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Labor Day Reflections On U.S. Healthcare

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Monday September 7th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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Labor Day is more than just a mere day off, but a day to honor the men and women past and present who fought for labor reform. Part of the fight to obtain better working conditions and pay included the advent of Labor Day. In 1882, New York City workers took an unpaid holiday, calling it Labor Day. A year later, the Central Labor Union held a second Labor Day holiday. By 1885 Labor Day was “celebrated in many industrial centers of the country,” according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

In 1898, four years after President Grover Cleveland signed legislation making the first Monday of September a holiday, Samuel Gompers called it “the day for which the toilers in past centuries looked forward, when their rights and their wrongs would be discussed.”

Over 100 years has passed since the first Labor Day holiday, and today millions of Americans, possibly as many as 40 to 46 million, lack health insurance coverage. Almost a quarter of the respondents said someone in their household lost healthcare coverage during the past year because of losing or changing jobs. One-quarter said they were denied coverage in past year due to “pre-existing conditions.”

Even those with health insurance may not be able to have all of their medical needs met. More than one-quarter of the respondents to the 2009 Healthcare for America Survey sponsored by the AFL-CIO and Working America skipped basic health care services when sick. Forty-three percent with insurance said they are not able to obtain health insurance at an affordable price. Three-quarters (76 percent) of the respondents are dissatisfied with their household’s healthcare costs.

Healthcare costs continue to increase. Eighty-percent of the respondents said their healthcare costs increased the past year, and 34 percent said it increased a lot. Seventy-eight percent are somewhat or very worried about paying for healthcare.

An overwhelming majority of respondents (97 percent) said healthcare reform is urgent, and 83 percent said health insurers have too much influence on their healthcare and treatment. Two-thirds are dissatisfied with their healthcare coverage, and over one-third are dissatisfied with their household’s access to care and quality of care they receive.

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) sponsored a report about healthcare costs. According to the report, in 2007 the U.S. economy “lost as much as $207 billion as a result of the poor health and shorter lifespan of the uninsured.” Health insurance premiums in California, the most populous state, increased by 95.8 percent from 2000 to 2007. The median earnings only increased by 19.3 percent. Although the median yearly wage in 2007 for Californians was $30,702, the average healthcare premium for a family was $12,194.

Mark MClellan, director of the Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform, appeared on Bloomberg News last April to discuss the need for healthcare reform. He pointed out that healthcare costs are increasing “much faster than inflation,” citing it as the “main reason why the fiscal outlook for the government over the long term is tough.”


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