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Thursday, March 11, 2010

The dangers of defeat

Colleen Haller

Staff Writer

After an exhausting year of debating health reform, we have finally reached the home stretch. We are closer than we have ever been to affordable, comprehensive health reform. However, opponents of reform continue to do everything in their power to delay, mislead, and disrupt the process. While they may score short-term political points, I have to wonder if they know what is truly at stake.

Families USA recently released a special report, The Dangers of Defeat: The Cost of Failure to Pass Health Reform, which lays out what failing to pass health reform would mean for the future of American health care: rising costs, insurance insecurity, increasing budget deficits, and more Americans dying prematurely due to a lack of health insurance.

Between 1999 and 2008, average annual family premiums more than doubled, and without health reform, premiums are projected to increase to more than $22,000 per year for families. Most families are already struggling with the high cost of premiums; further increases will price more and more Americans out of their health insurance. Health reform will not only stabilize premiums, but according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the legislation will put the breaks on the sky-rocketing premium increases.

Without health reform, insurance companies will continue to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions and charge higher premiums based on gender and health status. Out-of-pocket costs will soar and more Americans will either be forced to file bankruptcy or join the ranks of the uninsured. If all of that isn't enough to convince opponents of reform, perhaps the 68 Americans who die every day because they don't have health insurance will open people's eyes to the dangers of failure.

Health reform is about controlling costs, regulating insurance companies, and providing security to the millions of Americans who have private insurance. But, above all, health reform is about making sure that no more Americans will lose their lives because they don't have health insurance. There are few moments in history when we stand on the brink of positively changing the lives of millions, but this is our moment and we must succeed.