I wish to thank the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and its numerous partners for drawing the nations attention to the importance of 'Covering the Uninsured' through their ad campaign and this week of activities.
Our nation faces many domestic challenges, but few are more serious or more urgent than the plight of the uninsured. More than 41 million people in this county do not have health insurance, and many who have health insurance fear losing it or worry about rising costs. In California, one out of every three people went without health insurance for all or part of 2001 and 2002.
Nearly 9 million children are growing up without the quality health care they need because they lack health insurance. The vast majority of these uninsured children live in families with working parents who earn too much for public assistance and too little for private health care. Indeed, more than 70 percent of the people who went without health insurance during 2001-2002 were employed. Too many people work hard to provide for their families and still have to worry that their kids are at risk.
The Institute of Medicine released a report last week entitled,Shared Destiny: Effects of Uninsurance on Individuals, Families and Communities." It shows that the adverse effects of being uninsured go well beyond those without health coverage. It affects the entire community through less access to care, a weakened capacity to respond to emergencies, poorer population health and possibly a less robust economy.
Unfortunately, President Bushs proposals will only exacerbate the crisis and will undermine the fundamental guarantees in our health care system. He has proposed a radical overhaul of Medicaid (MediCal in California) that, if enacted, would end the guaranteed benefit for low-income individuals and families. His plan would shift the ultimate fiscal responsibility for Medicaid onto the states at a time when they can ill afford it, and encourage states to limit their liability by capping enrollment and cutting benefits for some of their most vulnerable populations.
In addition to the 41 million uninsured, many seniors covered by Medicare are underinsured because they lack a comprehensive drug benefit. The Administrations weak Medicare prescription drug plan would provide less than one-fifth of the funds needed, and would guarantee huge coverage gaps. Further, his proposal would allow seniors to either choose their health care provider through traditional Medicare or choose to have coverage for the routine costs of prescription drugs through a private plan.
Rising unemployment, growing deficits, and the threat of terrorism and war have made these times uncertain. The American people want security: health and economic security as well as homeland security. The Presidents proposals do nothing to ensure health security or stimulate the economy - instead, he offers empty promises and tax breaks that largely benefit the wealthy.
I pledge to continue to fight alongside my Democratic colleagues in Congress
to ensure health security for working families, children, seniors, and all Americans.
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