Health Care for All

One of the most critical issues for the vast majority of Americans is the rising cost of health care coverage in our country. Forty-seven million Americans have no health care coverage at all.

For those fortunate enough to receive coverage, many have inadequate, bare-bones policies that fail to cover them when they need it most. Others are dropped from their plans when they become problematic.

The main problem is the health insurance industry, which is composed of large corporations whose only concern is to maximize profits. They learned very early on that the less health care they provide, the more money they make. So they screen people and deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions and illnesses. One third of every dollar spent on private health insurance goes to the administrative costs and profits of the industry.

As a field canvasser fighting for state-wide health care in Washington, I’ve heard personal horror stories about the costs of health care. One lady was forced to sell her house to pay for her open-heart surgery after her insurance company dropped her coverage plan. Another could not get coverage at all because the insurance provider considered her pregnancy to be a pre-existing condition.

Many rely on their large employer to cover their health care costs. But what protection do they have when the employer moves abroad in search of higher profits? And what of the self-employed people and the small-business owners who get crushed by covering health care costs for their employees? Half of all bankruptcies in our country are caused by medical bills.

Each year in our great country, approximately 18,000 people die because they lack access to health care. That’s six times as many as were killed on 9/11. In the meantime, the health care and pharmaceutical industries spend billions each year lobbying the US government. How is it that we live in the wealthiest country in the world, yet nearly a third of our citizens have insubstantial health-care coverage?

The issue of health care was hardly mentioned at all in the 2004 Presidential debates. Fortunately, this year it is actually on the lips of our projected leaders. The Republicans speak of ‘tax deductions‘ and ‘free-market solutions‘ to solve the problems of American health care costs, while warning of the evils of ‘socialized medicine‘. And the Democratic front-runners all boast about ‘universal health care coverage‘.

But the fact is that there is only one candidate running with the proper solution to save America from its enormous medical costs and failures. He usually doesn’t receive questions about the issue during presidential debates, so in the most recent Democratic forum, Dennis Kucinich took the opportunity to ask himself a question:

That’s right; Dennis Kucinich is the ONLY candidate running with a single-payer, not-for-profit health-care plan. There is overwhelming public support for this system, yet the plans of all the other Democratic candidates still rely on the for-profit health insurance industry.

Did you notice the smug Hillary Clinton laughing it up? She happens to be the largest acceptor of donations from the private health care industry. Check here for an analysis of the health-care plans of the Democratic front-runners.

Speaking of health care, I highly recommend seeing the film Sicko. Usually Michael Moore makes me angry because he doesn’t present his case as well as it could be, and he has a polarizing tendency which hurts the credibility of his argument. But in taking on the health care issue, love him or hate him, you cannot really argue with much of the content. The health care situation in the United States is a growing crisis that needs to be fixed with real solutions.

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One Response

  1. The author is once again displaying his predilection for the oversimplification of complicated political issues. Either the author is trying to mislead his audience (which would run counter to statements made in his other articles regarding truth in the media, politics, etc.), or he does not completely understand the issue (which is much more likely). For a balanced report on universal healthcare, check the following link:
    http://www.balancedpolitics.org/universal_health_care.htm

    For some of the negative aspects of universal healthcare, which were conveniently omitted from this article, see below:

    There isn’t a single government agency or division that runs efficiently; do we really want an organization that developed the U.S. Tax Code handling something as complex as health care? Quick, try to think of one government office that runs efficiently. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac? The Department of Transportation? Social Security Administration? Department of Education? There isn’t a single government office that squeezes efficiency out of every dollar the way the private sector can. We’ve all heard stories of government waste such as million-dollar cow flatulence studies or the Pentagon’s 14 billion dollar Bradley design project that resulted in a transport vehicle which when struck by a mortar produced a gas that killed every man inside. How about the U.S. income tax system? When originally implemented, it collected 1 percent from the highest income citizens. Look at it today. A few years back to government published a “Tax Simplification Guide”, and the guide itself was over 1,000 pages long! This is what happens when politicians mess with something that should be simple. Think about the Department of Motor Vehicles. This isn’t rocket science–they have to keep track of licenses and basic database information for state residents. However, the costs to support the department are enormous, and when was the last time you went to the DMV and didn’t have to stand in line? If it can’t handle things this simple, how can we expect the government to handle all the complex nuances of the medical system? If any private business failed year after year to achieve its objectives and satisfy its customers, it would go out of business or be passed up by competitors.

