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Real Health Care Reform Now

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Benjamin Todd Jealous, President of the NAACP
Over 880,000 African Americans died in just ten years in the 1990s because they lacked access to health insurance. That’s more people than could fit in Yankee Stadium 15 times.  Over eight million children in America still don’t have health insurance now.  It’s estimated that 45,000 people die every year because they have no health insurance.

People like Robert Floyd who had kidney cancer, lost sight in one eye and was having other eye problems.  While his wife had insurance, once the insurance company found out about his condition they raised the rate to $4,000 a month and said the policy couldn’t cover kidney or eye problems.  Because of his disability he can’t work and the family is now on a waiting list for a state program where they could buy coverage for about $370 a month. While he’s waiting he will get worse and he could die joining the thousands of others who have lost their lives.

The human toll is coupled by the financial cost.

When insurance companies rule, they have no competition and no impetus to lower costs or create access. Their job is to make money and we are their profit center. If we get too sick, the profits they make on us go down so they create all kinds of clauses to deny sick people coverage, keep premiums high and maximize their profits. The average salary for the CEOs of the top health insurance companies is over 14.7 million dollars.

That’s why we need a change. It’s not acceptable for people in the wealthiest country in the world to die because they can’t afford to see a doctor in time.

And now we have a chance to change it.

But it won’t happen without activism and our voice. President Obama cannot do it alone. Without us actively involved, the lobbyists’ money will win and health care reform will fail.

We are fighting for a strong public option in the current bills moving through Congress. It is the only measure in the bill that will assure real competition and keep health care affordable and accessible. It is a step forward in taking the profit out of the equation and allows people who cannot afford private health insurance and are not eligible to Medicaid to still have coverage.

A strong public option creates choice, competition and helps level the playing field for individuals and insurance companies. Think of the public option as the equivalent to the United States Postal Service, you are not forced to pay exorbitant costs for UPS or FedEx, because you have the option to send mail with a $.44 stamp.  The public option would do the same, offer an affordable alternative.

We all stand to benefit from changes being considered by Congress. Those of you who have health insurance stand to gain in the way of lower cost, better coverage and more choices. If sweeping reform is achieved, you will no longer have to foot the bill in higher premiums and prices to make up for the unpaid expenses of others.

Many in Congress would water the public option down or eliminate it all together. We have to say no. We have to say no more Robert Floyds. No more unnecessary deaths. No more insurance company domination.  That is why the NAACP has joined with the National Urban League, National Conference of Black Mayors, National Coalition for Civic Participation and the Black Leadership Forum and over 50 other civil rights groups to open up a war room in Washington DC. At our war room we are phone banking urging people to let their voice be heard, educating people on the health care reform bills and coordinating rallies with our communities around the country.

But it won’t happen without you.  Together we are the soldiers that have always made our country greater.  Whether we were fighting for voting rights or the desegregation of our schools, or to save an innocent man on death row..The difference between winning and losing was you. Raise your voice now. You can contact your congressional representative by calling 1-866-783-2462 or visit www.NAACP.org/880.

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