The people vs. health insurance

A battle we can’t afford to lose

Dr. Walid Faraj practices family medicine at Northern Valley Indian Health in Chico and is an active member of the California Physicians Alliance.

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The Health Care Security Now! Regional Conference will be Saturday (May 9), 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., at 170 Holt Hall, Chico State University.

These unprecedented times sadly reveal how much infinite greed and deplorable inefficiencies there are at the core of large corporations, and the private health-insurance industry is no exception.

Currently in the United States, there are more than 1,300 health-insurance companies, each spending heavily on advertising, administrative overhead, and CEO salaries and bonuses. The average overhead for commercial health-insurance carriers is 19.9 percent (investor-owned Blue Cross/Shield is 26.5 percent), while Medicare—a single-payer health-insurance system administered by the government—is only 3 percent.

In light of rising health-care costs, and to increase profit, the health-insurance industry has opted to deny coverage to people who need it most and increase premiums for healthier patients. These premiums have grown by more than 100 percent since 2000, and will continue increasing every year. This way of administering health care is not sustainable.

As a result of these rising costs, about 75 million Americans are either uninsured or underinsured. Furthermore, even a larger portion of our population is bypassing basic check-ups, medications and preventative care because they cannot meet their deductible or simply cannot afford it.

This trend has helped place the U.S. first in total health-care spending, but last among 19 industrialized countries in reducing preventable deaths from curable causes.

Our current health-care system is broken. To their credit, many lawmakers have proposed plans for health-care reform. The three leading proposals—President Obama’s Sen. Kennedy’s, Sen. Baucus’—although well-meaning, all share a critical flaw. They all keep the private health-insurance industry in the driver’s seat administering health care. At this pivotal moment in U.S. history, we cannot afford to fail.

We, as Americans, owe it to ourselves and our children to demand from our lawmakers a health-care system free from corporate greed and waste, that is not only affordable but also ensures 100 percent comprehensive health care for all. By doing without the health-insurance industry, a single-payer system would provide for all this, while also stimulating job growth and the entire U.S. economy by removing the burden of health-care costs from business.

Detailed proposals on how this can be achieved already exist at both the California state level (SB810) and federal level (HR676 and S703). To learn more about the single-payer solution and other health-care proposals, please join us Saturday at Chico State for the Health Care Security Now! Regional Conference. (For more details visit

Through knowledge, we become empowered to see beyond the status quo.