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How should we reform the health care system in the U.S. in which all citizens are stakeholders? The U.S. takes pride in being the best in many ways, but by many measures of health outcome categories, it ranks well below nearly all developed countries. Not only does the U.S. score badly in the quality of healthcare outcomes, it is off the charts for dollars spent for healthcare services.
I think that the government of the people, for the people and by the people should affirm the ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We fail to adequately affirm life when our mortality statistics, for youth and adults, exceed those of so many other countries. Our individual liberty is inadequately affirmed when perhaps the majority of Americans sell their souls to a company that is providing healthcare insurance. And how would nearly everyone who has gone bankrupt to get necessary medical diagnostics and treatments assess their ability to pursue happiness?
President Obama has articulated a vision for health care reform that I think includes necessary features. Cost is primary. Without cost containment, the U.S. will need life-support from the global economy and younger generations of Americans will suffer from a downward spiral begun by their elders.
A society that doesn’t provide universal healthcare won’t rank very well as a civilized society. Our country has many innocent victims of the current health insurance system. Even people that are living a healthy lifestyle have been toppled by accident or illness. Their families are victimized. Corporations which are designed to be responsible to executives and stockholders, following their own business model, should not be making health care decisions for Americans.
Seventeen years ago I had University of California- provided health insurance when I had a tumor removed. Eight years later the same insurer denied my request for a policy. I did get a very high deductible policy, but I did not know at the time that if I would have needed another cancer treatment, the insurance company would not have paid for it.
As I reflect on denial of coverage and the through-the-roof healthcare costs in the U.S., I think of budget shortages thrust on other government services, such as educational opportunities and adequate nutrition for many Americans who are innocent victims of circumstances over which they have no control. The welfare of this country is at stake, because of health care costs.
I think the only means to provide affordable universal healthcare is to have only one risk pool, a pool that includes the wealthiest Americans and the poorest, the lawmakers, judges and the president, entry, new hires and retirees, in the public or private sector.
I’m very concerned that the plans the Congress has given the Congressional Budget Office won’t get a passing score for lowering costs. Some disruption for insurance and pharmaceutical corporations will be needed to get for every American the financial security which catastrophic or basic health care coverage can provide us.
My niece who is an Associate Director of an Environmental Sciences Program at the University of British Columbia has Multiple Sclerosis. In 1993 that she needed a wheelchair to get around. Canadian public health care diagnosed her condition immediately and has treated her well enough that she hasn’t needed a wheelchair for 15 years. The MS problem didn’t become a financial problem as well. Per capita health care costs in Canada are significantly lower.
I admire the work of a great many members of the House and Senate to effect real and affordable reforms, while laboring under unmanageable constraints in the effort to have universal healthcare. I don’t think it is possible to reach their stated goals without disrupting the for-profit insurance industries. The U.S. government has already imposed reforms that are clearly disruptive to the managements of auto manufacturers and the mortgage and banking industries. Those disruptions were necessary to restore some of America’s former greatness.
Please ask your representatives and senators to act more boldly, so that we can have a more affordable long-term American healthcare system for all. By the people means that each of us bears the responsibility for letting our legislators know which aspects of our American health care are not acceptable and should be eliminated in 10 years or sooner. Today or tomorrow too many more of us will be living with treatable health problems or take on enormous debt burdens to return to wellness. Make your own scorecard for health reform and send it immediately to your Congressman and Senators. Don’t let them get away with less than real reform.
Carl Newton is Vice Chair of the Los Alamos County Democratic Party. His opinions are his own.