitals themselves get hefty cheques from the gov't for their special programmes as well as their day to day expenses. The list goes on and on and on.

Of course the money for these subsidies comes from the tax payer. The people who are excluded from access to the health care system are the same people who are paying to keep the medical system running. Everyone deserves a slice of the pie they helped to bake.

Take Care
Joan

Kathy said...

Well said, Joan, but you don't have to convince me. I agree with you 100 percent.