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Health insurance reform is not a new idea

Sides have been chosen in the national fight to reform health insurance.

The New York Times called it “a battle between individualism and socialization in medicine which promises to be of long duration.”

Long duration is right.

Those words were used in the New York Times on Dec. 4, 1932 – almost 77 years ago – in an article headlined, “Shall Medicine Be Socialized?”

That long-ago article shows how health care in America has become far more sophisticated – and far more expensive – over the past three generations. Back then, the average American physician earned $5,300 per year – and the average American spent $30 annually on health care.

But many of the concerns expressed in 1932 remain today.

In 1932, the newspaper referred to “a crisis in medical service.” Unless we make reforms, we are facing a crisis in delivering effective and affordable health care today.

In 1932, they worried the government would become involved in the “highly personalized relation between physician and patient.” That same concern exists today.

In 1932, there were concerns about “the perplexing problem of providing adequate medical care for all persons, at costs within their means.” That is precisely the conundrum we face today.

Last month, a Tucson father who was desperate called my office.

His wife has cancer. One of his young daughters has an incurable disease. He was recently laid off and lost his health insurance.

This father was forced to find three new jobs to make ends meet – including one that offered health insurance. But coverage for his family was denied because of their pre-existing medical conditions.

Now his daughter hasn’t had treatment for her illness in more than nine months and the family has lost their home to foreclosure.

There can be no doubt that our health insurance system is failing us. Premiums have doubled in the last nine years, increasing three times faster than real wages. We are spending too much, receiving too little and are left worrying that the insurance we have won’t be enough.

Unless we do something, 14,000 Americans will lose their health insurance today alone – just as 14,000 Americans lost their health insurance yesterday and 14,000 more Americans will lose their health insurance tomorrow.

We are as great nation. We deserve the best health care in the world. How we get it is the real question.

We need health insurance reform that puts patients first. It is not right and not fair that insurance companies can deny coverage because of pre-existing conditions or impose lifetime limits on service.

I support reform that allows Americans to keep their current health care program, keep their doctors and keep their hospitals.

I support reform that creates competition through a strong public option that lowers everyone’s costs and competes with private insurers.

I support reform that allows Arizonans who lose their jobs to afford insurance so they can get back on their feet without fear of getting sick without medical care.

I support reform that will slow the growth of health care costs and does not impose new taxes or burdens on our nation’s most valuable economic contributors, small businesses.

This nation recently observed the 40th anniversary of our arrival on the moon – one of the most awesome accomplishments in the history of mankind. Now our generation has our own opportunity to make history.

A nation that can leave footprints on another celestial body is up to this challenge.

Providing Americans with health care that gives them lifetime security and peace of mind must be America’s next great accomplishment.

- U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is a Democrat representing Arizona’s 8th Congressional District.

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