Monday, August 24, 2009

Let's Lose the Insurance Companies

Recent events in the news have sparked a great deal of discussion about health care reform. Listening to those in Congress and the White House as they attend town hall meetings, and the overall lack of thoughtful response from the public at those meetings has left me concerned. There seems to be a lack of understanding on the part of some of our citizens as to the situation we face as a nation regarding our health care system and it's costs. In its present form, our health care system is unsustainable. As a nation, we can no longer afford the system we have in place today. If we do nothing, or the wrong thing, we as a nation may bankrupt ourselves.

I am at a loss as to the morass of confusion regarding our need for reform of the health care system in America. In June of 2008 Reuters News printed an article on health care in the US after surveying medical professionals. Here is a relevant part of their story: "While Canada, virtually all of Europe, Japan, and South Korea have adopted publicly-sponsored and regulated healthcare, the United States is the only wealthy, industrialized nation that has not implemented comprehensive coverage. Universal healthcare is defined as medical coverage extended to all citizens, and sometimes permanent legal residents, of a state or a country. With healthcare costs today representing 16% of U.S. GDP (four times the Defense budget), and projected to reach 19.5% within ten years, universal healthcare coverage has become an increasingly hot topic in the political arena."

Our health care system ranks 37th in the world, yet we rank 2nd in amount spent as a percentage of GDP... which means we spend a great deal more to get a great deal less. We rank 24th in life expectancy, behind all the countries we criticize as having socialized medicine. We rank 72nd in overall health level of performance, but number 1 in costs per capita... meaning we pay the most for the health care we get and only rank number 72. This is all out of a field of 191 member countries. (data compiled by the World Health Organization)

No system is perfect and all have their problems. We have been trying to fix our health care system for the past 60 years without results. It is time we allowed the people in one of the richest countries on earth the ability to access health care at every level of society. I am tired of pretending that we don't pay for the lack of health care for those who have no coverage. They DO have coverage and we as a society pay for it. It's called medicaid and it pays for all those emergency room visits for people who have no health insurance and no funds whenever they get sick or injured. It pays for people on welfare to have medical care. It pays for mothers and children to have medical coverage when they qualify with low income. It pays for seniors who are sick and have no funds to get in home assistance. It pays for those who are permanently disabled and wards of the state to live in group homes or nursing facilities.

Additionally, 70% of today's bankruptcies occur as a result of catastrophic medical costs, even with folks who do have medical insurance. That is paid by us, the public, in the form of costs passed on to us, the consumer.

It would be less costly to us as a nation to make provisions for all than to pay for it through these back door methods while insurance companies pay enormous salaries to their CEO's (in excess of $11 million last year to United Health Care's CEO) and make a profit at our expense. There is a reason that we get our water and sewer service from the DEP and it's not because the private sector can do it better. It's because it is the government's role to make sure that the public water supply is clean and safe, not private industry. If you need an example, look at the scams involving bottled water and all the failures in that sector.

The insurance industry adds nothing to the equation. They do not increase the quality of health care. They do not make our seniors healthier, nurses and doctors do that. They don't care for young children and mothers who are on medicaid, nurses and doctors do that. They don't show up at the emergency rooms cleaning wounds and taking temperatures, nurses and doctors do that. We would be best served to take the insurance industry out of the equation and allow doctors and nurses to do their jobs without interference from insurance companies telling them what tests are needed and how much they should charge.

How about doctors and nurses get a salary for their position based on their performance and skills, like lots of other professionals. That would be fair and balanced. Think of all the money that the insurance industry absorbs that could go toward paying medical professionals decent salaries. In some countries that have adopted some form of universal health care medical professionals get paid bonuses according to how healthy their patients become over time. That encourages doctors and nurses to do a great job! What a wonderful idea!! People who want to do research would still have plenty of places to do so. The country is poised for real change. How about it!!

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