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By Tracy Emblem

November 7, 2009 (San Diego)-- Congressman Brian Bilbray says the health bill in Congress is expensive, bloated and wasteful and publicly asks us: "How will America pay for the Affordable Health Care for Americans Act?" Yet, he does not acknowledge some causes for our escalating health care costs or offer any leadership solutions on how to solve the problem.


First, he fails to acknowledge that insurance companies have absolutely no incentive to keep costs and premiums low because they are not subject to anti-trust laws. The anti-trust laws exist to protect the consumer. Yet in 1945, Congress passed the McCarran-Ferguson Act which has shielded health insurance companies from prosecution for bid rigging, price fixing premiums and creating their own protected markets for almost 65-years.


He also fails to recognize that taxpayers are already paying for health care. The poor have access to health care through Medicaid and the elderly are covered by Medicare. However, for the rest of us, between 1999 and 2008, the yearly premiums for family coverage went up 119 percent, while the inflation rate was only 22.1 percent. Our employers cannot continue to pay for the escalating health care costs and neither can our taxpayers. When we go without health care coverage, taxpayers end up paying the higher price in emergency rooms and for hospitalization instead of for less expensive preventative care.


Bilbray serves on the House Committee on Oversight. However, he has not undertaken any evaluation of where our taxpayer money could be better spent. According to the Center for Defense, the estimated war-related costs in Iraq for the fiscal years 2003 through 2009 totaled $1,631.6 trillion. Where was the Congressman's leadership in 2006 through 2009 while we have been exporting huge amounts of taxpayer funding to build Iraq?


Bilbray also ignores the hidden cost of our energy policies from burning oil and coal fossil fuels. Recently, in response to a request from Congress, the National Academies of Science released an estimate of our hidden health care costs from pollution and fossil fuels - $120 billion annually--which does not include the impact of climate change.


Doing nothing is simply not the answer. As more and more people die and more and more workers and families lose their health care coverage along with their jobs, we need to search for solutions. Governments of all other industrialized countries have found it less expensive to provide comprehensive universal coverage. This is because the real cost containment solution must be employed through a universal public option. The "public option" may not be popular with the insurance industry but it is the most cost effective approach to health care.


The California Nurses Association, in conjunction with the Institute of Health & Socio-Economic Policy and a number of advisory boards, outlined a plan worth evaluating for the cost-effective delivery of health care. If we cannot fix the problem through Congress, individual states should have the right to implement their own public plan such as SB 810, a bill proposed in California. We must triage our taxpayer dollars and begin to consider policies which put people and American families first.

Tracy Emblem is an attorney and a Democratic candidate for U.S. Congress, California's 50th District.  The opinions expressed here reflect those of its author and do not necessarily reflect the views of East County Magazine. If you wish to submit an editorial for consideration, please contact editor@eastcountymagazine.org


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