With the average annual health insurance premium for a family of four now costing $12,000, the burden of health care costs are no longer limited to those in poverty.  Health care costs, in fact, are a cause for poverty as people go into debt and bankruptcy due to high medical bills.  Westchester clinics, such as Open Door Family Medical Centers, have seen an increase in middle-income earners, including those making up to $70,000, who cannot afford the cost of health insurance or private health care.[i] Fifty-five percent of those treated at Open Door do not have health insurance.[ii]

For low-income earners, the state of health care often leaves them without any care at all.  Low-income earners are more likely to be affected by chronic and preventable diseases.[iii] Almost a quarter of hospitalizations in Westchester for children ages 1-12 are the result of asthma.  An estimated 11 percent of nonelderly Westchester residents are uninsured, including 235,000 children under the age of 18.[iv] The cost of uncompensated care provided to the uninsured in Westchester is approximately $107 million; statewide, the cost is $2.8 billion.[v]

In Westchester, small businesses are the dominant employers.  Nearly 90 percent of all businesses employ 20 people or fewer.[vi] The exorbitant cost of health care makes employer provided health insurance ideal for those looking for work, but as costs continue to skyrocket, small businesses face challenges in providing insurance for their employees.  Enacting a single-payer system would lift the financial burden of health care on small businesses and stimulate the economy.  View the Small Business Guide to Single-Payer here.

The health care crisis extends far beyond Westchester and New York State.  The United States faces a health care crisis of epic proportions that affects all levels of government—local, county, state and federal—businesses, and residents of all regions and socioeconomic levels.  The US is unique in that it spends more than any other nation on health care yet it remains the only industrialized country in the world that does not provide health care for all of its citizens.

The reason the US spends more and gets less than the rest of the world is because we have a patchwork system of for-profit payers. Private insurers necessarily waste health dollars on things that have nothing to do with care: overhead, underwriting, billing, sales and marketing departments as well as huge profits and exorbitant executive pay. Doctors and hospitals must maintain costly administrative staffs to deal with the bureaucracy. Combined, this needless administration consumes one-third (31 percent) of Americans’ health dollars.

As a result of the inadequate health care system in the U.S. nearly 50 percent of bankruptcies occur because of health care bills.  Of those bankrupted by health care bills, 3 out of 4 have health insurance.

We believe that health care is a human right, and everyone should have full access from “the womb to the tomb”, regardless of income, employment, age, residency, or household status.  We support a Single-Payer, universal health care system in which the government handles all billing and payment for health care services.

[i] Berger, Joseph.  “Caught in the Middle, Without Health Insurance.”  The New York Timeshttp://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/11/nyregion/westchester/11colwe.html?scp=3&sq=westchester%20health&st=cse,  January 8, 2009.

[ii] “Testimony Provides Insight into Pressures on Health Centers.”  Open Door Family Medical Centerhttp://www.opendoormedical.org/pdfs/LF%20Testimony%203-19-09.pdf.  March 19, 2009.

[iii] McClellan, Mark B. and Alice M. Rivlin.  “Building a Healthier America.”  McClatchy-Tribune. http://www.brookings.edu/opinions/2009/0403_healthieramerica_mcclellan.aspx.  April 3, 2009.

[iv] Lombardi, Katie Stone. “Report on Children Shows a Diverse County.” The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/13/nyregion/nyregionspecial2/13childrenwe.html?_r=1&scp=6&sq=poverty%20westchester%20county&st=cse.  April 13, 2008.

[v] “The Health Care and Social Costs of the Uninsured in New York State.”  Fiscal Policy Institute. http://www.fiscalpolicy.org/publications2007/FPI_CostsofUninsured_Dec07.pdf.  December 2007.

[vi] “An Economic Snapshot of Westchester County.”  Office of the State Comptroller. http://www.osc.state.ny.us/reports/economic/westchester.pdf. March 2008.