Already, the 2010 Affordable Care Act passed by Democrats in Congress has saved 36,036 West Virginia retirees a total of $23.5 million in prescription costs -- and extended medical insurance to 16,232 young adults in the Mountain State -- and provided preventive care to 246,500 West Virginia seniors.
Those estimates were released last week by West Virginians for Affordable Health Care, in support of the two-year-old reform that moved America closer to universal health insurance for all.
However, conservatives determined to kill universal care are pressing a U.S. Supreme Court appeal -- which begins hearings today -- with Mary Brown of Florida as the lead plaintiff.
When Brown originally sued, she and her husband operated an auto repair shop, but they lacked medical coverage. Their suit called the 2010 law unconstitutional because it would force them to obtain health insurance against their will.
Now, Brown and her husband have closed their auto shop and filed for bankruptcy, listing $4,500 unpaid medical bills among their debts. They expect someone else to be stuck for their health expense.
Unwittingly, the Browns demonstrate why America needs a nationwide health system covering everyone, as exists in other modern democracies.
Nearly every advanced nation except America considers medical care a human right, guaranteed to all. It's shameful that the world's richest country can't achieve what other nations do. It's shameful that America leaves 50 million "working poor" people defenseless against disease and injury. It's shameful that U.S. businesses are burdened with horrendous costs of insuring their workers.
The 2010 ACA reform relies on commercial insurance corporations for much coverage. A retired Charleston anesthesiologist, Dr. Hedda Haning, has entered the pending Supreme Court showdown. She signed a brief saying commercial insurers should be excluded, and America should have a government-run "single payer" plan covering everyone.
Dr. Haning said America pays twice as much for care per-capita, compared to other societies, yet Americans have poorer health. The solution shouldn't include profit-seeking insurance firms, she said. "We are dealing with the corporate takeover of medicine."
We agree. America needs a truly universal national system with power to drive medical costs downward. Care shouldn't enrich insurance corporation executives and stockholders. U.S. businesses shouldn't be required to insure their workers.
America already has enormous governmental coverage through Medicare for retirees, Medicaid for the poor, the CHIP program for children, V.A. care for veterans and numerous public employee insurance plans. Expanding Medicare to cover all 300 million Americans would provide a simplified, cost-cutting, national solution.
We can't guess how the Supreme Court will rule on the ACA. If the 2010 reform is struck down, Congress should move swiftly to replace it with a genuine universal plan.