TRENTON – Senator Ronald L. Rice, D-Essex, and a member of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee and Chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, issued the following statement today regarding the Committee’s approval, by a vote of 6-2, with 2 abstentions, of a Senate Committee Substitute for SR-47 and SR-100, his resolution calling on Congress to enact universal health insurance coverage in the United States:
“As folks around New Jersey are struggling to make ends meet, the high cost of health care is leaving many people without options. Particularly in urban areas, where unemployment is rampant, people are foregoing regular doctor’s check-ups and basic preventive care until they become so sick that they need to go to the emergency room.
“This model of health care is not only dangerous to the health of the people we represent, but also, increases the cost of care. What should have been a routine medical procedure becomes a much more serious and costly one to treat in the emergency room because the illness has been ignored for so long.
“Our hospitals cannot keep up with the huge influx of new patients, causing back-logs at our emergency rooms. They cannot afford the cost of charity care for the uninsured, and many of our urban hospitals are shutting their doors or hemorrhaging red ink because of the cost of unreimbursed care.
“There has to be a better way to address the health needs of our population.
“Fortunately, the discussion about a nation-wide universal health care system is progressing in Congress. In particular, H.R. 676, known as the ‘United States National Health Insurance Act,’ would create a Medicare system for everybody, covering the cost of primary and emergency care, prescription benefits, dental care and other medically-necessary procedures and treatments.
“The lack of affordable, accessible health care is a major crisis for the people I represent. These are folks who are living paycheck to paycheck if they have a job, or unemployment check to unemployment check if they don’t. They are literally living on the brink, and a health emergency or expensive hospital bill could push them over the edge into bankruptcy.
“For these people, we must act immediately to provide access to quality health coverage. The ‘United States National Health Insurance Act’ is our best chance at truly reforming health care in this country, putting the dollars we already spend on care to better use. Congress and the President must act immediately, before it’s too late for those people barely hanging on in this economic crisis.”