Health care in Illinois – like the rest of the country – is facing enormous challenges. Close to 2 million Illinois residents are uninsured. These individuals are less likely to receive preventive care, are four times more likely to use emergency rooms, and are 50% more likely to be hospitalized for “avoidable conditions.” Not only are the uninsured lacking a basic human right, but costs from treating them leads to higher health care premiums for everyone. At the same time, costs of health care are increasing at an alarming rate. Increasingly, the concept of personal choice in health care has become a code word for co-pays andcontributions that lead to a form of under-insurance for even those families that have insurance. A recent report from the Congressional Budget Office indicates that if trends continue, Medicare and Medicaid spending alone will rise to about 20% of our national GDP.
Everyone has a basic human right to receive the health care they need, but better coverage alone – without system reform – will not suffice. Our health care system lacks basic information technology that delivers quality care and is burdened with high cost medical technology that is frequently under utilized. Our public health system does little to promote healthy lifestyles and prevention. And our mental health, nursing home, and hospital institutions may be increasing costs, spreading intractable communicable diseases, and unnecessarily reducing our freedom to live in our communities.