Dwight Dill Opinion Mug

Health care has been a significant issue in political campaigns for the past 20 years. The Affordable Care Act was enacted by the 111th United States Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2010.

The ACA did much to improve access to health care for a large segment of the population through expanded coverage under parental insurance to age 26, the elimination of denials of coverage for pre-existing conditions, and expanded Medicaid to those states that chose to accept the payments.

Unfortunately, the ACA was not a perfect plan, and flaws remained that have kept health care unaffordable for many individuals.

During the election campaign of 2016, the Republicans promised Americans they had a plan that would be better than the ACA; it would be “something terrific” according to then candidate Donald Trump. After President Trump took office, it quickly became apparent there was no plan. There are still too many Americans left without health care insurance. Others who have coverage struggle to pay high insurance premiums and co-pays. Additionally, they often discover their policies do not cover their medical needs.

The United States has the most expensive health care of any developed nation. According to the Commonwealth Fund, nearly 18% of the gross domestic product is spent on health care expenditures. Per capita spending on health care places the United States significantly higher than other countries.

The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that in 2017 the U.S. per capita expenditure on health care was $10,224. The next highest country was Switzerland at $8,009. The average of all nations in the study was $5,280. Canada, our neighbor to the north, spent $4,826 per capita on health care.

Despite spending almost 50% more than the average of all 12 wealthy nations in this report, the United States consistently ranked at the bottom for health care outcomes. If we look at life expectancy alone, the U.S. ranked lowest of all countries in the report with a life expectancy of 78.6 years. Japan had the highest life expectancy, 84.1 years, and the average for all 12 countries was 82.2 years.

If the United States is going to make any headway in solving the health care crisis, it is imperative to get beyond the partisan fights and make genuine, long-range strides toward substantial reform.

Oregon has an opportunity to lead the nation in demonstrating that we can achieve better health care outcomes at a lower cost. During the most recent state legislative session, Senate Bill 770 was passed, which establishes a Task Force on Universal Health Care. This task force is charged with developing findings and recommendations to the Legislature on how to create and implement an equitable, affordable, comprehensive and high-quality health care system for all Oregon residents.

Subsequent to passage of SB 770, a statewide poll was commissioned by Warren George, a retired Corvallis management consultant and registered Republican. The respondents represented a cross section of Oregonians including all age groups, income levels and political party affiliation. Among the respondents, 21% were from Oregon Congressional District 2. The results of this poll indicated that 81% of Oregonians identified the increasing cost of health care to be a major problem. Concerns such as medical bankruptcy and unnecessary system complexity were identified to be major problems by 70% of the respondents.

Furthermore, 75% of the respondents indicated they believe universal health care is a desirable solution to the high cost and other problems that exist in our current health care structure; 62% of the respondents in this poll indicated they would probably or would definitely vote for a separate health care tax to provide care for everyone in the state. This support for a tax would be predicated upon the tax being equal to or less than that which is currently being paid out in premiums and out-of-pocket expenses. Additionally, respondents would want to see employers contributing an amount equal to what they are currently contributing to employees’ health care costs.

If you would like more information regarding health care reform or the results of the statewide poll, go to www.hcao.org or contact the Health Care Reform Action Team at Oregon Rural Action at 541-975-2411.

My Voice columns reflect the views of the author only.

My Voice columns should be 500-700 words. Submissions should include a portrait-type photograph of the author. Authors also should include their full name, age, occupation and relevant organizational memberships.

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