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Do You Remember Harry and Louise?

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Until you fall off a chair while trying to change a light bulb, wind up at the hospital with a broken arm and a concussion, and see a nurse standing over you asking for your health insurance card, you may not care to read further.

Harry and Louise were on TV as a middle-class married couple complaining about the complexity of Bill Clinton's Health Security Act. They sat in their living room talking about the hidden costs and loss of provider choice that the Clinton health plan might force on them. They worried that the act would become a new billion-dollar bureaucracy. And we all believed it. Clinton's Health Security Act, assuring health care for all Americans, was killed.

We didn't know that The Health Insurance Association of America (HIAA) spent $10 million in 1993 and 1994 on those Harry and Louise ads. We didn't know that HIAA represents the health insurance industry, whose website now is AHIP means America's Health Insurance Plans, the product of the 2003 merger of the American Association of Health Plans and the Health Insurance Association of America. On the AHIP website they say their goal:
Our goal is to provide a unified voice for the health care financing industry, to expand access to high quality, cost effective health care to all Americans, and to ensure Americans' financial security through robust insurance markets, product flexibility and innovation, and an abundance of consumer choice.

Does that goal say that they want health care for everybody? It sounds like they want high profit for their corporate members. They also say that they have 1,300 member companies and give health care benefits to more than 200 million Americans. What happens to the other 100 million America's Population was 298,444,215 in CIA's July 2006 estimate. 42 million are covered by Medicare and 5.5 million have Medicaid and Medicare.
In 2005, 47 million Americans, including 8 million children were uninsured. Many other people, who have insurance with an AHIP corporation (200 million), have inadequate insurance. AHIP's insurers refuse to cover other people, who may have a pre-existing condition, such as childhood asthma or an allergic reaction. In the 2004 Economic Report of the President, they say that people remain uninsured as a matter of choice. Have you been without health insurance? Was that your choice? Who was the president asking?

The United States spent an average of $6,102 a person (1.8 billion for all persons; compare to Iraq War 300 billion) on health care in 2004, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Canada spent $3,165 a person, France $3,159, Australia $3,120 and Britain just $2,508.
Life expectancy in the United States was slightly lower than it was in those other countries in 2004 and the United States had a higher rate of infant mortality. Those countries, which have single-payer health care systems, spend half of what we spend and get better health care. Single-payer means that everyone pays one insurer like the government or a public agency. Medicare is a single-payer system.
Reasons for the high cost of health care in the United States include the many administrative inefficiencies (including paperwork that doctors and hospitals have to do), lack of preventive care, and fragmentation of the American system-the many corporations of AHIP, whose profit margins are their first priority. Their costs include advertising like Harry and Louise, excessive salary and retirement plans, and lobbying congress. None of the other countries have to pay these costs.

This is what is happening about health care now in 2007. Democrats in Congress are talking about health insurance for all children. John Edwards, who has announced he is running for president, is calling for universal health care. Massachusetts plans to cover all its uninsured residents. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon has introduced a health care plan for the nation. Here is the problem with these plans: they are trying to appease the health care corporations (AHIP) by funneling money through them instead of using a single-payer system. The Massachusetts plan and Senator Wyden's plan funnel the money through private insurance companies. The health care industry would lobby vigorously against a plan that doesn't funnel money through them. A corporation is designed to make money. These reformers are trying to avoid this backlash from the insurance industry. Bill Clinton tried to get the health care industry to support his plan by not using a single-payer approach. Instead, he had a complicated plan to include the health care industry funneling money. In spite of Clinton's effort, AHIP killed the bill. For more information, see In 1993 Harry and Louise worried that you wouldn't be able to see your own doctor under Clinton's health care plan. In 2007, you worry that you won't be able to see any doctor at all.

If you fell from a chair and the nurse asked you for your health insurance card when you did not have one, or if your card did not cover your injury, your card costs so much you had to stop your insurance, or you care about the people who cannot get health care for other reasons, we take action now. We can ask Mike Crapo, Larry Craig, and Mike Simpson to work with Senator Ron Wyden to make his bill a single-payer plan or create a bill that is a single-payer plan. We can sign a petition with our wish and send it to them. When the health care industry lobbies congress to kill the bill or if Harry and Louise return to TV, we can tell our elected officials that we want them to ignore the lobbies and we can ignore Harry and Louise. When we understand the issues, we can take action. More information at
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