Guest Columns

ARENALES: A CASE FOR HEALTH CARE REFORM

The worst thing we can do about health care reform is nothing

You can’t open a newspaper, turn on the TV or read a political blog without getting a blow-by-blow account of the debate about health care reform going on right now in Washington. That’s good. We need change.

I work with a lot of people who are involved in health care reform, including consumers, advocates and health providers. We’re all tired of politics standing in the way of progress, and we know you are, too. We’re all tired of worrying about whether we can afford health insurance. We’re tired of worrying about whether the insurance policies our employers pick for us will be good enough. We’re tired of worrying about whether we can keep our doctors if we change jobs and about what happens when we retire. We’re tired of arguing with our insurance companies. And we are tired of scare tactics trying to convince us that health care reform is a bad idea.

Health care costs are rising faster than inflation and faster than wages. No one can keep up with that. Employers are struggling to cover workers. People who are sick can’t get insurance, and baby boomers can’t retire. We’re worried about the future of government programs like Medicare. There is no miracle on the horizon — more and more of us are going to have trouble affording insurance, and more and more of us are going to go without.

Unless we decide to do something about it.

Our country has struggled with health care costs and reform for decades. Every time we make an attempt at reform, powerful moneyed interests turn us back by preying on our fears and feeding us misinformation. We can’t afford to let that happen this time. Let’s not let that happen this time.

The beauty of the debate going on in Congress right now is that if you like the health care you have right now, you don’t have to change a thing. But for the millions of Americans who are frustrated or fed up with our current system, health care reform means we can choose change.

Health care reform should be about a lot of things. Policy makers talk about access, quality and affordability. But we know reform is also about families, communities and doctors. It’s also about our choice of doctors and health plans, our control over our own care and about peace of mind for ourselves and our families.

Reform, however, shouldn’t be about protecting such entrenched interests such as the insurance and drug companies represented by powerful lobbying organizations. Those interests are very good at getting what they want. But what they want isn’t always good for our health.

We are tired of politics standing in the way of reform, and we know you are, too. It’s long past time for action, and we hope you join us to voice your support for reform. We all need to take action, and to listen carefully to who is saying what — and why. This time, let’s say no to scare tactics and misinformation campaigns, and let’s say yes to a uniquely American solution that guarantees we all will always have quality, affordable health care.

Elisabeth Arenales is the health policy director at the Colorado Center on Law and Policy.