Unless we find ways to make health insurance cheaper, the cost of having insurance will be out of reach for most workers — and most business owners.

On Monday, hotel guests in Chicago were greeted by something that didn’t appear on the city’s convention and visitors bureau “must do” list: a small group of hotel workers, marching and chanting about their health care needs. The group of about 20 people wanted affordable insurance and walked off the job to try to get it. Hotel signs explained it was negotiating with the strikers, but the point was clear: Health insurance and access to care tops concerns for workers, and not solely in a single industry or city.   

As a nation, we spend more on health care than any other developed country, yet access remains elusive and outcomes are — considering what we spend — absolutely dismal. Combined, the joint problems of access and affordability are driving people into bankruptcy, preventing them from saving for retirement while costing their employers the opportunity to expand and create new jobs.

If premiums continue to rise, the cost of health care, now 17.9 percent of GDP, will create drag on the overall economic growth of the nation, inhibiting startups, halting innovation and making it difficult for all but the largest businesses to succeed.

We need a solution. And we need it immediately if we want to keep businesses humming and the economy in expansion mode.

Solutions won’t be easy. And the problem will require compromise at the local, state and federal levels. It’s time to end the bribery from special interests and political action committees, time to stop buying senators and congressmen for the highest campaign donation. And it’s time to work together to give workers the health insurance they need for their families.

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Medical costs are the No. 1 reason for bankruptcies, according to some studies. It’s more than just high health care costs, it’s also about lost wages from missing work.

And rising health care costs affect hospitals and providers too. When people fail to pay their medical bills, the cost of uncompensated care gets passed on to insurance providers. And insurance providers pass on their costs to consumers. There’s no choice in the matter — without passing along the costs, both hospitals and insurance companies would go bankrupt.

Some businesses address health care by creating co-insurance models. Others suggest small businesses should create co-ops for purchasing insurance that will spread risk like a single, larger company would. And some people still advocate for single-payer or Medicare for All systems, although there seems to be little appetite in Washington, D.C., to tackle such a thorny issue.

No idea — single-payer system or small business co-ops — will fix the problem, however, until doctors stop practicing defensive medicine on behalf of health insurers and attorneys. Providers recommend specific courses of treatment because insurance companies dictate they should. And insurance companies require them to avoid malpractice suits. Tort reform could end defensive medical practices and save money.

Regardless of the solution, it’s time to work together to solve the health care and insurance crisis. In a nation with resources as abundant as ours, it’s irresponsible to do anything else.  

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