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The Huffington Post- Why Healthcare Can’t Wait

The Huffington Post- Why Healthcare Can’t Wait

By Andy Stern and Jeff Kindler
Through the years, there have been many issues where labor and

business don’t see eye to eye.

 Here’s one where we firmly agree: the

need to fix healthcare, now, not in spite of the economic crisis, but

because of it. America’s economic recovery depends upon solving the

healthcare emergency that is bankrupting families and eroding our

competitiveness in the global economy. Bringing healthcare security

to every American will help jump-start the nation’s recovery and

provide a foundation for new economic opportunity, innovation and

job growth.


The evaporation of nearly 600,000 jobs in January alone makes the

need for healthcare reform more urgent than ever. Each one percent

rise in the national unemployment rate strands a million more people

without health insurance. Even for many of the employed, healthcare

costs are outpacing income and forcing hard choices, such as taking

care of a family’s health or keeping a roof over its head.

President Obama is firm in his resolve to create a fair and sustainable

healthcare system and millions of Americans stand behind his vision.

Congress must take swift action to enact comprehensive healthcare

reform today.


Taking the right steps to reform and rebuild our healthcare system—

now— will put us on the road to a healthier, economically robust

America. There are rapid gains to be made. America loses an

estimated $207 billion every year due to the poorer health and

shorter lifespans of those lacking good coverage. Another $1.3 trillion

is lost through easily preventable and treatable chronic conditions,

such as hypertension, asthma and heart disease. Right now, we spend

only four cents of every healthcare dollar on prevention and public

health, opening the gates for the most expensive chronic diseases, and

paying heavily for the inevitable results.


Solving our healthcare crisis will do more than help rebuild this

economy. It will set the stage for the next. Our teaching hospitals and

medical centers educate and train the world’s most advanced

healthcare workforce, accounting for one out of every ten jobs in the

United States. A comprehensive approach to healthcare reform will

remedy workforce shortages, spur innovation, and add new job

opportunities in areas such as prevention, wellness and home-based

care. Helping Americans stay healthy will pay off now and for

generations to come. For example, reducing deaths from cancer or

heart disease by just one percent—readily attainable through

universal coverage—would be invaluable on a human level and worth

nearly $500 billion to current and future Americans.


With so much at stake, we must begin the work today to create a new

healthcare system that:

  • Provides affordable, comprehensive coverage for every man,

woman, and child in America

  • Builds on the strong foundation of employer-based coverage

  • Encourages continued innovation in prevention, wellness, and

disease treatment, and

  • Lowers overall costs, and increases the value of each healthcare

dollar spent.


At this critical moment for our nation—with jobs eroding month by

month—we can no longer afford a system that costs way too much,

excludes too many people, and fails to meet the most essential need of

American families—staying healthy.


A new healthcare system is within our reach. With the future of our

economy and the future of the American dream at risk, there’s no

more time to lose. We can change healthcare from what it is now—a

quagmire of expense and frustration—to what we know it can

become—a source of greater health, innovation and opportunity.


Andy Stern is President of the Service Employees International

Union, North America’s largest and fastest-growing union.

Jeff Kindler is Chairman and CEO of Pfizer, the nation’s largest

research-based biopharmaceutical company.