“I suffer no illusions that this will be an easy process. It will be hard. But I also know that nearly a century after Teddy Roosevelt first called for reform, the cost of our health care has weighed down our economy and the conscience of our nation long enough. So let there be no doubt: health care reform cannot wait, it must not wait, and it will not wait another year.” – Barack Obama (February 24, 2009)
In the face of proclamations that health care reform will have to wait, President Obama says otherwise. Health care reform was an important part of his campaign and he seems to be holding firm. In fact, he placed health care right up there with energy and education as three items critical to economic recovery.
In the early 90s, when President Clinton tried to tackle health care reform, the country was not yet ready. The majority of Americans felt secure. Lack of insurance was somebody’s else’s misfortune. It was hard to fathom how widespread the problem would become.
A Kaiser Family Foundation survey released on February 25, 2009, indicates that the tide has turned. A whopping 53 percent of Americans say they have cut back on health care over the past year due to cost, 19 percent report serious financial hardship due to medical bills, and 34 percent of people with health insurance are worried about losing it.
Their worries are not without merit. As unemployment rises, more people are losing their group health coverage. Despite the provisions in the recently passed stimulus package, many of them will not be able to afford to take advantage of COBRA. How many of us will lose medical coverage before real reform takes place? How many of us will put off necessary health care, or be forced into bankruptcy?
We heard the president declare that “we can no longer afford to put health care reform on hold.” We heard the very real fears of the people. We’ve heard the promises. Now it’s time for Congress to act, and it’s time for us to hold them to it.