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While politicians quibble over whether or not CEOs of
failing financial institutions be limited to a paltry $400,000 a year by the
impending federal bailout of investment banks, slated to cost American
taxpayers about $700 billion, these same taxpayers are having fundamental
problems paying for their own healthcare.

Two new studies released this week by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Center for Studying Health System Change estimate that 57
million Americans are living in families struggling to pay medical bills. Out of this 57 million, 43 million have health insurance coverage.

Health insurance, of course, is not the benevolent,
ubiquitous animal it once was. In
today’s America, having a well-paying, respectable job simply doesn’t translate
to having reliable health coverage, or really, having any coverage at all. While most large companies still provide their
employees with insurance, only about 60 percent of companies with fewer than
200 employees do. Those that do often
offset the cost by making employees chip in for premiums or shoulder large
deductibles. This year, one out of three
small business employees has a deductible of $1,000 or more. In 2007, it was one in five.

To make matters worse, the average total cost for family
health coverage has increased by 5 percent since 2007, to a whopping $12,680. Surveys say that one out of five American
families had problems paying medical bills last year. Over half of these families had to borrow more
money just to pay them, and 20 percent of them contemplated filing for
bankruptcy as a result of overwhelming medical expenses.

The unacceptable result of all this is that an increasing
number of Americans are foregoing expensive but much-needed drugs and
treatments, including those for serious conditions such as diabetes and high
blood pressure, which if left untreated can result in worsening conditions,
hospitalizations, or even death. The
problems in our health care system need to be addressed by Congress now.

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