A Personal Story…Voice for the Uninsured – the Campaign

Nancy H. Nielsen, MD, PhD, President-Elect, American Medical Association

Nancy H. Nielsen, MD, PhD, President-Elect, American Medical Association

By Nancy H. Nielsen, MD
American Medical Association

(Nancy H. Nielsen, MD was a recent guest on the Health in 30 Radio show with Barbara Ficarra. Click here to read more and to listen to the show).

The American Medical Association wants to give a voice to the 47 million Americans without health insurance – because it has become too heavy a burden on too many hard-working people.

Recently, we launched a three-year national campaign to cover the uninsured. We’re doing this on behalf of the patients of America and the physicians who care for them. We call it the Voice for the Uninsured.

We know that millions of them delay care because they have no coverage. And as a result, they live sicker – and die younger.

In the past, the perception has been that the uninsured live in the shadows – the homeless, the downtrodden, the chronically unemployed.

That’s no longer true, if it ever was. Today, many Americans need look no further than their own families or working neighbors to find someone without health insurance. Eighty percent of the uninsured are in families that earn a paycheck.

In fact, 1 in 7 Americans now find themselves uninsured. That’s not just a statistic, it’s a tragedy.

One in 7 is 47 million Americans too many – and through our Voice for the Uninsured campaign, the AMA wants to make sure the uninsured are a priority in next year’s election.

By spotlighting this issue and putting a face on this very human condition – we seek to spur meaningful action toward a solution.

You may know one of the one in seven Americans without health coverage. You may be one of them. Once, I was one of them.

It makes this a deeply personal issue for me.

When I attended graduate school in Washington, D.C., I was uninsured during two pregnancies.

Those two children were delivered through public health clinics. Without coverage, that was my only option.

When my 14-month-old daughter had a fever of nearly 106 degrees, I had to take her to Children’s Hospital’s emergency department. For the rest of the month, I had no money for food for my kids.

If this can happen to me, it can happen to anyone.

The AMA and its quarter-million members have long been involved in developing practical solutions to the nation’s health care crises.

In early 2007, the AMA joined with 16 national health care stakeholders to reach consensus on recommendations to cover the uninsured. These recommendations include the core principles of the AMA’s proposal to get health coverage to all Americans.

As the 2008 presidential hopefuls develop their platforms for health care reform, the American Medical Association is adding our voice.

Under the AMA plan, the vast majority of Americans would have the means to buy health insurance through tax credits. It would give individuals choices, so they can select the appropriate coverage for themselves and their families. And it would promote needed market reforms in the insurance industry.

It’s a sensible, practical approach that builds on the strengths of the current system.

This campaign is rallying physicians, mobilizing patients, and amplifying the voices of voters on this crisis.

They deserve the candidates’ definite commitment to reduce the number of uninsured Americans.

We want to make sure the personal stories of the uninsured – are heard by the politicians and the pundits.

The AMA is in a unique position to ensure the candidates do just that – to keep our patients first and foremost in their proposals.

Every day in millions of ways – America’s doctors touch the lives of all Americans.

Those with health insurance and those without.

We not only know their health histories, their symptoms and the care we’ve prescribed –

We know them as individual men, women and children.

For the doctors of America, our ethic of caring and concern for our patients goes well beyond our encounters with them in the office or the hospital.

We want to make sure our public officials understand that concern – our call to ease the burden – and our plan to do just that.

While one in 7 Americans may not have health insurance – they do have a vote.

And we can help make their voices heard.

That is driving our three-year, multi-million dollar campaign – focused this year on Washington, DC, and the early presidential primary states. We’ll go national with this campaign in 2008.

Our ultimate goal is to enact legislation to cover the uninsured in 2009.

We want to make sure that when voters go into the booths in November next year, they will do so knowing they are voting for a candidate committed to helping America’s uninsured.

The AMA is reaching out to voters in early primary states and the nation’s capital –

To highlight this problem and offer a solution. To reach out to candidates and lawmakers, and encourage them to take a serious look at our proposal to cover the uninsured.

We’re running print and broadcast ads in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and the District of Columbia.

We have stationary and mobile billboards in the key primary states.

At the busy Metro Center subway stop in Washington, DC, we have scores of posters displaying the AMA’s ads – it’s called “station domination” – and the ads can be seen by more than 330,000 people a week.

We’re even distributing prescription bags to pharmacies stamped with the AMA’s Voice for the Uninsured message – for use in those same cities and states.

In conjunction with this effort, we’ve launched a dedicated website – www.VoiceForTheUninsured.org that includes a petition that patients and physicians can sign to support the AMA’s plan for coverage for all.

And, at the same time – the AMA is reaching out to doctors to involve them in the campaign.

We’re enlisting them – along with medical students – to become personal advocates in the public arena;

We’re asking them to give our materials to their patients – and report on their personal experiences.

In short – it’s a full-court press. An advertising blitz to get voters to talk – and candidates to act. For our leaders – finally — to listen to the voice of the uninsured.

Barbara’s Note:
For a complete comparison of the presidential candidates and for further information on the AMA’s proposal, please go to www.ama-assn.org or www.voicefortheuninsured.org.

Healthin30.com applauds the efforts of the AMA for providing information to the public on the issues surrounding the uninsured.

Healthin30.com welcomes different view points. Please contact us at Healthin30.com and share your thoughts and ideas.  If you’re an organization or association with a different point of view, please let us know.

As a registered nurse, a health care professional, it is vital that we (nurses and physicians) stand together for the good of the public and advocate for great health.

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