Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Health Care Reform: Where Have We Seen This Before?

Health care reform is needed in the United Sates. All Americans can agree that we have too many of our citizens uninsured. For those who do buy insurance, premiums are going through the roof and taking food off the table for many families. Employers who provide health care benefits are asking their emplyees to pay a greater percentage of the premiums, higher co-pays and accept watered down coverage. The situation is getting worse and it is a real shame to see the efforts of so many good people sabbotaged by groups of other people who will disrupt attempts to have sincere dialogue and discussion on this very important issue.

I remember another version of "Health Care Reform" taking place in the mid-1990's and seeing the same mean spirited efforts rise up to derail a courageous attempt to improve health coverage in the United States. Notice that I am talking about coverage and not care. We have the best doctors and hospitals in the world. But so many of our citizens can't access that care because they have poor coverage or none at all. I have also heard some people argue that emergency wards have to care for all people when they are brought in. This is true. But those patients will be perpetually bankrupt when they get the bill for certain types of care. Many won't go just because of this concern. I am not a fan of Hillary Clinton. But she did try to improve our system of health care coverage in the nineties. Her ideas were specific and deserved serious discussion. But too many people never discussed the issues and simply ridiculed her efforts and all attempts to reform were destroyed. Shame on all of us. Most of us agreed reform was needed but too many of us, me included, had good coverage and didn't get involved even though we believed in reform. Well guess what? I'm paying now. How?

I am now paying co-pays. I paid none in the nineties. I now need referrals for specialists and co-pays are higher for them than the primary care physician. I now pay for emergency ward visits. Salary increases are now lower because more money goes into health benefits. Finally, when my children had to come off my plan after college, premiums were astronomical for good plans and the only plans they could afford provided terrible coverage if they did get sick or were in an accident. Also, you have to be a rocket scientist to understand the types of coverages offered. They are all designed, in my opinion, to "maximize" profit and to decrease or eliminate risk. We are a free market economy and that is what companies are supposed to do. But that is not a good system for health care. Doctors, not insurance companies, have to make the decisions. We all know that this is not the case today. My mother was told by her Primary Care Physician that she had to stay in the hospital or nursing home after treatment she had for cancer. His request was rejected by Blue Cross. She was sent home to our family when none of us had any medical training.

Yes. We have been here before. We missed an opportunity. Things did get worse because we were apathetic and failed to act. We owe it to ourselves and our children to implement the necessary changes to make our system, which includes coverage as well as the quality of care, the best in the world. This can only be done through the respectful exchange of ideas, concerns and possible solutions.

Finally, I have heard people claim that these initiatives to reform health care are unconstitutional. The Preamble of the United States Constitution includes the words "promote the general Welfare." What could be more basic in promoting the general "Welfare" than to provide good, affordable and accessible health coverage for our citizens?

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