Learn all you can about health care alternatives
By David Ross Stevens
By now it is almost a cliche to say that America’s health care system is broken. In response, many politicians who are calling for “reform” and “universal health coverage” are not, in fact, clarifying the situation because they include in their new plans the very elements that have busted the system. So the political battle in the first days of 2009 will be over “token reform” or a bold, truly universal type of health insurance.
The challenge is for citizens to get involved. the public must do its part by educating itself about the various alternatives, and letting their representatives in Washington know what they conclude.
How broken is our current system?
Some 47 million Americans are uninsured; another 50 million are underinsured (not fully covered).
About 8.7 million children are uninsured.
Most bankruptcies have a health reason as a major cause, and 68 percent of those people who have gone belly up do have health insurance policies.
The World Health Organization ranks the level of U.S. health care at 37th in the world.
Private health insurance companies, which have doubled the premiums since 2000, have a bureaucratic overhead of 28-31 percent while Medicare operates at 3 percent efficiency. Therein lies a large part of the problem. These companies have an incentive to reduce benefits to patients.
The most persistent solution on the grassroots level is a single-payer system, the single payer being the federal government. This program involves a Medicare-type approach for everyone, but it would be expanded to include dental care, vision care and preventive programs. Overall, it would cost about the same — maybe a little more, maybe a little less — as the present 15 percent of the Gross National Product (GNP). All other industrialized nations with full coverage for all citizens average about half the costs in total medical care.
A single-payer system is best outlined in congressional bill HR676, which would set up the National Health Insurance (NHI) program. What it is not is “socialized medicine.” England and Spain have socialized medicine, wherein the doctors and hospitals are all employees of the federal government. Under HR676 the present system would stay; doctors would remain private vendors and would submit their bills to one payer, the U.S. government, not to the 1,500 private health insurance companies. Patients would still choose their doctors. (More about HR676 later)…