During the 2008 election the candidates, political pundits, and voters debated the best ways to overhaul a failing health care system that's leaving millions uninsured and countless others being refused care or paying far too much for premiums and medications.
As politicians continue to try come up with a compromise about how much health care coverage is paid for by the government and how much is private, one thing's for sure: If ever there was a time to seriously rethink our health care system, it's now. Lapses in coverage and out-of-pocket medical expenses could spell disaster for families already on the brink of financial catastrophe. With the highest unemployment rate in 15 years, more moms and dads lost their health insurance in 2008, adding to the already astronomical rising rates of uninsured.
Lack of insurance and gaps in coverage caused many families to go completely without preventive health care or to hold off on seeing a doctor until it became a must. That meant more people (including kids) showed up for care when they were sicker and needed pricier medical services. And emergency rooms, already financially strained and experiencing major shortages in doctors and nurses, are bearing the brunt of the burgeoning crowds. Even some families with health insurance decided to skip routine checkups, immunizations, and prescriptions as they tried to make ends meet.
Now, the new administration looks to restructure our ailing health care system as part of a financial stimulus package that could provide affordable health care and make a real economic difference for struggling families.
What to Watch:
The economy and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will still account for much of the attention and spending in the new administration. But lawmakers will have to move past their political differences to figure out the best way to cover the millions of uninsured kids, especially those of the working poor who don't qualify for Medicaid or can't afford private insurance.
Past attempts at solutions to overhaul our health care system haven't succeeded. But this time the new administration's proposed plan just might get the support it needs. For one, it wouldn't involve the whole-ball-of-wax universal coverage for everyone (a big concern for those worried about too much government control and skyrocketing costs for the taxpayer). However, the plan would include mandatory coverage for kids. Though the State Children's Health Insurance Program (or SCHIP) encountered opposition under President George Bush, the new administration will support expansion of federal funding for the program. The new administration's emphasis on preventing illnesses will be a key feature for controlling costs over the long run — screening and education about healthy lifestyle choices could result in fewer kids getting sick and developing often-avoidable conditions (like obesity and type 2 diabetes).
Whatever happens, kids don't vote and have no say in how or whether they'll be able to get the care they need to stay healthy now and as they grow. So parents — and politicians — must be even more proactive than ever about advocating for kids' health.
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