It’s common-knowledge that our health care system is broken. But, here is a fact from a recent report by Families USA that underscores just how bad things have gotten. Over the last two years, one-third of all Americans under the age of 65 went without health coverage. This stark statistic underscores the urgent need for national health reform.
Right now, our system leaves far too many Americans uninsured and at risk to the high costs of treatment if they get sick. In 2007 and 2008, nearly 87 million non-elderly Americans were, at some point, uninsured. Almost three-fourths went without coverage for at least six months, and more than 6 in 10 went without insurance for nine months or longer. Over the past two years, a shocking 2.4 million New Jerseyans were uninsured at some point. With more and more Americans out of work, the ranks of the uninsured are swelling. That’s why we need health care reform right now - to strengthen our middle-class and protect people when they lose their jobs and are at their most vulnerable.
However, the news isn’t all bleak. We’re making real progress in Washington by bringing about the change everyone asked for on Election Day last November. We’re turning words into action and hope into accomplishments. President Obama recently signed into law the long-overdue Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act, making a down payment on ensuring access to affordable care for each and every American. Providing health care for our children should be a moral obligation, but it is also financially smart. Healthier children lead to healthier and more productive adults. This results in savings later on – both economically and in terms of overall quality of life.
Here in New Jersey, Governor Jon Corzine, State Senator Joe Vitale and others interested in progressive health care reform have committed to expanding Family Care - New Jersey's CHIP program - by $33 billion over the next 4 1/2 years. Nonetheless, while this is a huge step in the right direction, we still need comprehensive health care reform for Americans of all ages. As the Families USA report makes clear, we must make health care work better. It starts by making insurance more affordable, more effective and more efficient.
In Congress, I am working leaders in The House and others to craft what will likely be the most momentous health care reform legislation since the establishment of Medicare. We believe that access to quality health care is a right, not a privilege. And now is the time for real, lasting reform. In these tough economic times, we need to fix the system so everyone can have the coverage they deserve.
President Obama has outlined certain principles he wants included in healthcare reform, but has left it to Congress to work out the details. And as Congress begins its deliberations on the matter, I hope we can count on your help to battle back against ideologues who cling to worn out mantras against government programs - such as those who attack SCHIP and our attempts to expand insurance to those who need help the most. We can’t let obstructionists turn back the clock on the progress we’re making. By expanding health care coverage we are also making our middle class stronger.
I need your help to reform the system. And I hope you will join us with our statewide effort 'Making Health Care Work For New Jersey.' So please visit my website to share your stories and ideas on how to help us create a healthier future for all our families.
(Cross-posted at Blue Jersey)