Nurses: 'Court Ruling Does Not End Healthcare Crisis Or the Need to Continue the Campaign for Reform'

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The Supreme Court decision should not be seen as the end of the efforts by health care activists for a permanent fix of our broken healthcare system, said the nation's largest union and professional association of registered nurses today.

To achieve that end, the 175,000-member National Nurses United pledged to step up a campaign for a reform that is not based on extending the grip of a failed private insurance system, but "on a universal program based on patient need, not on profits or ability to pay. That's Medicare for all," said NNU Co-President Jean Ross, RN. "It is not time to stop, but a reminder to begin that effort anew."

"Nurses experience the crisis our patients continue to endure every day. That's the reason we will continue to work for reform that is universal, that doesn't bankrupt families or leave patients in the often cruel hands of merciless insurance companies," said NNU Co-president Karen Higgins, RN.

"Stepping up the fight for Medicare for all is even more critical in the midst of the still persistent economic crisis," added NNU Co-president Deborah Burger, RN, noting that nurses have seen broad declines in health status among patients related to loss of jobs, homes, and health coverage.

NNU has been holding free health screenings and hosting town halls on the ongoing healthcare crisis over the past two weeks – and hearing daily reminders of the ongoing plight of many patients. In addition, NNU will be joining with Michael Moore to host a national town hall later this summer.

"The continuing fiscal crisis at all levels of government and the anemic economic recovery remind us that rising healthcare costs and shifting costs to workers burden our society, cause much of these fiscal problems, and limit the opportunities for working people. Only real cost control through a national health program can solve this crisis. Improved Medicare meets that challenge," said Ross.

"Medicare is far more effective than the broken private system in controlling costs and the waste that goes to insurance paperwork and profits, and it is universally popular, even among those who bitterly opposed the Obama law," said Higgins. "Let's open it up to everyone, no one should have to wait to be 65 to be guaranteed healthcare."

The Affordable Care Act still leaves some 27 million people without health coverage, does little to constrain rising out of pocket health care costs, or to stop the all too routine denials of needed medical care by insurance companies because they don't want to pay for it.

"Some opponents of expanding Medicare to cover everyone dismiss the idea as out of reach. If political opposition is the criteria for social progress, we would never have outlawed Jim Crow segregation, or won enactment of voting rights for women, Social Security, and the original Medicare," said Burger.

"Nurses know how to fight for our patients. We fight every day to make sure our patients will get the care we need, and we are not about to stop," Burger said.

"The healthcare crisis is greater than ever, say nurses who see patients in distress every day. After all the attention on the court ruling fades, the problems will remain," said Higgins.

"We will continue to see a steady stream of employers dropping health coverage or shift more and more costs to their employees."

"Even after this decision," said Higgins, who was at the Supreme Court when the ruling was announced, "we will continue to see patients who postpone filling prescription medications, or delay doctor-recommended diagnostic procedures or even life saving medical treatment because of the high out of pocket costs, or families faced with the terrible choice of paying for medical care or food or clothing, or who delay payment on medical bills at the risk of bankruptcy or a destroyed credit rating." 

"We will continue to see hospitals, insurance companies and drug companies engage in price gouging and insurance companies refusing to authorize treatment recommended by a doctor under the pretext it was 'experimental' or 'not medically necessary,' euphemisms for care that doesn't meet the real test of a profit driven bottom line. "

"And we will continue to see the US from falling farther behind other countries in a wide range of health barometers, including life expectancy, deaths of women of child bearing age, and long waits for care, even though we spend twice as much per capita or more than those other nations," Higgins said.

The US outspends all other nations per capita on care, yet trails dozens of other nations, which have a national system, such as our Medicare program, in a wide array of vital barometers, including life expectancy. While some of those countries are also mired in economic troubles due to the global banking crash, the presence of a national health system has softened the blow on peoples' health.

NNU is joining one of the first post-decision public events Saturday, a fifth anniversary of Michael Moore's film "SiCKO" chronicling the healthcare crisis. The event, featuring Moore and several of the real life stars of the film who continue to struggle with multiple problems in the health care system, will be held in Philadelphia at 7 p.m. at the Plays and Players Theater, 1714 Delancey St. 

For more on the nurses campaign, see NursesHealAmerica.org.