Saturday, August 29, 2009

Health Care Reform and You

Let's have a conversation about health care, specifically, about the health care system in the U.S.

This article in the Washington Post debunks five myths about health care in other countries:

1. "It's all socialized medicine out there." It's not. "Many wealthy countries," said T.R. Reid, "provide universal coverage using private doctors, private hospitals, and private insurance plans."

2. "Care is rationed through limited choices or long lines." Some countries are plagued by long waits for non-emergency care, but "many nations outperform the United States" in terms of wait times.

3. "Foreign health-care systems are inefficient, bloated bureaucracies." In fact, T.R. pointed out, "U.S. health insurance companies have the highest administrative costs in the world."

4. "Cost controls stifle innovation." Many drugs and procedures originated in countries with strict health care cost controls.

5. "Health insurance has to be cruel." That might be true in this country, where health insurance companies exist to make a profit; but foreign companies must accept all applicants, and can't cancel anyone who pays his premiums.

On the other hand, this article from CNNMoney.com describes five freedoms you'd lose under Obamacare.

1. Freedom to choose what's in your plan.
2. Freedom to be rewarded for healthy living, or pay your real costs.
3. Freedom to choose high-deductible coverage.
4. Freedom to keep your existing plan.
5. Freedom to choose your doctors.

Really, CNNMoney? Don't these "freedoms" only apply to a tiny group of people? I don't know anyone who has a health care plan that allows them to choose what it covers. People who have insurance through their employer (59% of workers in 2007) don't get to choose what's in their plan; their employer does.

High-deductible coverage is only valuable to the very healthy and the moderately wealthy. Some of us have children or spouses with special health needs, and many of us cannot afford to pay a large deductible when something goes wrong. It would wipe us out in a month.

Freedom to keep your existing plan is not a freedom to the 46 MILLION Americans who don't have any health care coverage at all. Plus, as CBS News reported, "the bill does not force private insurance out of business or force people onto the public plan."

This article reports that "family premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance increased 119 percent between 1999 and 2008." I don't know about you, but the Peevie family income did not increase by 119 percent in that time-frame. The cost increases are unsustainable, and that's one of the problems that needs to be addressed.

There is a lot of fear-mongering going on about health care reform. This article highlights a pensioner who is very happy with his own health care, and wants to hang on to it despite the dire warnings about unsustainable cost increases and the millions without health care coverage. "We have the best health care in the world," he said, "If there is anything I need, I get it."

My family has great health care coverage, too, but that doesn't mean I can't see that our health care system is in trouble, and needs reform. "Health care is not a right," my brother told me once; and that's obviously true in this country. But that doesn't mean that it's not the right thing to do, to provide health care and health care coverage for everyone.

Is it right that 62 percent of people who filed bankruptcy in 2007 did so because of medical bills? Article after article tell stories of middle-class, insured people being driven into bankruptcy because of exorbitant medical costs and coverage gaps.

I'm no expert on health care, and I haven't read the 1,018-page health care bill yet, but I plan to read it and to read commentary from all sides. In the meantime, I'm not buying into the myths about euthanasia and draconian health care rationing. I don't know if I'm totally on board with the proposed bill; but I know I'm on board with reform.

If you have insight or links to share, post a comment. I'd love to hear what you have to say.

2 comments:

Meg said...

Here's the best paragraph of Reid's article:

"In many ways, foreign health-care models are not really 'foreign' to America, because our crazy-quilt health-care system uses elements of all of them. For Native Americans or veterans, we're Britain: The government provides health care, funding it through general taxes, and patients get no bills. For people who get insurance through their jobs, we're Germany: Premiums are split between workers and employers, and private insurance plans pay private doctors and hospitals. For people over 65, we're Canada: Everyone pays premiums for an insurance plan run by the government, and the public plan pays private doctors and hospitals according to a set fee schedule. And for the tens of millions without insurance coverage, we're Burundi or Burma: In the world's poor nations, sick people pay out of pocket for medical care; those who can't pay stay sick or die."

E. Peevie said...

Yes, Meg, I totally agree. That's a great summary paragraph.