September 23, 2009
Health care reform has been on the National agenda ever since World War II in various formats. This year seemed to be the year of change until the opponents raised the ugly heads of distortion, fear and outright lies.
Two issues are seldom ever clarified. There is the concern for adequate health care and there is concern about who pays for it. The latter is generally the role of health insurance. Access to good health care is dependent on having health insurance or a lot of wealth.
Despite the claim by Rush Limbaugh that “there's no health-care crisis in this country” (1), the facts speak otherwise. Most importantly of all, we spend more on health care than any other industrialized nation on earth. This is not an insignificant amount but rather twice and three times as much as other countries. Most countries are spending less than one tenth of their income for health care. We spend one of every six dollars on health care, soon to be one of every five. (3)
failure of our health system relates to life expectancy and infant mortality.
Why is our life expectancy lower than 17 other countries? Why is infant
mortality greater than countries like
Opponents of health care reform say that their health care will be rationed under reform. Health care is rationed all the time under our present system. Those without insurance or the ability to pay for health care are limited in their access. Those with health insurance are limited by the choice of doctors and clinics, exclusion of coverage under the policy for various reasons including pre-existing conditions. One of the most critical areas of rationing is the lack of portability of one’s insurance coverage. It is too often connected with a place of employment. If someone becomes unemployed, there goes the health insurance coverage. COBRA is an attempt to solve this problem but premiums under this plan are very expensive. In light of current economic conditions there has been some assistance provided.
service is also a form of rationing. We have heard horror stories about the Canadian
and British systems but they have been exceptions rather than the rule for
their health care. Under our current system we have long waits for service too.
I personally was referred to a clinic in
excellent examples of health care that we would do well to adopt. The Mayo
Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic both operate efficiently and are recognized as superior
providers of health care. These operate right here in our country.
Critics would do well to avoid comparisons to the Canadian or British systems since the proposals in Congress do not even suggest that type of plan. The critics only add confusion to an already confusing issue.
In contrast Dr. Arthur M. Feldman listed “10 Things I Hate About Health-Care Reform” in the Washington Post (2). Among other comments he wrote that we need to have more doctors, reform tort law, and reduce the administration of claims. None of these are addressed in the current reform proposals, he wrote.
In the 1980’s Congress allowed non-profit health insurance companies to become profit based with the argument that costs would be lower. The reality is that the insurance premiums under these new companies skyrocketed. Greed coupled with blatant refusal to honor claims made these companies look good in the financial world. They joined the ranks of other corporations with highly compensated executives. In some cases fraud was rampant. (3)
Dr. William Frist,
We also have the problem of millions of uninsured people who nevertheless seek health care in emergency situations. These cost the rest of us more than it would cost to have these people insured. Insurance would also help the otherwise uninsured people to seek health care before their situation becomes an emergency.
Finally my urgent plea is for people to think rationally about health care reform and not let the opponents and selfish interests of insurance companies decide the format of our discussion. This requires effort and responsibility.
Norbert Bufka is a Midland resident and monthly contributor
(1) "There really isn't a crisis in health care in this country ... In fact, the odds of you being wiped out by a catastrophe or accident once the government gets started running this stuff is greater than if the private sector does -- but day-today, there's no health-care crisis in this country." --The Rush Limbaugh Show, 6/18/09
(2) 10 Things I Hate About Health-Care Reform
One Doctor's Orders for How To Really Fix Our System
By Arthur M. Feldman
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Arthur M. Feldman is a cardiologist and chair of the
department of medicine at
He says we need more doctors, tort reform, better access to care, payment by insurance companies, ability to use new treatments, and more.
(3) Johnston, David Cay. Free
Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense
(and Stick You with the Bill),
See also Johnston, David Cay. Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit
the Super-Rich -- and Cheat Everyone Else,