    “Free” health care isn’t really free since we must pay for it with taxes; expenses for health care would have to be paid for with higher taxes or spending cuts in other areas such as defense, education, etc. There’s an entitlement mentality in this country that believes the government should give us a number of benefits such as “free” health care. But the government must pay for this somehow. What good would it do to wipe out a few hundred dollars of monthly health insurance premiums if our taxes go up by that much or more? If we have to cut AIDS research or education spending, is it worth it?

    Profit motives, competition, and individual ingenuity have always led to greater cost control and effectiveness. Government workers have fewer incentives to do well. They have a set hourly schedule, cost-of-living raises, and few promotion opportunities. Compare this to private sector workers who can receive large raises, earn promotions, and work overtime. Government workers have iron-clad job security; private sector workers must always worry about keeping their jobs, and private businesses must always worry about cutting costs enough to survive.

    Government-controlled health care would lead to a decrease in patient flexibility. At first glance, it would appear universal health care would increase flexibility. After all, if government paid for everything under one plan, you could in theory go to any doctor. However, some controls are going to have to be put in to keep costs from exploding. For example, would “elective” surgeries such as breast implants, wart removal, hair restoration, and lasik eye surgery be covered? Then you may say, that’s easy, make patients pay for elective surgery. Although some procedures are obviously not needed, who decides what is elective and what is required? What about a breast reduction for back problems? What about a hysterectomy for fibroid problems? What about a nose job to fix a septum problem caused in an accident? Whenever you have government control of something, you have one item added to the equation that will most definitely screw things up–politics. Suddenly, every medical procedure and situation is going to come down to a political battle. The compromises that result will put in controls that limit patient options. The universal system in Canada forces patients to wait over 6 months for a routine pap smear. Canada residents will often go to the U.S. or offer additional money to get their health care needs taken care of.

    Patients aren’t likely to curb their drug costs and doctor visits if health care is free; thus, total costs will be several times what they are now. Co-pays and deductibles were put in place because there are medical problems that are more minor annoyances than anything else. Sure, it would be nice if we had the medical staff and resources to treat every ache and pain experienced by an American, but we don’t. For example, what if a patient is having trouble sleeping? What if a patient has a minor cold, flu, or headache? There are scores of problems that we wouldn’t go to a doctor to solve if we had to pay for it; however, if everything is free, why not go? The result is that doctors must spend more time on non-critical care, and the patients that really need immediate help must wait. In fact, for a number of problems, it’s better if no medical care is given whatsoever. The body’s immune system is designed to fight off infections and other illnesses. It becomes stronger when it can fight things off on its own. Treating the symptoms can prolong the underlying problem, in addition to the societal side effects such as the growing antibiotic resistance of certain infections.

    Just because Americans are uninsured doesn’t mean they can’t receive health care; nonprofits and government-run hospitals provide services to those who don’t have insurance, and it is illegal to refuse emergency medical service because of a lack of insurance. While uninsured Americans are a problem in regards to total system cost, it doesn’t mean health care isn’t available. This issue shouldn’t be as emotional since there are plenty of government and private medical practices designed to help the uninsured. It is illegal to refuse emergency treatment, even if the patient is an illegal immigrant.

    Government-mandated procedures will likely reduce doctor flexibility and lead to poor patient care. When government controls things, politics always seep into the decision-making. Steps will have to be taken to keep costs under control. Rules will be put in place as to when doctors can perform certain expensive tests or when drugs can be given. Insurance companies are already tying the hands of doctors somewhat. Government influence will only make things worse, leading to decreased doctor flexibility and poor patient care.

    Healthy people who take care of themselves will have to pay for the burden of those who smoke, are obese, etc. Universal health care means the costs will be spread to all Americans, regardless of your health or your need for medical care, which is fundamentally unfair. Your health is greatly determined by your lifestyle. Those who exercise, eat right, don’t smoke, don’t drink, etc. have far fewer health problems than the smoking couch potatoes. Some healthy people don’t even feel the need for health insurance since they never go to the doctor. Why should we punish those that live a healthy lifestyle and reward the ones who don’t?

