Views on politics and current events

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Random Thoughts On Health Care

Is there a health care crisis in this country? According to an article written in The Washington Post in February of 2005, there most certainly is. A few items from the article titled Sick And Broke:

  • 75% of medical bankruptcies are filed by people with health insurance.
  • 1 million people financially ruined in 2004 by illness and medical bills.
  • Most of the medically bankrupt were middle class home owners.
This was reported in February 0f 2005. I'd be willing to wager dollars against tongue depressors that the situation hasn't gotten any better, and most likely has gotten worse. Not only the poor, but the people that have health insurance can't afford health care either. So why do people bother? If we are all (except a very small minority) but one major illness away from financial ruin, why bother with the expense of paying good money to insurance companies who cover less and less? Why should people pay for the privilege of going bankrupt due to illness?

The only alternative is universal health care. No matter how much people are against it, no matter the reasoning against it, the present broken health care system in this country is forcing the issue. I've heard the 'Health Care Savings Plan' or whatever the title of it is, and it is an idea that is obsolete. The economy itself does not afford many people to save much, and it is a savings plan that will do what? Buy health insurance! Another example of paying for the privilege of going bankrupt if you have a major illness.

Some say that health care needs to be reformed by the process of the free market. Free market? For health care? Our lives and health should be regulated by profit, the prime mover of any free market? Seems to me that's part of the reason for the present health care mess. And it isn't right for health care to be determined by who can afford it and who can't, who is worthy and who is not. It isn't right to do that with poor folks, and it isn't right to do it for the neuvo poor, the dwindling middle class.

Like many problems in our country, many recognize the problem, but we can't seem to get anywhere doing anything about it. The reason? There is big money to be made in the present system. As long as big money and big profits are associated with the present system, it will not change. The handful of politicians that want to change it are not the ones that have the backing of the ones that make the large profits. It is a major hurdle.

Some have said that universal health care will be unmanageable, will be costly, will be inefficient. We can look at the present Medicare and Medicaid systems to know how true that can be. It is not a reflection on the original purpose of these programs, but how they can go wrong if not properly managed. Which do we want to do? Discount good programs purely on the basis that it will turn inefficient, or embrace the ideals of the program knowing full well that it must be managed to ensure that it doesn't turn sour?

For those who are against universal health care, what is the alternative? Shall we continue the present system that is getting more and more inefficient, more and more costly, and that serves the majority of people less and less? A system that forces those without insurance to either go to free clinics that are crowded and understaffed, or to emergency rooms that were not meant for primary care that drive the health care costs even higher, or to file bankruptcy after paying high premiums for insurance that doesn't cover the bills?

All of us are already paying through the nose for health care. Taxpayers already finance much of health care in this country. If anyone doubts that, who pays for those people that can't afford health insurance? Who pays for government grants to pharmaceutical companies, grants for hospitals, clinics, etc.? Who pays for Medicare and Medicaid? It seems to me that if we are paying for all of that, we should at least expect and receive affordable, basic health care. The way to do that is to remove health care from the control of insurance companies and corporate health care profiteers. Health care is already too much like big business. That needs to change. There are plenty of models around the world for us to study and learn from. It is a large undertaking, but the alternatives demand we do something. The longer we wait, the larger the problem becomes, and the more people suffer.

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