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U.S. health care: Best in the world, or sick?

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By The Staff

Hannah Hayes

Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” Single-payer universal health care is the best way to dig out of the corporate mess we have now. Taking the profit out of health care will bring the greatest benefit to the largest number of citizens, and allow the U.S. a path to regain dignity in another area where we slip and slide so badly.

People are generally unsure about their insurance, wondering if they will really be covered when they have a medical need. There are countless stories of families forced into bankruptcies because of unpaid bills, and many worry over pre-existing conditions.

The case of Nataline Sarkisyan made headlines late last year when huge public outcries caused one insurance company to reconsider on their denial of a liver transplant. Tragically the decision came hours after the 17-year-old died. Do you really want your insurance company dictating your level of care and making the decision about what procedures are experimental or unproven?

Insurance companies exist to make profits for their shareholders, and they’re doing it well, based on a system of routinely denying claims, raising premiums and limiting reimbursements to providers. Multimillion-dollar salaries for industry executives come at a heavy price for the Sarkisyans and so many other families. Did you see the video of the elderly patient being dropped off in front of a homeless shelter due to inability to pay? Visit www

.hcfama.org to hear other stories that prove the current system is not set up to benefit consumers.

The shocking details keep stacking up. Fixing administrative wastes alone would save 30 percent of our country’s health care costs. The powerful insurance lobby makes sure that companies such as State Farm, Allstate, Berkshire Hathaway, Travelers PC, Liberty Mutual, CNA, and The Hartford Group don’t have to comply with usual consumer protections. Complexities that involve dealing with 1,500 insurance companies and 17,000 different plans plague the system. Taxpayers currently cover 60 percent of providers’ uncompensated care.

Colorado has the opportunity to lead the way to the most sane, fair and comprehensive choice, single payer. Why follow Massachusetts down the path of privatization — a system filled with inefficiency, poor quality, inequity, financial woes and dismal performance records? Will health care be in humane hands, or be like our cars when they’re entrusted to auto insurance companies?

Single payer is most cost-effective because it uses a single, large risk-pool for coverage of medical costs. It’s a better reallocation of money already being spent, and leaves the decision-making with patients, their families and their doctors. The current managed care systems stifle freedom of choice.

Health Care for All Colorado has an informative website comparing profit-centered services to single payer. Universal coverage for all would be a dream of a birthday present for Dr. King.

Rebuttal

A recent study by the Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation working toward a high performance health system, compared 19 industrialized countries on preventable deaths. France came in first while the U.S. was last in this indicator of quality health care systems.

At least the Democratic candidates realize there is a problem and are talking about it, although it’s too bad Dennis Kucinich isn’t allowed to debate. There are many websites that offer good comparisons of all the candidates’ positions.

The focus must switch to preventive and timely care that helps people avoid last-resort, more expensive emergency room trips. In the U.K. 7 percent of the GNP is spent on health care; in the U.S. it’s 16 percent. British outcomes are far better for overall care, life expectancy and infant mortality.

By eliminating the high costs of premiums, co-pays, deductibles and other out-of-pocket expenses and replacing them with a 2 percent increase in taxes, we can change the current system where no one is held accountable. In publicly funded universal health care, patients and doctors make the decisions.

Kelly Weist

When I was young my parents were poor. We kids didn’t really know that — but today, I understand how truly difficult it was to make ends meet. Health care was a luxury. Luckily, our local physician was a wonderful man, and he provided us care without charge for much of my childhood. My mom dreaded taking us to the doctor, because she knew she was accepting charity when she did.

In its infinite compassion, Congress decided to make everything better. The impetus was to control costs, so they created a system favored health management organizations over traditional health care delivery. Coupled with the employer-only deduction for health insurance, this has created our current, lovely system.

And it is actually quite lovely. While we all love to complain about the impersonal delivery, cost and wait times of our current system, Americans receive the best health care in the world. But, liberals cannot survive with a problem for the government to solve, hence, a taxpayer-funded health insurance system is their choice du jour. Doesn’t matter that every other place that’s tried it has worse problems than we do; if there’s a problem, government’s got to solve it (with about $15 billion of our money, of course)!

John Edwards would fine us all if we didn’t have health insurance. Hillary Clinton also advocates this in her health plan. Barack Obama doesn’t, and is being attacked from the left because of it. The solution to people not having health insurance is to fine them? Interesting concept.

Why in the world do we need to force everyone to have health insurance? They can still get health care, and they do, at taxpayer expense through Medicare, Medicaid and subsidies at hospitals. The problem is really that the legislatures and Congress have put so many mandates on health insurance that it isn’t affordable for the individual (or the small to medium employer) right now.

Here’s the radical solution: Remove the deduction for employers who provide health insurance, and give it to individuals. This will actually have the effect of raising some salaries, as the cost of health insurance actually depresses one’s salary. It will have the much more radical effect of lowering the cost of health insurance, creating pools that will cover pretty much everyone at a price, and causing consumers to really understand the price of their health care and the cost of their unhealthy behavior. Consumers would be in control of their health care delivery and, ultimately, its cost. They could choose to have a Cadillac plan that covered everything for everyone in the family, or a catastrophic plan just for one. Simple, but something that would actually work, rather than the tired old “government can” attitude of the liberals.

I can tell you this: I and every other mom out there will revolt if we are forced into a system which dictates the health care our children receive. Health care today is an example of a government-created mess. Why would we want more?

Rebuttal

As I write this, I am in bed with a 101-degree fever and a wicked chest cold. I probably won’t go to the doctor until I start getting the chest pains again, because I know that there isn’t much they will do for me except suggest rest and lots of liquids.

Expecting someone else to subsidize your health care isn’t free. It costs us all in taxes and a depressed economy. You think we’re heading into a recession? Wait until the government takes over an industry that is one-fourth of the U.S. economy.

I often hear that health care is a right, and I have yet to find it in the U.S. Constitution. Liberals like to assert that government’s purpose is to ensure the welfare of its people, but that is an impossible job. Our welfare is our own business; the government’s job is to get out of the way and let us make our own prosperity. That includes keeping out of our financial decisions of whether to purchase health insurance, or take the risk of a catastrophic illness.