Sunday, October 30, 2005

Health Care Costs: Where Republicans Fear to Tread

by Kyle Michaelis
The University of Nebraska's Bureau of Business Research has released the latest results from a survey of Nebraska businesses concerning their cost-cutting priorities. Unsurprisingly, the leading priority - far and away - was reining-in ever-increasing health care benefit expenses. 62% of all Nebraska businesses included this as a priority, including 86% of those with 20 or more employees.

The report explains:
Nebraska businesses overwhelmingly listed health care benefit costs as their leading priority for cost reduction. The percentage was particularly high among large businesses, which more frequently provide these benefits. The high priority for health care costs is consistent with a recent report by the Kaiser Family Foundation which conducts an annual survey on health care costs. The foundation reported that health care costs continued to grow strongly; these health care costs have jumped 9.2% so far in 2005.

Businesses are being bankrupted by health care costs, and the Republican Party isn't even willing to talk about it because they don't have an answer - not in Nebraska and certainly not in the halls of Congress. After so manipulating the last attempt to provide a true overhaul of the U.S. Health Care system, polluting the debate and bringing the entire industry to the verge of collapse for purely political gain, they now turn a blind eye to what can only be said to have become a blight on the entire U.S. economy.

It's not just businesses that are hurting. The number of uninsured continues to skyrocket - approaching 50 million Americans - as more and more are simply priced out of being able to afford basic medical care. And, with the current rate of increase, those who still can afford insurance may not be able to for long. Meanwhile, every one of us taxpayers is seeing an increased burden on that front as well. Why, just here in Nebraska, the Lincoln Journal-Star reported Saturday:
State employees will pay 22.1 percent more for health insurance next year, after union representatives and administrators failed to reach a compromise.

And the increase will cost taxpayers millions.

Employees received a 3 percent pay increase in July, but for many, higher premiums will wipe out any take-home pay increase, said Bob Corner, spokesman for NAPE/AFSCME, the union covering state workers.

“Just about everyone who has family insurance will see less take-home pay,” he said....

The rising premiums will cost taxpayers about $21.4 million over the next year because the state, as the employer, pays 79 percent of the premium costs.

Where's the leadership? Where's a single voice out there willing to stand-up and offer a solution? Sure, it would be great if we'd tackle this problem as a nation, but the Republicans have made those waters so toxic that any true reform is still years in the making. At the state level, though, we here in Nebraska have the potential and the responsibility to try something new and set a better example. My God, nothing we could do could be worse than the Republicans' "do nothing" approach of the last 7 years.

We should listen to our own Bureau of Business Research:
Policy-makers...may want to focus on business priorities whether or not Nebraska is a leader or a laggard on those priorities. There may be as much gain from further expanding the state’s advantage on certain cost factors as in addressing an area of disadvantage.

Yes, health care costs are a problem for everyone...everywhere in this county. But, that's never going to change without some true leaders - both policy-makers and their constituents - stepping-up and taking the initiative.

You want to create jobs? Start here. Health care costs, not more tax subsidies, are business' highest priority. Similarly, the public is not crying out for more hastily-enacted, politically-calculating tax cuts, but rather the restoration of some degree of sensibly-priced insurance coverage with actual assurances of care.

Don't be fooled. It can begin in Nebraska. All it takes is the will to dare, something our current batch of pandering ideologues unable to see beyond their own anti-government rhetoric will, sadly, never possess.


Anonymous Blue Cross of California said...

Health cares tend to rise as we shall work on doing something to help fix our health care society.


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