The Baffling Politics of Health Care (or lack thereof)

Where’s the pressure to change the US’s creaking health care system? I simply do not understand how this country’s leading politicians continue to avoid political pressure on this issue. Take a look at this selection of today’s news stories:

Health care is a problem for the middle class:

Study: Health costs spur bankruptcy

Half of all U.S. bankruptcies are caused by soaring medical bills and most people sent into debt by illness are middle-class workers with health insurance, researchers said Wednesday.

…The researchers got the permission of bankruptcy judges in California, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas to survey 931 people who filed for bankruptcy. “About half cited medical causes, which indicates that 1.9 to 2.2 million Americans (filers plus dependents) experienced medical bankruptcy,” they wrote. “Among those whose illnesses led to bankruptcy, out-of-pocket costs averaged $11,854 since the start of illness; 75.7 percent had insurance at the onset of illness.”

For corporate America:

Health care costs pinch profits

Wake-up calls usually are loud and jarring, which explains why so much attention is being paid to General Motors Corp.’s warning that soaring health care costs are hurting its bottom line.

…Employer-sponsored health care premiums for a family of four rose 11.2 percent to $9,950 from the spring of 2003 to the spring of 2004, the fourth consecutive year that companies and their employees have seen a double-digit increase in such costs… When announcing earlier this month a 37 percent drop in fourth-quarter earnings, GM cited its jump in health care costs as one of the primary reasons for the decline.

And even the wealthy seem to be worrying about it:

Millionaires Worry Health Care Costs Will Affect Retirement

Northern Trust’s new survey of 1,312 millionaire investors, representing more than $7 billion of total investable assets, revealed that 92 percent of non-retirees are very worried or somewhat worried that rapidly rising health care costs will affect their ability to enjoy retirement. Most (88 percent) retired millionaires, 55 and older, are similarly worried, as are nearly all (96 percent) baby boomer millionaires (age 54 and under).

When I read stories like these, one after another (and I’m sure there are lots more every day), I am utterly baffled as to why there is no major outcry to enact significant changes in the way this country provides health care.