why can’t the US fix health care?

I’ve been doing a lot of reading about health care policy lately, and stumbled across this site. If you’re a US resident (I don’t think you have to be a citizen to participate in this) who’s concerned about health care, get yourself over there and give Congress some feedback about how to fix our incredibly broken system. Since US health care costs are projected to rise to over $4 trillion by 2015, it’s pretty clear that we have to do something different really soon.

The questions that this Working Group are asking seem pretty biased toward continuing a system of private insurance, as opposed to some kind of national health system, like many other countries have. That seems foolish to me–if we need to perform major fixes, why can’t we question the basic assumption that we should have private health insurance, as opposed to doing a National Health Service-type system?

In a country as prosperous as this one is, it’s pretty appalling that we’ve still got nearly 45 million uninsured people, and that those people don’t have routine access to medical care. Sometimes I wonder what the tipping point will be, from a public health perspective. I mean, surely even a person who has health insurance and doesn’t believe in ‘socialized’ medicine must see that they themself are more at risk of getting sick if, what, 50%? 60%? 70%? of the population is never going to the doctor, never getting routine childhood immunizations. What percentage of the population has to be uninsured, before we do something?


February 22, 2006. politically motivated.


  1. MetroDad replied:

    As usual, LM, I agree wholeheartedly. The current system isn’t working out too well. There has to be some intelligent compromise between “socialized medicine” and “privitized healthcare.” As a parent, it’s disheartening to see so many children without proper healthcare…IN THIS DAY AND AGE! We should be ashamed for ourselves. I fully comprehend that it’s a complicated problem that isn’t helped by all the entrenched special interests but we must do a better job of providing health care for everyone in this country. I’m a firm believer that this is governement’s paramount responsibility and obligation to its citizens!

  2. Anne replied:

    And what about how screwed up it is to have employers managing our health care? It’s funny that no politician will touch Medicare because it’s so damn popular, but if that’s not socialized health care, what is?

    The inability of politicians to find our way out of this mess amazes me.

  3. Lena replied:

    First off, I find it amusing that the President is asking us as citizens what we should do about healthcare. 1)He never seems to be too concerned about our opinion in other matters (going to war in Iraq) and 2)This issue has been at the forefront for YEARS now and we do not seem to be any closer to a resolution. There are millions of baby boomers who are going to be draining the healthcare system within the next 10 years and depleting SSI.

    This is my issue with National Healthcare. We are STILL going to have the “haves” and “havenots” issue you touched on in your post. Right now 45 million people may not be insured, but I guarantee you they’re receiving healthcare. They’re being treated reactively, not preventatively (eg – routinely taking their children to the ER for common colds rather than regular physicals, etc.). They also are receiving not so great care on insured people’s dime (my self-employed insurance rates have quadrupled in a year).

    These are your points pro national healthcare, I’m sure. HOWEVER, my concern is N.H. will devastate the treatment MY family gets while further dividing us economically. We will suddenly be waiting 4-6 months for papsmears and physicals and infertility treatments like they do in Canada. Whether our children are seen or not will be a decision the doctor will make because he is now answering to THE GOVERNMENT.

    Will this new government run healthcare system just become an enormous DMV experience?

    And THEN you know what will happen? Those with money will CONTINUE to see private doctors because they can afford to. And doctors will charge enormous rates. Rates that you and I probably won’t be able to afford. The result will be a larger chasm between economic differences than there is now.

    I have studied this issue for quite some time and honestly, I don;t have the answers either. I could go on and on and tell you about my father dying last year without insurance and the nightmare I went through just trying to get him seen by a doctor. There are definitely negatives to both sides. We will continue to flesh this out…

    You got me thinking this morning. Thanks!

  4. Jennifer replied:

    I don’t live in the US, so can only agree with you from the outside, but I have to take issue with the last commenter. I live in Australia, and our combination of public/ private while not perfect (I believe that the public system is being systematically starved of funds) is much better than your previous commenter’s fears about what it might be like.

    In total we, like every other industrialized country, spend less than two thirds the US does on health care (measured as % of GDP). I personally, a well-off person with two small children, spent $3,600 on health insurance last year, plus another $2,500 on out-of-pockets for my family (nothing from my employer). For that, I have a family doctor around the corner who will fit me in that day if it sounds urgent, and that week for my papsmear.

    Childbirth cost me around $6,000, but my friend who wasn’t as fussy about a private room as I was went public and didn’t spend a cent during her whole pregnancy and delivery (including having three ultrasounds and genetic counselling).

    Our system is far from perfect, but if you are seriously sick, you are very well treated, and don’t have to worry about bankruptcy.

  5. landismom replied:

    I think it’s admirable that the commenters who’ve disagreed with each other (and me) have done so in such a civil way. I know that the issue of access to health care is a hot-button for many of us, and I want to start by saying thanks for not going nuclear in any way.

    One of the things that I’m personally most frustrated by, is the excessive competition for health care dollars in the US. I mean, there was a time when not every hospital had to have the most current technology, but now I drive down the street, and it seems like every third billboard is for a new CT scanner or something. There is substantial money being spent on what is effectively duplicating services, so that hospitals can compete for the insured patients who are able to access those services. What if that hospital decided not to buy the CT scanner, and instead opened a cliinic to vaccinate uninsured children? Well, what would happen is that no one would reimburse them for that, so they’d lose money. It’s a self-defeating system.

    And Lena, like you I’m definitely aware that the uninsured are getting care in the ERs, and on my dime. I guess my feeling is that, if they’re gonna get care on my dime (either through higher health care premiums or through tax-funded programs), I’d rather have them get preventive coverage than emergency coverage.

  6. Lena replied:

    No offense to Jennifer, but we have about 275 million more people in this country. Bigger country = bigger problem.

  7. elise replied:

    Jennifer, I’m glad you commented because I think we should look at what works (or doesn’t) for other countries and learn from it. I just don’t want to see this president make any major decisions about anything! Hopefully the next person will be more capable.

  8. Comfort Addict replied:

    I’m with you, Landismom. I am, and have been for many years, an advocate of a single-payer National Health Care system. Health care is something to which everyone is entitled. I also agree with you that the “back-door universal coverage” that the insured provide for the uninsured today is inefficient by not providing preventive care.

    That said, I doubt that we will have a true National Health Care system in my lifetime. The problem is that most even moderately-affluent people don’t give a damn about the people who don’t have medical coverage. They are too blind to even see how, from a purely economic perspective, the lack of such coverage degrades the gross domestic product of the country and makes businesses less competitive globally to boot. They don’t care, though, until it begins to affect them.

    This is part of a larger problem that I’ll call a lack of commonweal. Sure, all societies contain haves and have-nots but the US haves are particularly pernicious toward the disadvantaged and protective of their sacred standard of living. We don’t believe in such a thing as public good, shared anything (sharing? that’s un-American!). Ever wonder why everybody hates us? Our foreign policy grows out of this desire to live high at the expense of others. This doctrine of imperial selfishness may have seemed to work at one time but, now, unfortunately, as Malcolm X once said, the chickens are coming home to roost.

    Until we as a nation get serious about loving and caring for our brothers and sisters as a matter of national policy rather than an occasional feel-good private contribution, National Health Care will never be what it should be and we will never reach our full potential.

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