Healthcare Reform: A Major Issue for Muslims
by Waheedah Muhammad
Prophet Muhammad (saws) understood and took a stand on the social issues of his day. He weighed in on issues that affected the lives of everyday people. As Muslims, who follow his example, we must also know and understand the social issues of our time and speak to the issues that affect the lives of everyday people. Healthcare reform is an issue that would have concerned our Prophet (saws).
Working Families Suffer the Most
One of the greatest injustices in the richest country in the world is that 46 million of her citizens live without healthcare—a number that is predicted to grow by 26 million, to an astonishing 72 million by 2040. Who is affected? Working families represent 80 percent of the uninsured: working husbands, wives, fathers, mothers and their children. Working families lucky enough to have employee based health benefits struggle under the burden of healthcare premiums that have doubled since 2000—a rate three times that of their wages! Add to these growing numbers those families for whom skyrocketing healthcare costs will mean economic disaster if major illness strikes any family member; and credibility evaporates for anyone who promotes American family values with one voice and fights healthcare reform with another. (Source:www.HealthReform.gov).
Costs Skyrocket as Quality Nosedives
According to kaiseredu.org, health care costs have been spiraling at an alarming rate for years: “Expenditures in the United States on health care surpassed $2.2 trillion in 2007, more than three times the $714 billion spent in 1990, and over eight times the $253 billion spent in 1980.” These costs have had a devastating effect on the American economy and, “Stemming this growth has become a major policy priority, as the government, employers, and consumers increasingly struggle to keep up with health care costs.” How does our health care spending compare with other countries? In 2007, U.S. health care spending was about $7,421 per resident and accounted for 16.2% of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP); this is among the highest of all industrialized countries.
The Economist (www.economist.com) compared US healthcare cost to other rich countries: “Americans pay much more for health and yet are not as healthy for it.” One example compared American infant mortality (5.7 per 1,000 in 2007) to other countries and found the overall infant mortality rate to be significantly lower (4.0). Economist Alan Garber, of Stanford University, writing in the Journal of Economics argued that America’s health system was “uniquely inefficient”, producing too little per unit of input and consuming far too much of the country’s resources
Healthcare coverage denied based on age, status of health or other arbitrary standards is symptomatic of a healthcare system badly in need of reform. A new report, “Coverage Denied: How the Current Health Insurance System Leaves Millions Behind”—which details how insurance companies use “rescission” to discontinue, deny, or to artificially inflate healthcare premiums—discusses a recent Congressional investigation into this practice which found nearly 20,000 rescissions from three large insurers over five years that represented a denial of over $300 million in medical claims. These denials were made to patients desperately in need of medical attention, even though they may have paid premiums for years prior to diagnosis of the “pre-existing” condition. (Read full report at: www.healthreform.gov/reports/denied_coverage)
Know the Issues
As the big guns of the health insurance industry—determined to maintain the status quo—pony up millions to fight an administration determined to win a battle for a government backed healthcare alternative—the American public is being bombarded by misinformation and strident voices attempt to shout down thoughtful discussion. But, we cannot allow this vital issue to become mired in partisan politics. There is too much at stake for the health of our citizenry and the health of our economy.
Healthcare reform is a complex issue. But, we must first make every effort to be well informed, and to understand particularly the jeopardy facing the uninsured or underinsured and what is at stake for an already shaky economy in terms of spiraling healthcare costs, and loss of productivity. Then, we must demand that our representatives take steps to alleviate the suffering and economic burden inadequate healthcare places on each of us—directly or indirectly.
To read the latest developments and to get an overview of the debate surrounding healthcare reform, go to this link.
Speak up for Change
As Muslims, we must stand up to challenge a status quo that benefits the entrenched interests of a few, while ignoring the suffering of many. We are obligated to tell our public officials that we will no long tolerate their use of healthcare reform as a partisan football in a game that scores points at the advantage of the American public. Let’s demand that our representatives work together for comprehensive healthcare reform that will avert the economic catastrophe that surely awaits us if they do not arrive at a solution that guarantees affordable, quality healthcare coverage for every American citizen.
Contact your representative and send them your thoughts on Healthcare here:
May Allah ta’ala guide us to what is just and right; and give us the strength and courage to follow the example of our beloved Prophet (saws) in fighting the injustices around us.