With a $1.4 billion budget shortfall and a loss of some 90,000 jobs last year, the economic situation in Tennessee continues to be dire. It doesn’t help that both of Tennessee’s senators – Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker – voted against creating 70,000 new jobs when they said “no” to the President’s economic recovery plan. But now the question becomes, “with the current economic crisis, can the country afford to make massive changes in our health care system?”
Well to hear our conservative friends tell it… heck no. And they wouldn’t lie to us, right? Seriously, the conservatives’ lack of credibility aside, let’s take a look at the hard facts and do the math on the cost of doing nothing when it comes to health care reform.
- FACT: In the past eight years, healthcare premiums for family coverage have risen more than five times faster than wages. With 7.9% unemployed, many families are at risk of losing their health coverage.
- FACT: If the state keeps losing jobs at the rate it did last year, by next year, 384,425 people in Tennessee will be unemployed by 2010. 48.35% of insured Tennessee residents depend on their employers for their health insurance. If nothing is done to stem the economic downturn and reform our health care system, 69,259 Tennessee workers will lose their current health coverage, meaning that 28,684 more people will likely enroll in COBRA. That leaves 40,611 people who will have to enroll in Medicaid, fend for themselves in the private market, or become uninsured.
- FACT: In Tennessee, approximately 1,301,000 non-elderly people spent more than 10% of their pre-tax family income on health care costs in 2008. 87% of those people have insurance, but are under insured. 1,133,000 Tennessee residents with insurance spent more than 10% of their pre-tax income on health care costs, and 333,000 spend more than 25% of their income. By 2016, projections show that Tennessee families will have to pay close to $19,400 for health care or over 44 percent of median household income. This would represent a 70 percent increase over 2008 levels.
- FACT: As of 2007 there were already 126,186 uninsured children in Tennessee, and more than 714,361 uninsured adults. 276,378 of uninsured adults in Tennessee also live below the Federal Poverty Line. Tennessee’s economy lost as much as $3.57 billion because of the poor health and shorter lifespan of the uninsured in 2007. That equates to $4,000 per uninsured Tennessee resident.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that skyrocketing health care costs add to families’ already overwhelming burden, threatening their health and financial security. The message is clear that we cannot get our economy back on track without repairing the American health care system.
We can do better, but not without a fight against the big moneyed interests who support people like Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker and their commitment to the status quo when it comes to America’s healthcare system. To find out how you can help in the fight to help solve our healthcare crisis, I encourage you to get involved with the Change That Works campaign here in Tennessee. Change That Works is a project of the Service Employees International Union and is committed to advocating at the grassroots level for quality, affordable healthcare for all. Contact their campaign office to find out to get involved at 615-244-9794 or visit online at www.changethatworks.net/tn.