Heal Health Care

January 31, 2009 - Dailycomet.com
By Billy Tauzin

The drumbeat of news about the ailing U.S. economy constantly reminds us all about the uncertainties we will continue to face if Congress and the Obama Administration do not act swiftly on an economic-recovery plan. The majority of Americans agree that fixing the economy is a top priority for lawmakers early this year, and agree that comprehensive health reform should be a key element of any broad economic recovery effort. Our nation’s leaders must listen and act sooner rather than later, to create a 21st century U.S. health-care system.

I have always believed in the saying that a sick America is destined to be a poor America. Rising health-care costs are becoming an increasing burden on government, businesses — both large and small — and families across the country. With more and more Americans losing their jobs, health-insurance coverage is disappearing for millions of American families, leaving them without access to much needed health-care services.

Public data suggest that millions of Americans, including more than 840,000 Louisianans, don’t have health-insurance coverage, forcing many to delay or forego the health care they need to live longer, healthier and more-productive lives. This is simply unacceptable. We urge Congress to pass a comprehensive health-reform bill that addresses the widening health-care coverage gap so that all Americans can access high-quality and affordable health-care coverage.

We also believe that any comprehensive health reform plan must focus on preventing chronic disease from occurring in the first place.

One of the biggest health threats we face today is chronic disease, which is the leading cause of death and the number one driver of health-care costs in the U.S. — it accounts for 75 percent of the nation’s overall health-care spending.

In Louisiana alone, more than 2.5 million cases of seven common chronic diseases were reported in 2003. What’s more, the impact of lost workdays and lower employee productivity as a result of chronic disease such as cancer and diabetes resulted in an annual economic loss in America of $277 billion, including $17.4 billion in Louisiana.

The fact is that the vast majority of chronic conditions can be prevented or better managed — 80 percent of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes and 40 percent of cancer cases — if Americans stop smoking, improve their diet and engage in regular exercise.

There may never be a stronger consensus than there is now around the need to make quality, affordable health care available to American families. If health reform is not accomplished in the very near future, there will continue to be a tremendous burden placed on our health care system and our economy. For this reason, it is critical that Congress enact comprehensive health-care reform to help revive the U.S. economy and provide health-care security for all Americans.

Billy Tauzin

President and CEO

Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America

Washington, D.C.

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