Business, Labor Leaders Urge Action to Address ‘Quiet Crisis’ of the Uninsured
Thomas Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO, call on Americans to help solve the "quiet crisis of the uninsured" in a Washington Post opinion piece today (Donohue/Sweeney, Washington Post, 2/12). The Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO are participating in a national coalition of business, union, consumer, medical and insurer organizations that are calling on Congress to offer an "array of other proposals" to reduce the number of people without insurance. The coalition is kicking off a campaign today that will feature television and print advertisements calling attention to the issue (California Healthline, 2/11). In today's opinion piece, Donohue and Sweeney ask representatives from business and labor groups to "sit side by side" and "wor[k] through" the issue. "We have different perspectives on the problem," they write. "Though we will undoubtedly disagree on specific solutions, our unified goal is to make the problem of the uninsured our nation's top priority and to help America solve it" (Washington Post, 2/12). The other groups participating in the coalition include The Business Roundtable, the Service Employees International Union, the American Nurses Association, the American Medical Association, the Health Insurance Association of America, the American Hospital Association, the Federation of American Hospitals, the Catholic Health Association, AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
At least 40.4 million Americans were uninsured as of Jan. 31, including two million who lost coverage in the recession of the past 13 months. According to Dr. Henry Simmons, president of the National Coalition on Health Care, an additional six million will become uninsured by the end of this year (American Health Line, 2/11). But Donohue and Sweeney write that the problem exists even during good economic times -- in the 1990s the number of people without health insurance increased by 10 million. A "larger and longer-term problem" is the increasing number of workers without health insurance, the article states. Eight out of 10 uninsured people in this country are in "working families with modest incomes." As health insurance premiums rise -- they went up 11% last year -- employers are "in a bind" and "face tough choices." The uninsured situation is "untenable" because it is an indirect tax on the insured "as costs are passed along to providers, insurers, businesses and consumers." Donohue and Sweeney conclude, "We've seen America come together to ensure the security of our nation. Let's build on the can-do spirit to ensure health security for our families" (Washington Post, 2/12).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.