Health care is one of the most important issues facing America today, and we can expect much debate and change before the final solution.
We had a form of national health care before the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (HR 3590), but it was a lose-lose system. People without insurance waited until they were really sick then went to the Emergency Room. When they couldn’t pay the bills, those of us with insurance paid for them through higher hospital and doctor fees. Three groups comprised the bulk of the uninsured in 2010: foreign-born residents who are not U.S. citizens; young adults ages 19 to 25; and low-income families with an annual household income of less than $25,000, per CNN .
Let me cite two personal examples from the second group above, one was my son and the other the son of an acquaintance. Each suffered an injury requiring medical attention and neither had insurance. My son’s was a relatively minor need for stitches, while the other young man’s was a serious back injury. Both ended up in the Emergency Room where they were treated first and payments were figured out later. Neither had high paying jobs or insurance. My son’s medical bills (about $1,000) were eventually paid out-of-pocket (mostly). The other young man’s bills were extensive (many $1,000s) and have been partially paid, but he is still suffering financially, and may be forced into bankruptcy. Note: Bankruptcies due to medical bills increased from 46 percent in 2001 to 62 percent in 2007, per CNN Health .
So if these two (who were among the 50 million without insurance) couldn’t pay their medical bills, how do these bills get paid? Again, those of us with insurance paid via higher fees which resulted from the hospital writing off the bad debts. So we can pay for those who don’t have insurance one of two ways. We can pay explicitly via taxes going into a national system or de facto, disguised in our own hospital and medical bills.
I believe most folks (like me) support some form of universal health care, and I’m a typical conservative moderate (the polls say the majority of Americans are a little right of center). Here’s a second opinion in a letter to the editor (Note the support for health care in the first sentence and the clearly conservative orientation of the person shown in the last phrase). “We can all agree that everyone deserves access to basic medical care.” The letter continues, “…need to repeal Obamacare…” I’m considering it a given that most “liberals” support national health care.
If most of us agree that we need some form of national medical program, I’ll bet we can also agree it should:
- Provide the greatest good for the largest number,
- Provide a minimum base of care for all (not necessarily free but affordable)
- Remain within the budget available
Preventive medicine is the cheapest type of care in the long run. Therefore, the program needs to provide vaccinations for reducing the spread of disease and prenatal care for healthier babies. It also needs to provide basic immediate care, that is access to antibiotics, stitches, orthopedics, and similar treatments. If most of us can agree on this much, we need to write our Senators and Representatives (Republicans and Democrats alike) and tell them. We should include the expectation that they produce a Basic Care Act first – including the above areas of agreement – replacing the 1700+ pages of legislation (the PPACA). Once the areas we generally agree on are in place, they can work out the details of the controversial areas such as end of life decisions.
If we are to turn over a great America to our Grandchildren, it’s time to include a national health care system that provides basic health care for all and prevents medical emergencies from turning into financial disasters.