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Conservatives love to crow that the United States has "the best health care in the world." Yet these same conservatives overlook the fact that 47 million Americans lack any health insurance at all, leaving them shut out of access to this world-class health care.
Indeed, as Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Elizabeth Edwards told the Senate Health Committee today, "It doesn't matter what kind of services we have if we don't have access to them":
Health insurance matters. The quality of coverage, of course, matters, but health insurance itself is really crucial part of this. Probably the most preventable cause of unnecessary suffering in our health care system is the lack of adequate health insurance. We know how to lengthen and improve the lives of people with cancer. But we've chosen as a nation to turn our backs on some of us who have the disease. I urge you to reform health care responsibly, morally, and aggressively.
Edwards urged the senators to “build on the successful system of employer-based coverage, "a system that covers 158 million Americans" and that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has promised to completely dismantle. Instead, he has proposed a paltry $5,000 tax credit for individuals to fend for themselves in the health insurance market, even though the average annual premium of an employer-based insurance policy is $12,000.
Edwards also mentioned the disturbing disparities in access faced by minorities. FamiliesUSA writes, "Although racial and ethnic minorities constitute one third of the total U.S. population, they comprise more than one half (52 percent) of the uninsured population. In fact, in 2003, 23 million of the 45 million uninsured were racial and ethnic minority Americans." Rather than cover these people, McCain's plan could result in 158 million more Americans losing their health insurance.