Archive for December 2009

Healthcare Reform: Does Not Go Far Enough   3 comments

Listening to the news reports on the progress of the healthcare legislation currently being worked on in the senate, it is clear that there is not the political will or the public support to make the reforms that are really necessary.   There is a real chance that the “public option” will not make it into the final version of the bill.   In this letter I would like to express my views on what is really needed to make our healthcare system work more efficiently for the benefit of all, or at least the large majority of Americans.

 Before I begin I want to list the objections that those opposing any or most of healthcare reform are presenting.   These objections are, socialism vs capitalism, loss of choice, loss control over own healthcare options, loss of benefits for some (seniors, those currently insured, military veterans, etc), the unconstitutionality of the legislation, and the cost of the program and the increased taxes as a result of the costs.   Some (including Charles Krauthammer) have said that all we need is to address individual issues such as tort reform, insurance regulatory issues, and other minor issues, individually rather than adopting legislation so wide sweeping.   Mr Krauthammer has stated that we could solve our problems with about 20 pages rather than the 2000 pages now being discussed. I want to address these objections.

 Socialism vs capitalism:   We currently live under a republic system of government which has several services which could be considered socialistic. These are medicare, medicaid, VA Medical System, fire and police protection, a military, and you can probably think of others as well.   Why are we so afraid of the word socialism?   I believe it is because we think of the old Soviet Russia and it’s form of communistic socialism.   That would not be the type of system that we would or should adopt.   We need a democratic socialistic type of healthcare system.   This would be a system in which we, the American people, would have a voice in the decisions that are made in government, just as we do now through our duly elected officials.

 Loss of choice and control of own healthcare options:   It is claimed that we would lose our right to choose between various options in regard to our healthcare services.   In reality, for most of us with healthcare insurance, we have already lost many of those choices.   It is he who holds the purse-strings who makes the choices.   The healthcare insurance industry currently holds those purse-strings and, in most cases, makes many of our choices for us.   If we chose to pay out of pocket for our healthcare needs then we certainly can make whatever choices we want, otherwise the healthcare insurance industry makes those choices for us.  I prefer to have government make those choices rather than the insurance industry as we can have more of an impact on our government that we can on the insurance industry.

 In regard to being forced to carry insurance I would like to share these thoughts.   Perhaps one should have the right to opt out of any healthcare insurance plan.   Most rational people, I believe, would think it foolish to chose to assume the financial risk of going without healthcare insurance. However, if they were to make such a choice perhaps they should also be required to sign a form stating that they chose to pay out of pocket for any medical needs that they may incur and that they have adequate resources to do so.   This would release the requirement of any healthcare provider from offering services in the event their needs exceeded their ability to pay.   It would also release society from the burden of subsidizing their care.   I don’t find this very appealing.   Most healthcare professionals would still feel morally obligated to offer medical services.

 I believe in the right of the individual.  However, we must remember that the choices that we make, more often than not, have a positive or a negative affect on others.   In America we have become very proud of our individualism and the rights of the individual.   I like to call it the “John Wayne ideology”.  It could also be thought of as the “don’t mess with Texas’ or “don’t mess with me” syndrome.   While individual rights are important (I don’t want to diminish this concept in anyway), it must be tempered with the concept that “no man (or woman or child) is an island”.   We are all interdependent on one another…we are community.

 Loss of benefits for some:   The largest concern in this area is for seniors in regard to medicare and specifically with the Advantage supplement.   As the senate struggles with this legislation the details continue to change and evolve.   As I will be 65 in just a few years, this is a concern for me personally.   However, it is my belief that everyone from the cradle to the grave should have the same access to the healthcare services that they need. There should be no preference or discrimination based on age, gender, or any other factor that may differentiate us from one another.

 The constitutionality of the legislation:   Not being a constitutional student, it is difficult for me to comment in any detail on this issue.   I would think that since most of our representatives are lawyers that there should be some understanding on this issue as they discuss the legislation.   If there is anything contained in the legislation that is unconstitutional, I’m sure that it will be tested in the courts when the legislation is put into law.

 The costs of a national healthcare program and any increased taxes that result:   This is a big issue for those on both sides of the debate.   To begin with, it is difficult to determine the true costs of our current healthcare system.   There are so many Americans who are being subsidized in a variety of ways now, that many of the costs are hidden and very difficult to uncover.   Americans are paying more for their healthcare and receiving less than many of the other developed nations of the world.   Much of this is due to the healthcare insurance industry.   So many of our healthcare dollars are going for huge salaries and compensation packages for CEO’s, profits, and share holders that could be going to providing the healthcare needs of the American people.   It is my opinion that if all the dollars going for insurance premiums, medicare, medicaid, VA Medical, and hidden costs of subsidizing those without insurance, went toward a national healthcare program we would have enough or nearly enough to fund the program.   At any rate, if there is no change, the costs of our nations’ healthcare will continue to outpace the rest of our economy into the foreseeable future and eventually will become to much of a burden for our overall economy to sustain.   With healthcare reform eventually, if not immediately, perhaps more dollars will be necessary.   If so, we can call the needed dollars taxes or we can call them healthcare premiums.   It really won’t matter, it will cost us either way.

 Mr Krauthammer’s opinions:   He and others who oppose healthcare reform have stated that we can do more with less legislation.   I don’t believe that he is right.   I perceive these proposals to be simply a patchwork approach to reform.   These ideas will not resolve the healthcare insurance industry’s conflict of interest problems.   Just as I don’t believe that the legislation being worked on goes  far enough.  And I don’t believe that the ideas that Mr Krauthammer presents would either.   In fact, his ideas would not go as far.   Why does anyone believe that we can reform a system that comprises one-sixth of our total GNP with 20 pages of legislation?   That seems unrealistic to me.

Now back to my original thought that the legislation currently being considered does not go far enough.   I believe that this nation needs a single payor government healthcare system.   If you want to call it socialized medicine, that’s okay with me.   This system would need to include tort reform as some who oppose reform are saying.   It needs to be a system that provides healthcare for every American as much as possible.   I think every American who is able should pay into it (you can call it taxes or you can call it premiums…it’s all the same).   There could be subsidies for those who fall below a certain income level.   We should take the funds that employers currently pay in the way of premiums for their employees, the premiums that employees currently pay, the medicare and medicaid taxes that are currently being paid and all the other dollars currently going into the healthcare system and make them a part of a new national healthcare system.

While the current legislation being considered does not go far enough, it is probably the best that we can do at the present time.   It is my hope that the political will and the public support for a more comprehensive government healthcare system can one day be realized.

 We are the wealthiest nation in the world.   We spend more on “defense” than any other nation.   Our defense budget is far larger than any other portion of our national budget.   What are our priorities?   Are we really a nation of peace? Let us re-evaluate our priorities.   It is my hope and prayer that we can become a people of peace and compassion and that we can develop a national will to provide for the healthcare needs of all of its people.

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Posted December 9, 2009 by terryflowersblog in Health Care