Long or catastrophic illness: Insurance often not enough

Expanding healthcare coverage and making it affordable for all Americans will be a formidable and costly challenge for the Congress and administration. And as the discussion before the Senate Finance Committee now moves from delivery reform to coverage issues, we must be certain that affordability of coverage is not the last issue decided — with the last dollars left on the table.

At the American Heart Association, we hear hundreds of different stories from patients who suffer from heart disease and stroke. But there is one common denominator: the high costs of care. Rising health insurance premiums, deductibles and co-pays, combined with caps on specific services and limits on lifetime benefits, make it nearly impossible for anyone with a long-term or catastrophic illness to survive both financially and physically.

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The uninsured and underinsured with cardiovascular disease suffer worse medical outcomes than their counterparts who enjoy affordable, adequate coverage. The uninsured with cardiovascular disease experience higher mortality rates, poorer blood pressure control and greater neurological impairments after stroke.

According to a recent poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, high healthcare costs have led six in ten Americans to delay or skip medical care in the last year. And with the economic downturn, millions of Americans are joining not only the rolls of the unemployed but also the ranks of the uninsured and underinsured. These people are more likely to postpone preventive screenings that can help detect and reduce risk factors for heart disease and stroke, which over time can lead to costly interventions or even premature death.

It’s critical that Congress begins a discussion of coverage issues by adopting a reasonable standard for affordability, including adequate subsidies for low- and moderate-income individuals and families. The child born with a congenital heart defect should not plunge his or her parents into debt because their policy’s lifetime limits were exceeded before a first birthday could be celebrated. The family who worked and saved for their children’s college education and their own retirement should not lose everything because of a disabling heart attack or stroke.

To be more than an empty promise, affordable, meaningful coverage is essential if we are to fix our broken healthcare system and deliver real and lasting health care reform.

Dallas

Sessions’s rise strengthens GOP’s hand on Judiciary

From Michael Crist

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With the ascension of Sen. Jeff Sessions (Ala.) to the senior Republican seat on the Judiciary Committee, the Republicans have a more solid minority block on the committee than they did with Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.).

While they may not be able to filibuster nominees in the full Senate, the Republicans certainly can filibuster the nominee in committee.

To end a filibuster in the committee, there needs to be ten votes for closure and one of those votes must be from the minority party. If they chose to play hardball with the Democrats and stay united, Republicans can bottleneck any objectionable nominees in committee, thus keeping them from reaching the full Senate. Now, this power should only be used judiciously (no pun intended) on the most extreme Obama candidates, but is a procedural tool that the Republicans should not be shy about using.

Arlen Specter may have done his old party a great favor by becoming a Democrat.

Longmont, Colo.

Obama’s soft stance on Iran threatens Israel

From Helen Logan

The prelude to World War II was the sweet-nothings uttered to the world by British Prime Minister Chamberlain about Hitler’s Nazi Germany. While Chamberlain told the world Hitler was just a benevolent presence, the Nazi regime was constructing concentration camps, and armaments for war and conquest.

Obama’s soft stance with Iran and Syria forces Israel to stand alone for its survival in this region. Israeli President Peres alerts the world to this fact when he says to Iran, “If you use a nuclear weapon, no matter against whom, you’ll get a nuclear response.”

President Bush’s hard stance with Iran kept this extremist country at bay. Obama’s diplomacy echoes Chamberlain’s footsteps and emboldens Ahmadinejad’s plan to conquer the Middle East and purge Israel from it.

Fullerton, Calif.