The American Hospital Association gets a "C" for performance based on the results of its two-year Campaign for Coverage. But for effort, the AHA deserves a big, fat "A," simply because it had the guts to take on an issue to which most healthcare groups pay only lip service.
The Campaign for Coverage had hoped to expand health insurance coverage to 4 million Americans. The AHA says its drive added 2.5 million people to the rolls of the insured, some 1.5 million short of the stated goal.
Although AHA members worked diligently and creatively to provide insurance coverage to more of their patients and employees, the sad fact is the campaign made no headway in solving one of the nation's most chronic social and economic problems. The latest government figures show 43.4 million Americans have no health insurance coverage.
The number of uninsured is up nearly 20% since 1993, the year President Clinton introduced a health reform package that included universal coverage. The president's proposal went up in flames, largely because private sector employers and healthcare companies insisted the free market could do a better job of combating the system's ills.
Despite the boasts, the number of uninsured has grown because fewer employers are offering health benefits and more are hiring part-time employees or independent contractors-this, at a time when the unemployment rate is the lowest in four decades.
What will happen to health insurance benefits if an economic and unemployment downturn occurs? For providers, such a scenario could easily translate into a higher uncompensated-care load. For business, it could mean more government control, regulation and mandates.
While the private sector continues to duck the issue and healthcare groups thump their chests, the AHA has tried to do something. At the very least, its Campaign for Coverage should position hospitals for leadership when the country starts to take the problem seriously.