Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Obligatory post

I know you've already read about this, but I guess I have a moral obligation to comment. The new Current Population Survey finds that the percentage of Americans without health insurance has risen year-to-year from 15.6% to 15.9%. (That's from 2004 to 2005. I shudder to think what it is now.) The main reason this is happening is that a smaller percentage of jobs come with health insurance, and those that do offer require higher employee contributions which many low wage workers simply cannot afford.

The poverty rate held steady (which is a disgrace in a period of substantial economic growth) but that's actually bad news for the health insurance story because people whose incomes are above the official poverty line are generally ineligible for Medicaid benefits, even if they are categorically eligible (i.e., elderly, disabled, pregnant or receiving TANF, or under 18), although children up to 200% of poverty may be eligible for SCHIP if their parents or guardians can afford to make their required contribution.

What we're seeing is low unemployment, but more and more crappy jobs without health care benefits. The system of employer-provided insurance is imploding, but there seems to be no urgency to do anything about it. Why Democrats can't get it together to come up with solutions and campaign on this issue is a profound mystery.

Oh wait -- they have to raise money too. Also, they're terrified of a return visit from Harry and Louise. (For those of you who are too young to remember, that's the phony couple the insurance industry hired to scare the shit out of people about the Clinton health care reform plan.)

Back when I was a youngster, we had a civil rights movement, and an anti-war movement, and a women's movement, and a poor people's movement in this country, and they actually did succeed in changing some things. I'm perfectly willing to grow what's left of may hair long, put on a tie-dyed T-shirt, and learn the chords to some Pete Seeger songs, if that's what it takes. Let's make something happen.

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