    A long, painful transition will have to take place involving lost insurance industry jobs, business closures, and new patient record creation. A universal health plan means the entire health insurance industry would be unnecessary. All companies in that area would have to go out of business, meaning all people employed in the industry would be out of work. A number of hospital record clerks that dealt with insurance would also be out of work. A number of these unemployed would be able to get jobs in the new government bureaucracy, but it would still be a long, painful transition. We’d also have to once again go through a whole new round of patient record creation and database construction, which would cost huge amounts of both time and money.

    Loss of private practice options and possible reduced pay may dissuade many would-be doctors from pursuing the profession. Government jobs currently have statute-mandated salaries and civil service tests required for getting hired. There isn’t a lot of flexibility built in to reward the best performing workers. Imagine how this would limit the options of medical professionals. Doctors who attract scores of patients and do the best work would likely be paid the same as those that perform poorly and drive patients away. The private practice options and flexibility of specialties is one of things that attracts students to the profession. If you take that away, you may discourage would-be students from putting themselves through the torture of medical school and residency.

    Malpractice lawsuit costs, which are already sky-high, could further explode since universal care may expose the government to legal liability, and the possibility to sue someone with deep pockets usually invites more lawsuits. When you’re dealing with any business, for example a privately-funded hospital, if an employee negligently causes an injury, the employer is ultimately liable in a lawsuit. If government funds all health care, that would mean the U.S. government, an organization with enormous amounts of cash at its disposal, would be ultimately responsible for the mistakes of health care workers. Whether or not a doctor has made a mistake, he or she is always a target for frivolous lawsuits by money-hungry lawyers & clients that smell deep pockets. Even if the health care quality is the same as in a government-funded system, the level of lawsuits is likely to increase simply because attorneys know the government has the money to make settlements and massive payouts. Try to imagine potential punitive damages alone. When the government has the ability to spend several trillion dollars per year, how much will a jury be willing to give a wronged individual who is feeble, disfigured, or dying?

    Government is more likely to pass additional restrictions or increase taxes on smoking, fast food, etc., leading to a further loss of personal freedoms. With government-paid health care, any risky or healthy lifestyle will raise the dollar cost to society. Thus, politicians will be in a strong position to pass more “sin” taxes on things like alcohol, high-fat food, smoking, etc. They could ban trans fat, limit msg, eliminate high-fructose corn syrup, and so on. For some health nuts, this may sound like a good thing. But pretty soon, people will find they no longer have the option to enjoy their favorite foods, even in moderation, or alternatively, the cost of the items will be sky high. Also, it just gives the government yet another method of controlling our lives, further eroding the very definition of America, Land of the Free.

    Patient confidentiality is likely to be compromised since centralized health information will likely be maintained by the government. While a centralized computer health information system may reduce some costs of record keeping, protecting the privacy of patients will likely become very difficult. The government would have yet another way to access information about citizens that should be private. Any doctor or other health professional would be able to access your entire health history. What if hackers get into the data?

    Like social security, any government benefit eventually is taken as a “right” by the public, meaning that it’s politically near impossible to remove or curtail it later on when costs get out of control. Social security was originally put in place to help seniors live the last few years of their lives; however, the retirement age of 65 was set when average life spans were dramactically shorter. Now that people are regular living into their 90s or longer, costs are skyrocketing out of control, making the program unsustainable. Despite the fact that all politicians know the system is heading for bankruptcy in a couple decades, no one is rushing to fix it. When President Bush tried to re-structure it with private accounts, the Democrats ran a scare campaign about Bush’s intention to “take away your social security”. Even though he promised no change in benefits, the fact that he was proposing change at all was enough to kill the effort, despite the fact that Democrats offered zero alternative plan to fix it. Despite Republican control of the presidency and both houses, Bush was not even close to having the political support to fix something that has to be fixed ASAP; politicians simply didn’t want to risk their re-elections. The same pattern is true with virtually all government spending programs. Do you think politicians will ever be able to cut education spending or unemployment insurance?…Only if they have a political death wish. In time, the same would be true of universal health care spending. As costs skyrocket because of government inefficiency and an aging population, politicians will never be able to re-structure the system, remove benefits, or put private practice options back in the system….that is, unless they want to give up hope of re-election. With record debt levels already in place, we can’t afford to put in another “untouchable” spending program, especially one with the capacity to easily pass defense and social security in cost.

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