The consequences of failure

THE CONSEQUENCES OF FAILURE…. Frequently, when the political world ponders the consequences of health care reform’s possible demise, talk centers around electoral considerations. If reform fails, Democrats would look incompetent, the party’s base would feel demoralized, President Obama would suffer a devastating setback, policymakers will fear further efforts for at least 20 years, etc.

But health care is not principally about parties or electoral consequences; it’s about a failing system that costs too much, covers too few, and keeps getting worse. The AP’s Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar has a good piece today outlining exactly what would happen to the existing American health care system if Democratic policymakers come up short this year.

[T]here’s no doubting the consequences if lawmakers fail to address the problems of costs, coverage and quality: surging insurance premiums, more working families without coverage, bigger out-of-pocket bills, a Medicare prescription gap that grows wider and deeper, and government programs that pay when people get sick but do little to keep them healthy.

The AP piece takes a closer look at the consequences for a variety of key groups.

* Seniors: If the AARP-backed health care reform bill fails, older people will miss out on a chance to eliminate co-payments on preventive care. Even more importantly, the “doughnut hole” prescription coverage gap will get worse unless the Democratic plan becomes law.

* Workers: If health care reform fails, more Americans will go without the coverage they need, more families will face costlier bills if they get sick, and co-payments and deductibles will become even more costly. The total number of uninsured Americans will grow to 54 million people before the end of the decade.

* Those with health problems: If health care reform fails, Americans with pre-existing conditions will continue to struggle with either no coverage or coverage they can’t afford. Rescissions will also continue, leaving families with no insurance when they need it most. Those in their 50s and 60s should expect to pay premiums up to seven times higher than those in their 20s. Younger people who would be able to stay on their parents’ insurance if the Democratic plan becomes law would run the risk of getting left out.

* Employers: If health care reform fails, big employers will continue to pass on higher costs to their employees in the form of higher premiums and co-payments. Small employers will continue to drop coverage altogether.

This isn’t some fanciful nightmare — this is what has been unfolding for years after conservatives killed the last real effort to reform the dysfunctional system. The point is, the existing problems that everyone already hates will just keep getting worse, and everyone at every level of the debate knows it.

It’s a good time, then, to remind policymakers that for all of our sakes, they really need to pass … the … damn … bill.