By U.S. Rep. Leonard Boswell
On November 2, 2008, as millions of Americans cast their ballot for Barak Obama as President, my colleagues and I in Congress heard the nation's cry for change. I know that many Iowans went to the polls with a variety of issues on their minds, things they wanted changed, problems they needed assistance with. Many of you surely thought of the mortgage you can barely or no longer afford. Others were still debating on purchasing prescriptions or buying groceries for your family. Far too many of you had recently lost your health insurance and were foreclosing on your home, or you were filing for bankruptcy because your medical expenses pushed you too far into debt. This is an unfortunate, yet common situation in today's economy. Medical expenses are the number one reason for bankruptcy in our nation not only are we spending more than any other nation and keeping people less healthy, the sky rocketing cost of our health care system is crippling American families right here in Iowa.. Perhaps you have felt the recession, but have been able to stay afloat. You're thankful for the health insurance that you do have and are one of the fortunate few with job security. However, what you may not realize is the hidden tax in your premium, which is approximately eight percent of the national average premium cost. Our health care providers, God bless them, abide by a moral code and treat those who can and cannot afford care. They budget for the charitable services they don't charge for, as well as the bills that go unpaid.
Just recently I met with representatives from Iowa hospitals and was not surprised to hear that during these tough economic times, some hospitals are seeing those charitable services increase by nearly fifty percent. On average, cost shifting accounts for $230 for each individual Iowan and $600 for Iowa families. These costs affect all Americans, and as more and more American's lose their jobs, lose coverage, and face the ramifications of debt and instability, these cost shifts increase. Clearly, we are all paying for each other's health care, and we are paying too much. This is why I am working with my colleagues in Congress and with President Obama to reform health care. Our nation cannot stand by and do nothing as American families struggle to pay their bills. When families look at their budgets and decide between paying to keep the lights on, putting food in their children's stomachs, or seeking health care, medical services are the first thing they cut back on or cut out. In the end, prolonging care leads to exacerbated illnesses and costs more down the road for the individual, our state, and our nation. Health care is a fundamental right for all Americans and all Iowans. If we want to educate our children and create leaders for tomorrow, we have to keep our kids healthy. To prevent children from falling behind, we must make sure they have access to eye, dental, and ear checkups. We need to reward the commitment and ethic of Iowa workers by guaranteeing them health care coverage and access. Our state has shown a magnificent commitment to covering all children and adults. I believe the United States should follow and reform the system that is costing us so much. Health care is an integral part of our economy. It is bigger than SCHIP, Medicaid, and Medicare. Hospitals, clinics and pharmacies employ our families and neighbors. As you know, the local hospital is a primary employer in your community, employing nurses, doctors, physician assistants, and a wealth of other disciplines. Reforming our health care system will benefit the many facets of our lives. By changing our broken system we can provide fairer reimbursements, increase job security, save lives, and save money. I will continue to fight to bring down the cost of health care for Iowans, preserve our hospitals that provide excellent care, and create a system that saves lives with prevention, including education, wellness, and management. Our nation needs health care reform, and you deserve it now.