Who Gets Hurt By The ConservaDem Courtship With Obstructionists

Isaiah J. Poole

In the states represented by the four senators in the Democratic caucus who are threatening progress on health care reform, there are almost 2 million people without health insurance, according to state-by-state health care reform impact reports released by the Department of Health and Human Services.

These states, and the senators who represent them, are Arkansas (Blanche Lincoln), Connecticut (Joe Lieberman, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats), Louisiana (Mary Landrieu), and Nebraska (Ben Nelson).

Hundreds of thousands more residents in these states are saddled with expensive individual insurance policies and desperately need the market reforms that would be initiated under a robust reform plan.

The reports are a reminder, as the health care reform debate resumes this week, of who is getting hurt by the continuing resistance of a small minority of conservative Democrats who are effectively siding with Republican obstructionists against the best interest of the residents they represent.

For example:

  • In Landrieu’s Louisiana, more than one in 10 residents are diabetic and three in 10 have high-blood pressure, conditions that would usually be considered grounds for denying insurance coverage outside of employer-based plans.
  • In Nelson’s Nebraska, 25 percent of women over 50 have not had a mammogram within the past two years. For them, the recent debate over how frequently women over 50 should get mammograms is moot since without insurance coverage breast-cancer screenings of any frequency are out of reach.
  • In Lincoln’s Arkansas, almost half of the residents have never had a colorectal cancer screening. That’s the fourth most common form of cancer, and people over the age of 50 as well as people whose family have a history of colorectal cancer should be screened so they can take advantage of prevention and treatment options.
  • In Lieberman’s Connecticut, more then 97,000 seniors hit the dreaded Medicare Part D “doughnut hole,” the period each year when seniors have to pay full price for their prescription drugs. That drug-coverage gap costs seniors in Connecticut an average of $4,080 a year. Meaningful health care reform would at least narrow that gap.

As the reports state, “The health care status quo is not an option for our states. If we do nothing, by 2019 the number of uninsured people will grow by more than 30 percent in 29 states and by at least 10 percent in every state. The amount of uncompensated care provided will more than double in 45 states. Businesses in 27 states will see their premiums more than double. And fewer people will have coverage through an employer. The time for health insurance reform is now.”

It is tragic enough that one party has chosen to brand itself as the defenders of the health care status quo, the lawmakers who when pressed will make a show of supporting incremental change as long as it leaves the health insurance industry even more free to rake the profits in. It is quite another matter for members of a Senate Democratic majority that was given that majority in order to change the health care system to side with those who have no real solutions for the people in their states who can’t get insurance, can’t afford medications, or forgo potentially live-saving medical screenings.

Take a moment today to look at the statistics in your state—especially if you live in Arkansas, Connecticut, Louisiana and Nebraska—and tell your senator that it’s not the health insurance industry that they need to worry about; the insurers will find a way to survive in a world with a robust public option and regulations that assure patients actually get the medical coverage they pay for. (And it’s not the right-wing spin machine, either, which is as poised to trash a severely watered-down health-care plan as it is to trash a unrepentantly progressive one.) It’s the millions of people who might not survive without health insurance and access to care that they need to fight for.

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