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Insurance or health? Which drives healthcare reform?

Posted Jun 25 2009 12:04pm

A new study released this week by the Employment Policies Institute questions the widely used estimate of 47 million uninsured Americans. The co-author of the study, June O’Neill, says that “more than 43 percent, or 18 million, of uninsured Americans ages 18-64, could likely afford health coverage and are actually ‘voluntarily uninsured.’”

The debate about universal access and healthcare coverage continues. Even with health premiums on the rise across the board, the authors of this study believe this subset of uninsured have “enough disposable income to purchase health insurance.”

“This study shows that we need to better understand America’s uninsured population and the factors affecting both coverage and access to care,” O’Neill said.

Perhaps we need to take a step back from the reform debate for a moment and truly consider the challenges that face us. In all of the talk about universal coverage, where is the talk about health?

Dr. Julie Gerberding, former head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, points out this fact: (0:54)

“Right now our international conversation is about healthcare reform and people are talking about affordable access to quality care. If you listen very carefully, however, mostly what they’re talking about is cost containment and how we move money around from one party to another to try to cover as many people as possible. That’s important, but it’s not about health, and I think one of the most important things we need to do is to introduce health as the overarching purpose for any of the changes that we’re considering in our health system, and that we use health as the driver of those decisions as well as the determinant of whether or not we’re successful.

We have a serious national health deficit and that deficit is not going to be repaired only by improving access to affordable healthcare insurance.”

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