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